Interview with Petra Feriancová

Vulnerable Yet Everlasting (Archive of Květa Fulierová) @ OFF-Biennale, Budapest


Author: Tina Kaplár
Published on: 21.04.2015

 The archive of Květa Fulierová occupies the space of two built-in closets. Květa’s archive was a source of many post-production pieces of her partner Július Koller. Květa constantly documented the time they had spent together. She would document even the most mundane everyday situations at home, on holiday, while traveling or at work etc. Petra Feriancová talks about her upcoming exhibition at the OFF-Biennale Budapest.

Petra Feriancová
Petra Feriancová

Tina Kaplár: Documentary has been in your focus of interest for long, first you made your collections, the so-called Cycles of different natural and social phenomena, how do you find your foci?

Petra Feriancová: The use of documenting is connected to my need of making a report of my being, but also a report of “being” as a universal term. For me my life is the source and the way also. Maybe it is just my alibistic approach, so at least I don’t feel guilty when I don’t work properly and I can just mess around-) It is a lot about looking. I love to look. I think we are born to look. Observation is basic. And doing a show allows me to see. My themes have developed with time. They were collected and grew, somehow, so that it was possible to recognize the groups of certain types, so I decided to name them based on what they picture. It was quite important for me to avoid any kind of classification of what they could mean. There are very different topics. But the decision comes later.

Petra Feriancová: Order of Things II 2013, Installation view Venice Biennale, photo by Keizo KiokuTK: I remember your site-specific installation at the 55th Venice Biennale Order of Things II, where you used Venice as a starting point and theme, but it simply disappeared in a return to intimate history: the photographs and their collections were taken for purely personal reasons about you and your family and had in fact nothing in common with the Venice picture we usually have in mind. How was it received?

PF: There is always a gap between the experience and imagination. And big gap between the Biennale audience and a quite hermetic discourse I did there. I needed to ignore the whole situation of the Biennale mess, but also that strong visual reality that Venice offers. I wanted to talk more about the ideal, interior space I have taken there in my mind. I knew that it was not very strategic for a Biennale format, where works are competing for their biggest visual impact. But since the beginning that was not my goal. There were very few, but for me important people who liked it. Enwezor wrote about it in Artforum. And Cotter in New York Times. For me it was important to question our relation to objects, objects that just per chance were not thrown away, but instead are everlasting and outlive us. I have practically moved my entire belongings there. I liked the idea of totally impractical transport via boats, just like romantics. And many other themes connected to it such as a permanent journey, gran tourism, souvenirs, empiricism vs. provided knowledge ect.

Petra Feriancová Playgrounds, 2010 From the series taken by my Dad Silver print
Petra Feriancová Playgrounds, 2010 From the series taken by my Dad Silver print

TK:  You have been working with archives recently, in an interview made in 2011 I read your words: “Recently I decided to forego working with my own material. My work involving the external world had become saturated to such an extent that I decided to focus on material already accumulated. It is based on this, that idea of working with the archives accumulated by my relatives, was born. “

PF: Yes. It is connected to my living again. I have spent six years in Italy most of the time doing nothing, traveling and messing around the city. Then I returned home. And there began the time that I would stare at the ceiling for entire days without feeling any need to go out. I was digesting those few years, changing them into years I have spent in a kind of seclusion. I went through all the material I have collected at the time and have taken with me. And then I started to go through all images I found in our house. You know those kinds of things that survived per chance and thus became relicts. I am aware of the limit of human ability to collect. The limited amount is meaningful. I do not go and search for new material. It is basically the material I live with, it has been here for a long time, and I can find a lot of new in it every time I go through it. I combine and reassume it every time I can. I practically use the same stuff and I just change its order. Just like in a sentence. I use the archive as a tongue. Sometimes I do create also, for example I take the pictures of nothing. I do it just to measure my time. The image is not important, what matters is time, the image refers to a moment that does not represent anything. The appearance is only the reference and a new existence. But this new existence is casual and I do not want to control it. I can start to appreciate it as it would not be mine. But as usual, it takes time with my work. Maybe I have to forget them totally. My new photos are taken with old Practica or Zenit and it’s more about the act of having enough time to take the camera out of the bag and use it. These images are blind. I study them later.

TK: What have your first archiving projects been ?

PF: I was not aware that I am working on an archive, until Daniel Grun pointed it out. For me it is all about watching that, which interest me most. Working on an archive for me is to question all possibilities of viewing and perceiving. Affection comes to be tested also. My first project on an archive was more about method. In 2000 when I studied and lived in Italy, I collected a lot of holiday shots taken with a disposable camera, that was about the genre of the landscape seen as Bel Paese. When I looked at the photos later they reminded me of certain scenes  described by romantics. I enlarged these photos in a dark room until they showed all imperfections. Then they told me to watch Antonioni’s Blow up. For me work on an archive is to realize the things that go over the primal intentions. But a more explicit project on an archive was when I found some very old slides from my dad and his family, I put them in a row and called them “From grandfather, his daughter, her brother and his daughter”, in 2007, or even in 2006 when I went through old love letters and edited them into a movie.

TK: More recently you have been interested in studying the works of Július Koller and Kveta Fulierova, what raised your attention to their relationship and oeuvre?

