Pokorný, Marek: The Invariables of Petra Feriancová 2013



The Invariables of Petra Feriancová (published in Fotograf magazine)

The work of Petra Feriancová is complex, as is mandated by the central theme she has pursued throughout her career. At the heart of her work is the fundamental and ever-present sense of clash and continuity between individual and collective memory, embodied by the images which help to form and keep these alive.

Although the artist’s individual projects – as a rule installations which apart from using photography as a medium for documentation also employ actual or digital artefacts of cultural and historical significance, various formats of the moving image, and texts and textual collage as well as an almost architectural intervention in the exhibition venue  – take on the character of a non-hierarchical and horizontally-structured testimony regarding  the interweaving of personal experience and its retrospectively appropriated signs and images. Ultimately, each new realization is oriented towards a kind of implied connection between the universe of unique personal experience and the civilizationally, historically and culturally conditioned impersonal processes of individualization. Forms, images and vestiges of the fleeting past (family archives, repertoires of historical genres, symbols and discourses) are embraced even in the full awareness that their original meaning has long since degraded or disintegrated, proliferating those areas of indeterminacy which require – even if tentatively, by dint of improvising – being amended and filled with new meaning. Only then, even at the cost of the alienation and distortion of the “original“ meaning may one then accept their own version of the world, and by doing so simultaneously open it to others.

Snapshots taken almost involuntarily, random or found photographs, as well as reproductions, and technical or digital images circulating in the virtual environs of the Internet or distributed in physical reality through a variety of media all form the basis of this body of work based on understanding the premises in which personal experience is implicated, and from which there develops further meanings, as yet unmoored in terms of discourse. Photography, namely, the photographic image, depends on time and place, on the camera itself and other technical parameters which constitute the image (“bad“ exposure, failure of digital transfer, or various random factors involved in laboratory processing, etc.), but to the same degree it naturally also depends on the situation of the person taking the actual photograph.  It is both an ambiguous personal testimony and an easily manipulated “object“. Petra Feriancová‘s approach synoptically takes all of these aspects into account: an exceptionally refined ability to capture (as it were involuntarily) the unique moment, the skill with which she places banal shots within a series or in visual counterpoint, and the attention she pays to the properties, the emotional and narrative dimensions of the appropriated photographic archives – all of these invariably go hand in hand. Photography is thus present as a cultural, social, mental and discursive phenomenon that engages in contradiction with other forms and ways of constructing and mediating meaning, whether codified or purely subjective.

From her very first solo exhibition, the works and projects of Petra Feriancová have always been built around two poles – structure and narrative, image and text, the intimate and the public, memory and immediate experience, medium and meaning, appropriation and intervention versus quest and discovery. At the same time, the artist does not seek to bring to a head the conflict between two contradictory concepts, but rather to evoke the two-way continuum running between them. Alongside working with ready-made images (whether found, appropriated, or “manufactured“ by the artist), as well as their fragments and details, the essential constitutive feature of her work is a sense of reflection on the manner of exhibition or installation – the deconstruction of the “exhibitionist complex“, i.e., the practice of presentation as an element constituting the meaning of the work on exhibition. To put it simply, her work is consistently about the archive itself, conceived as a formally structured summary of traces of the past, or its potentially mnemonic function and simultaneously the concrete ways of its various uses in constituting meaning – either relating to the authorial subject, or, elsewhere, to the impersonal epistemological structure. The process of the socialization or instrumentalization of the subjective, and at the same time, the purely personal interiorization of external contents - the process of mutual alienation as a condition for attributing and renewing meaning - is essentially present as a theme in each and every work by Petra Feriancová, in the form of minor epiphanies, glimpses of understanding, and revelations which cannot be transferred by simple explanation.

Marek Pokorný