TRACES OF THE LIFE OF LIBUŠE JARCOVJÁKOVÁ
17. June 2021
One of the most distinctive photographers who was ahead of her time, Libuše Jarcovjáková linked her life with her work. In a very unique way, she charted the environment of workers, the Roma, and gay clubs. “I was afraid of people. I couldn’t photograph somebody from the front, so I have many pictures from behind. If anything they’re very much objects. That’s also a lifelong theme for me: I photograph traces of people rather than the people themselves,” says the artist in the latest episode of the series Art in Isolation co-produced by Kunsthalle Praha & Memory of Nations.
“The word ‘gay’ only arrived a lot later. But the atmosphere in the clubs was fantastic. Girls, guys, just an amazing atmosphere. Everyone was super liberated – the atmosphere was amazing. From the first day I knew I loved it there and would love to photograph it. I also knew it’d be a very tough task,” reminisces the photographer/observer, thinking back to the time that shaped her specific style, and going on to say “… my then weird visual language is today very modern."
Why Art in Isolation?
The artistic activity took a strong hit. Exhibitions began to get cancelled, various regulations affected direct interaction with colleagues, spectators, and the world stage. Questions about the meaning of art, an artist's mission, and boundaries of freedom emerged yet again. The testimonies of the artists who were creating their art during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia are an important memento of a time gone by and an inspiration for the search for meaningful answers in the present. With or without the crisis.
The stories of artists in the time of totality carry on. You can look forward, among other things, to the stories of Květa Pacovská, Kurt Gebauer, Tomáš Císařovský and others. You can watch each episode on social media and web platforms of the two associated institutions, Kunsthalle Praha & Post Bellum–Memory of Nations.
The public did not start to discover Libuše Jarcovjáková (b. 1952) until she was quite a bit older, because her “non-artistic”, very personal view of the world around her was completely outside the realm of artistic production or documentary photography. She fused life and art, moving at the edge of society and photographing the environment of workers, the Roma, and gay clubs. In addition, she continuously created something of a personal diary, a record of her own journey and dramatic story. She was never a dynamic documentary photographer, but always an inconspicuous and participating observer – someone who lived in her own fantasy world. Because of their spontaneous and intuitive nature, her photographs offer a strong emotional image of life behind the Iron Curtain.