PF: I met Kveta and we became very good friends in 2013. She has something I admire a lot. She loves living, she loves to report on it, and she is very precise in preserving the past. We all know Koller’s work, but what I am grateful for was the possibility to see how they work, and the process of postproduction and the possibility to study what proceeds these important works. For example Ufonaut where Koller is pictured with a dish in front of his face, totally scary anonymous, faceless ufonaut. In the book we published, there are also shots that Květa has taken before the famous one that Julius has picked up later and we all know it today as the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition Ostalgia published by the New Museum. But previous, unofficial shots show him drying the dishes in his pyjamas and making fun. This is what I have mentioned before. The later discoveries surpass the initial intention. The intention was to have fun and entertain Květa’s nephews. So this is how the Ufonaut was born. Kveta takes photos all the time. She used to develop them at a local store, Julius would then looked at them and trim them. Some of them are finalized, glued on paper support. It’s like positioning within space.

TK: The book AMO AMARE edited by you is dedicated to a romantic conceptualization of Kveta Fulierova in the work of one of Slovakia’s most prominent conceptual artists Julius Koller.  Beside an art historical study on the theme J+K of Petra Hanakova , the book consists also of original memoirs written by Kveta Fulierova. From mostly a romantic perspective Kveta recalls a coexistence with a peculiar partner, their mutual inspiration and reveals the genesis of some of their mutual works. Apart from concepts, mostly from Kveta Fulierova`s private archive, the book features a rich biographical material. Can we regard the exhibition here in Budapest as a continuation of this book?

PF: I always considered Love a very important aspect in Koller’s work. I have to say it was the thing that touched me most on his retrospective at SNG. I wanted to get to know Květa and was happy to offer to publish AMO AMARE. My interest in Květa’s archive is not the one of a curator. Her archive for me is a big monument to living. Because I somehow consider each work of art as being a tool. A tool to measure our time for example. I really cannot stop looking at these photos over and over again and listen to Kveta’s stories. I have made a new book, that I’ll bring with me J + K!, which is based on Kveta’s short introduction to her favorite things that meant and still mean a lot. There are some small objects, letters from Július ect.

TK: To what extent do you internalise these archives?

PF: This archive is super interesting for me and it is quite hard to say why. Maybe I am just that kind of annoying person that loves to look through the photo albums of the others-).  Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that very intimate stories are very universal also. It’s like when I found my family members in the images of National Geographics (With my mom, with my dad, with my grannies, ect. 2010). Or maybe cause I admire the ways how they both think. I recently found an envelope with photos and tiny small paintings cut out of them at Kveta’s. I asked Kveta why are the paintings cut out of the photos with people. It was Julo’s way of selecting the paintings of amateurs with whom they worked for many years. I really love this way of postproduction, cut out, move, and glue on the paper surface or somewhere else. So easy but so efficient. One can do so much with so little. And finally even though, most of all photographic work of Koller is taken by Květa, I have left this part of the archive to the curators. I work with photos that show Květa’s life, her family, flat, friends, where I recognize my memories. In them I find very familiar things, for example I see the same furniture, the places I grew up, even the certain events I was already at, and these are the parts of Kvetas archive too. I have found one theather play, which I was at too, maybe I could have been on Kvetas photo too.

TK: What exactly are we going to see, and how are you going to display her archive here in Budapest at Viltin Gallery?

PF: When I was looking to complete my cycle on Motherhood I have discovered this huge amount of material on it. We talked a lot about kids, family relations, what it meant like being at home, working there, having guests there ect. In this occasion I made a decision to work with Květa’s archive in a different way. Here I am interested in her family situation, three generations of Women, her mom Marie Zavadilová, her daughter Miriam and her kids. And inbetween Július Koller. I have decided to collect everything from her that deals with motherhood, family and visits happening within domestic space. Then holidays and walks with kids. You know the most ordinary photos we all probably have or now share on facebook and instagram. Given I had a big archive on motherhood already I decided to use it to support Květas originals. My archive becomes homegenic wallpaper that makes the basis for Květas individual picks. All is black and white. Just like Rublev by Tarkovski, you get overwhelmed by it. Instead the object of chocolate boxes is super colourful. Just like Rublev’s end is.

I have decided to rebuild Květas archive; how it is stored. I was amazed by its corporality. I love the chocolate boxes that contain the decades of her life. We decided to transfer this.

TK:  Apart from being and artist you also work as a curator, what are your ongoing projects now?

PF: I am curator par coincidence. Perhaps cause it’s not my ambition to be a curator. But sometimes one can help more to others than to her/himself. And my artistic practice seems to be very much curatorial too. I work with others. But maybe I would take it more as an art project than a curatorial one. My curating is about to involve friends and that’s basically it. Whatever I find I take as a possible material to study. This material can be whatever: it can be made by other people, it can even be other people itself, or my blind production, or better what I accidentally don’t throw away. So it doesn’t really matter if its art or curating really. It’s mine anyway.

Petra Feriancová lives and works in Bratislava.  She studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, Rome, Italy and Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava. The key moment of her work is the conceptualization of her own emotional reactions to the processes of perception and memory as well as an examination of the circumstances under which they are shared. She works mostly with already existing images and texts, which she interprets and methodically interchanges. The main aim of this form of manipulation with a pictorial or discursive reference is to provide the spectator with the original affective reaction. Her works has been exhibited at several galleries, art fairs and biennales including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) , Secession Museum in Vienna (2010); Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2009); and the Musée d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne (2008). In 2010 Feriancova was awarded the Oskár Čepan Award (2010).

Courtesy Květa Fulierová Archive

Petra Feriancová: Vulnerable Yet Everlasting (Archive of Květa Fulierová)

A Check Your Head! project by the OFF-Biennale
Opening: 24 April, 7 pm

Viltin Gallery | 1061 Budapest, Vasvári Pál u. 1.
On view: 24 April – 30 May
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 1 pm – 6 pm, Friday 1 pm – 8 pm, Saturday 11 am – 5 pm