Nadia Rovderová’s intimate diary at DOX in Prague

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Eleven years after her last major exhibition, photographer Nadia Rovderová is exhibiting more than 120 works at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. In her expressive colour photographs, which from afar are reminiscent of watercolours or oil paintings, she transforms seemingly mundane situations into exceptional, almost momentous events. The exhibition is split into three parts that evoke the key elements of the psyche according to psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. Fotofatal 1999–2020 will be open to the public until 9 November 2020.

Fotofatal 1999–2020 is a continuation of Nadia Rovderová’s work, which was first exhibited to the public in 1999. Her colour photos don’t try to provide a faithful version of reality – they are “subjective documents” that thanks to long exposure times merge reality with the author’s internal mood. She often likes to work with photographic error, with expired films, and enlarges small details in photos taken with mobile phones into large-format prints. Filtering out the sharp, intrusive surface, allows her to search for what is hidden within.

“Nadia Rovderová functions as a sensitive seismograph that is capable of tuning in the volatile fluid of the moment and recording it: The camera shutter, open for a few seconds or even minutes, records her movements, breath, and heartbeat, her arousal, annoyance, or enthusiasm. The resulting blurry image thus records the trajectory of a longer duration of both internal and external events,” says one of the curators, Terezie Zemánková.

“I began using photography as a ‘substitute’ for painting, which after a time was unable to allow me to put the required emotion into my work. For me, it is an impression of reality that I augment with photographic errors, long exposures, and painting with light. I process these photo paintings in constructive manner through my own excessive sensitivity and perceptiveness,” says Nadia Rovderová.

Most of the photos are taken in dusk or darkness. The phenomenon of disappearance is key for the artist – even scenes captured in photos often provide eloquent proof of what (or who) is missing in them. Sometimes it seems that she photographs phenomena that resist routine sensory perception, as indicated by the names she’s given to various series: Interviews With Spirits, Searching for Angels, Prague or Poprad Subconscious, Sudetenland, or Terezín Between Heaven and Earth, in which she has succeeded in resuscitating the magic of a place, its long-gone past as well as still-latent stories.

“In Terezín, in a former stable, there is a secret synagogue from World War II. I had an hour for the entire photo shoot; I lit some tea light candles and experimented with double exposures and painting with light. The whole roll had only one good photo. I neglected to mount the camera on the tripod properly, and during the exposure the camera gradually sank lower and lower, causing the tea light candles to look like long candles with a tall flame,” says Nadia in describing the symbol and magic of the place, and the accident that gave rise to the image entitled Synagogue.

Rovderová also documents the present day and uses photography primarily as a means of exploring her own identity – as her intimate pictorial diary or family chronicle. At the same time, her work reflects the evolution of the photographic medium from analogue black-and-white images to digital colour images as well as experiments with scanners or virtual photos on Facebook.

The exhibition has three parts that evoke the key elements of the psyche according to psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung – the human subconscious, the seat of instincts and the libido, including taboo topics such as sex, birth, and death, is located in gallery area A.2. Area A.3 contains the human ego, where Rovderová presents dreamlike recollections and a trip through her personal history. In area A.4, Nadia Rovderová reveals the memory of places and the collective unconscious that is projected into it (the Searching For Angels, Interviews With Spirits, Terezín Between Heaven and Earth series). The narratives of people, places, and objects, in the sense of her conception of the Fotofatal principle, are captured as a subjective document and could not be seen without her intuitive connection.

The work of Nadia Rovderová (*1971, Poprad, Slovakia) entitled Fotofatal was first presented in 1999 by photography curator Lucie Benická as part of the New Names in Contemporary Slovak Photography series in exhibitions in Palác Akropolis in Prague and the House of Photography in Poprad. Her work was then featured in a number of exhibitions in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan. Her work is featured in important photo publications, for example Czech Photography of the 20th Century and Czech Fundamental.

Nadia Rovderová graduated from journalism at the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University in Bratislava. She works in journalism to this day, but recently has been focusing on curating. She is the author or co-author of several monographs and publications on art and photography. She settled in Prague after the revolution, and in 2010 opened Artinbox Gallery, which features the work of Czech, Slovak, and international artists, photographers, and those working in the area of art brut.