Veronika Čechmánková: White Snow

6. 11. 2020 - 6. 12. 2020
Karlin Studios, Prvního pluku 2, Praha
 
Curator: Lukas Hofmann

 

(Once it is possible to visit the project in situ, we will announce the option. Thank you for your patience.)

 

 

Look at you!, come closer

let me look at you, let me see you,

let me gaze into you, 

your face, your eyes, your cute little ears

and lobes - it's been so long,

you're finally with me, even though I wasn't 

missing anyone. To see you again, check

how you're doing. 

You have gained more skin, a new wrinkle. 

How do your eyes shine ... Are you okay?

*

 

Is there a fairy tale more burdened by the pursuit of philosophical or semiotic interpretation than Snow White? As it constitutes a part of centuries of oral and literary tradition, the story has no single established interpretation, and therefore none can claim "to be the fairest of them all." Semiotic theories analyse the symbolism of "white as snow, red as blood, and black as ebony", which they perceive through the lens of innocence, rebirth, puberty, tanathos. All stories have common elements: the plot is driven by the hatred of a stepmother or older woman towards the beauty of a young girl. Two women are established as two incompatible parts of a psyche, one of which must die a violent death. The stepmother/queen is the driving force of the girl’s life, seeking to destroy her ego by repeatedly murdering her with "female weapons" - poisoned combs, ribbons, clothing, etc. In some versions, one may find instances of a "failed cannibalism" on the supposedly dead, so that her stepmother may feed on her youth. But hateful behaviour initiates Snow White's metamorphosis in the cocoon of a glass coffin. Exposed behind glass, a young teenage girl, soon a woman, does not cease to be the subject of gaze even post-mortem, waiting for a male saviour. Her supposed demise, which was actually hibernation, stands in contrast to the palpable and fatal death of the older woman.

 

Such quasi interpretation is remote to the perception of the sanitary and non-visceral Disney’s Snow White, which at best operates in hints and is completely depilated off any libidinous potential. 

 

*

A hair is flowing along your temples. It someone else’s, you know that?

You smell nice, You have a smell, right? 

*

 

Unfortunately, the animated queen does not ingest supposed human insides. Her face is above all full of horror and her sharp eyebrows, a cyborgian absence of hair and her arrogant expression render her a much more alluring character and, importantly, a much more vital one than the passive Snow White, who, as a "nice decent girl" of prewar America, seems to live in a coma even before she has a crowd of small men watch her in her sleep. Either way, this version is best known to us collectively and is also the starting point of Veronica's interpretation of the story.

 

Rather than its two female heroines, the artist extracts from the tale its two magical objects, which are a mirror and a well. This paraphernalia performs a comparable function for the main protagonists - they allow them to reflect and validate their aspirations. Until now, the mirror has served the queen in legitimising herself, repeatedly describing her as the fairest woman in the kingdom and thus nourishing her narcissism. However, the well into which the Snow White sings provides the relatively indistinct girl with an echo of her desires, which can probably be described as being passively found (by the prince). The well is therefore the mirror’s sibling, and they connect Snow White and the Queen as a portal.

 

*

I'm here, can you see all the way down?

Look behind you, at least you'll see yourself. It's not much, is it? 

Small data. Never mind, come closer, at least you are something. I know

you want me to like you. Just like the

others: you want to be heard, 

you want to be recognised in the reflections. 

Is that enough for you? 

You're not just a mark, are you?

*

 

Film and photography are the central points of the author's thinking. The White Snow project is thus reminiscent of a certain film set, the epilogue of a fairy tale, of which Veronika is the director, launching a series of dialogues with many collaborators, based on discipleship and diligence. However, this co-created set is abandoned, thrown into timelessness - a commonality that both fairy tales and current everyday grayness share. A rough texture of the color of Snow White's skin, belonging to a monumental column of an inhuman scale, emerges from the dark purple shadow, constituting a new architectural element of the gallery. Instead of gargoyles, the pillar is inhabited by smirks, like the ever-changing tics and convulsions of our psyches. On the wall clings a copper surface, which the author carved out and blessed with a hot air pistol, deceiving us with the potential of self-reflection, which does not fulfill. Instead of the rays optically reflecting into our retina, the visual sensation shatters and scatters around the room. It thus betrays the function of a mirror, partially fulfills the role of a mask, and thus ritually erases our ego. Next, a "well", resembling the shape of an elephant's foot, on which we can observe the traces and marks of fingerpads, sensitised by labour. According to the author, it should reflect our aspirations and desires for response and presence through its reflection. But the androgynous voice of the water surface mocks us instead, just to demonstrates our vanity and banality. It treats us arrogantly, moralising unpleasantly, thus revealing the conflicting aspects of our self and the opacity of our internal motivations. Similarly opaque is an attempt to present such viscerality online, and so just like the fairy tale mirror or a well take on the form of a phantasm, this time on our screens.

 

*

Today is just as beautiful, even if you 

leave me as a sign, as a clue. You're not just a clue, are you? /laughs/

But I don't mind at all! I forget quickly, 

I will forget you too. 

Are you gone yet? No?

Ah, never mind, you will be. 

Who am I speaking with?

 

 

Text: Lukáš Hofmann

Poetry: Ondřej Buddeus

 

 

 

 

3D animation: Matěj Martinec, voiceover: Karolína Vágnerová, sound mixing: Anna Kolářová, David Pevný, text: Ondřej Buddeus, blacksmith works: Miroslav Pištěk, installation assistance: Štěpánka Koblížková, technologist: Jiří Vrzba, production KS: Michal Jalůvka. The author thanks the Garage Gallery team, Natália Kubíková and Tomáš Kureček for providing the space.

 

Cinematography: Milan Mazúr.