Česká centra, Czech Centres

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Sep 1, 2015 7:00 PM - Sep 30, 2015


Reception for the opening of an exhibition by photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková at 7PM. Throughout the evening a streaming of music videos by the band WWW will be shown in the cinema. The curator, photographer and band will be present for discussion afterwards.


Libuše Jarcovjáková

The photographs of Libuše Jarcovjáková (b.1952) are raw. Looking at her photographs, a vision flashed through my mind of a life-threatening situation, of trying to save one’s own life. An image evocative of extreme emotions, of being pushed to the limits of one‘s powers, of a place where there is little choice, where will is overtaken by instinct. The idea of a blood transfusion, its purpose being to keep a patient alive. Libuše Jarcovjáková‘s snapshots represent just such a transfusion. It is as though they represent an insurgency against omnipresent chaos, against a destructive and life-threatening entropy. Although they sometimes depict moments of happiness or ecstasy, far more frequently they reveal states of solitude and isolation, self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and emptiness. The moments of joy and fulfillment appear to be accidents more than anything else – a misunderstanding inevitably followed by an imminent relapse. The visualization of these emotions is a rebellion against them, an attempt to master even a situation like this, to transform it into a new meaning.

The word raw seems to me particularly fitting to describe the work of Libuše Jarcovjáková. Apart from evoking a sort of bluntness and cruelty, the designation in fact does not shun poetry. And poetry is what makes Libuše Jarcovjáková an artist with a distinct and original voice, a true artist. It is the visual poetry of her images that redeems the sense of failure and angst that emanate from the photographs, which could otherwise easily be read as something crude and hurtful, they type of messages it is better to avoid. We are confronted here with photography which is anathema to any sort of falsehood, speculation or embellishment – in short, to kitsch. These diary photographs are tidings from the land of outsiders, from a forlorn desert, the battlefield of the struggle for oneself, where the act of sharing is a rare but not unknown experience. They bear testimony that there is also another side to life, where we are hurt, disappointed and even deceived, where we often receive far less than our fair share. Even so, or precisely because of this, these images carry within them an ethos of heroism, of the courage to face up to the challenges of life, to be able to maintain one‘s dignity even in the more messed up moments that plague our lives. Ultimately, some light always manages to seep in through the cracks.      

It is as though the artist has engaged in an ongoing monologue about this very thing: hope. For the apparent absence of hope from Libuše Jarcovjáková‘s images is so intense that it transforms the viewer‘s sensitivity. All of a sudden we read the same photographs differently. Where there was previously nothing, now there is everything that makes a person whole – generosity, beauty, love, desire, self-sacrifice, even a measure of sly humor.

The pointedly subjective and obviously self-therapeutic nature of the artist’s work nonetheless transcends the strictly personal in a more general dimension. It conveys a very different narrative of Czechoslovakia than presented by the local propaganda of that time, of an underground world, the habitat of suspect and marginalized people who refused to identify with the official version of reality. Some as a conscious act of defiance, others by compulsion. The world of the periphery, of underground gay and lesbian bars and the world of the underdog, with little or no interaction with the establishment. A world where a way of existence was everything. Just as there is the other America of Robert Frank, these photographs show that there was another Czechoslovakia. This way of seeing would transform itself also into the artist‘s more recent work. These images also represent a stance of opposition – this time against the new ideological dictum of happiness as consumption, which a large part of Czechs fell prey to after the revolution brought them new-found freedom. Still, the photographer does not burden the viewer with socially critical photography, or even her own rejection of consumerism. All that she does is to show us a glimpse of the intimate experience of the end of her mother’s life, whom she is caring for. We are thus a witness to the approach of death. The imminence of finality, and the love radiating from the photographs, confronts us with the superficiality of our consumerist existence far more acutely than any banal critique of the outward changes of society. These photographs are in many ways seminal for one additional reason. It is as if it was precisely through the presence of death and love that the author of these contemplative photographs herself experienced a kind of catharsis. In their own peculiar way, they break the vicious circle of a complicated life, and the oeuvre as a whole attains an unexpected new meaning as well as resolution. The world becomes alive with meaning. Once more, photography brings light.  

~Ivan Pinkava, exhibition curator



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From: Sep 1, 2015 7:00 PM
To: Sep 30, 2015


Czech Center

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