The Voice Reached Us
The Voice Reached Us Through the Floor, but the Words Themselves Were Lost
Petra Mala Miller
The artist grew up in southern Moravia during a time of ideological change. The nascent capitalist dream-of-plenty blazed from hotly coloured vinyl signage pasted on newly minted shop windows. This emancipatory rhetoric combined with a deep yearning amongst Czechs to awaken a hope for positive change in all spheres of daily life. With social relations radically shifting, questions posed by feminism and other cultural critiques joined the struggle for political freedom that had, for the most part, already been won by the time the artist enrolled in art school. This context forms the backdrop for her generation’s aspirations and for the artist’s own conviction that images could play a significant role in establishing legitimacy to the themes of family and generational change; the poetics of childhood and other unwritten passages silenced by the official ideologies of the Communist past and the Capitalist present. While studying in the ecstatic milieu of post-soviet Prague, she developed an aesthetic approach that understood the photograph as a potent key to opening history, permitting her to see the past – to see what Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus stares at as he is blown backwards into the future.
Malá Miller borrows fidelity from documentary with all its suspicions; from painting she borrows a plastic depth and the possibility of representing anything imaginable; from cinema she borrows time, of which montage and duration are its fluid expression; from fashion, the economies of display; from literature she hears her own voice conjuring worlds wholly formed. There, ever mindful, she finds narrative pounding like a heart beating back time. From theatre she steals props and the suspension of disbelief, and in whose figure she recognizes herself as both actor and acted, as audience and stage. From popular culture she borrows relentlessness, insatiability and the short-lived, the veiled residue of eternity. She feels her way through the blind violence implicit in her chosen medium, beyond the superficiality of things as they appear. Petra Malá Miller photographs what she sees, what she knows and what she wants to forget. Lyrical, playful, touched with melancholy, beauty lies in each picture’s hold and arrests our attention.
David M.C. Miller