Twice a year four generations of women (my grandmother, my mother, myself and my daughter) gather in a family house in Southern Bohemia or in an apartment in Prague, where my family has been living in for the past 60 years. Together, we participate in the ritual of filming.
This ongoing project begun in 2011, when I felt the need to document the rare moments of the four women occupying the same moment in space and time. I wanted to capture these fleeting instances, to preserve them, but also honour them as they were unfolding in the presence, through the act of filming bringing the women together around a shared pursuit.
The long stretches of time when we are absent from each other’s lives, living in different countries (Czech republic and UK), heighten the experience of being together when we reunite. It is this painful intensity of the embodied presence, amongst other things, that I try to convey in my work: the world and the people in it, as seen from a place where they no longer exist; a waking dream of being in a world that is no longer present – an experience that can be so much more vivid than the one we habitually occupy. My ongoing research into sensory perception (especially the tactile dimension) and how best to evoke embodied memory by audio-visual means, plays an important role.
Over time the process of filming became a form of mediation, revelation and bonding. With a camera in front of me, I am able to enter a state that is at once involved but distant, observing and observed. The process of filming reveals many layers that otherwise remain invisible: some of the hidden dynamics, tensions and playful connections between family members, the working of time on the canvas of the skin, the “weight” of family history, the reality of one’s life extending beyond the individual, through those who came before or those who come after, in an infinite chain, a hall of mirrors. And it is through the particular, deeply personal that a more universal theme of motherhood and the meaning of one’s deepest biological origins, can be explored.
Tereza Stehlikova, Summer 2016