Mark of the intimate Gesture
by Lucia L. Fišerová

With Dorota Sadovská over a Glass of Mother's Milk


Dorota, in the preceding issue of SADO, which is your catalogue and simultaneously your project – play at a woman's magazine, you disclosed but a certain section of the "Author Ego". Much has changed in your life since our last chat. Your direct relation to the body and corporeality has also borne fruit outside the sphere of art and you gave birth to your daughter Serafína. Pregnant celebrities and celebrity – mothers are very much "in" at the moment. How did you come to terms with your new social status? Do you have a yellow pram? Do you use Pampers or cloth nappies with a blue strip? What advice would you give expectant artist-mothers and art-historian mothers?

To have a child when they want it and to want it when they have it. Motherhood forms a natural part of life. There is no reason to pathetically celebrate or condemn it and scare the childless. The child is by me when I am painting, writing, doing household chores, taking photos of naked models, doing shopping. Naturally, from nappies to baby car-seat I am helped by the ever-improving technique available. I have a light pram (not yellow) and I also take Serafína to the Gallery. She likes to push her way on her own tiny feet through the dense tree-lined mazes of human legs that end somewhere high up with a "preview" glass of wine and some dainties. True, present-day society in these parts does very little to integrate a woman on maternity leave – she has to get through numerous barred entrances, moreover, she is every now and then excluded by people's very way of thinking. But even before I became a mother I used to live in my own solitude. As a freelance artist, I myself have to assign my work and find order in it. And thus I do not feel any striking change in my social status, probably just as is the case with many other women.

You have managed to incorporate in an interesting way the new experience of motherhood also in the context of your ongoing work. Your daughter's name refers to the celestial heights, the angelic choirs and throngs of saints of whom we spoke the last time. The collection Messages to the Mirror is made up of five photographs of folds of surplus postnatal skin. Hence, it seems rather symbolic to me to start our talk on that "more corporeal" part of your work precisely with this latest cycle. The mode of adjusting the photographs cheek-by-jowl, stuck so as to form by their overlapping a continuous wave running through the whole strip, creates the semblance of a puckering of the gallery wall itself. This "tectonic" element disturbs by the numb pliancy of the live material, similar to the skin on milk or the leathery layer in an open colour pot. I like the state in which you leave the body – halfway between building material and a stiff architectonic ornament. How do you perceive the body within the context of architecture, eventually landscape?

I don't wish to perceive it solely as a problem of aesthetics, a subject of decoration. You'll surely agree that context is decisive in how we perceive not only the body image but likewise the work of art as such: whether it be a question of a social, ideational, but also physical space, i.e. architecture, landscape, or any concrete space where the work happens to be. I have never used frames for my pictures but rather the other way round, through a uniform (even white) background the picture blended with the wall on which it hung. And similarly, in the case of photographs I use the method of cuttings; I cut out the photos and stick them on to the wall.

An interesting continuation of your naughty little game between artwork and gallery space is the collection Parasites. Swarming strings of tiny little bodies grow about and gradually disrupt the stone walls of museum institutions. I also appreciate your "installating" gesture in group exhibitions – you come up with your Mengelean swatch book right at the end when the other authors are all ready with their installation and you stealthily sow the parasites in sites with a "weakened immunity". Parasites are a work that evokes an interminable register of associations in viewers: pink ivy, a tapeworm, saveloys on butcher hooks, deaf and dumb alphabet, a locomotive with tiny vagina-wagons. To which interpretation do you – as the author – incline? And don't your hands ache from all that cutting?

They do, indeed! And I take time out – even for several years. But I find great pleasure in taking pictures of Parasites – it's a game. I have over three hundred different poses, from which I could make a somewhat larger number of independent building components for an installation. The first signs of Parasites appeared in 1998 during my residential study at ENSBA in Dijon, France. Seeing them even before they were installed, a former schoolmate of mine remarked that I must have felt very lonely to devise something like that. She was right, for I was incapable of communicating appropriately in the new environment and in so different a tongue. Initially, I laboriously developed the photos by myself in black-and-white in the photo-lab and adjusted them in a bath tub with a red toner. I cut out the best ones and joined them in pairs in a symmetrical ornament. Finally, I installed them in the nooks and corners of the room with transparent blue foils in the windows, turning daylight colour into dark-blue. I put up the first installation in the Interface Gallery in Dijon. From the entrance hall one could see the ornaments in a room suffused with blue light – a more sustained gaze could discern fingers and toes. This gave rise to a contrasting fusion of the ornament as a classical decoration of a room with fragments of the human body. Four years later I re-photographed Parasites on colour negatives, had these developed in the classical process and exhibited them solely in daylight. The biggest problem was taking down the installations where, as a rule, I could not be present. And thus, while someone in a given gallery was getting the knack of detaching the pictures delicately, as a rule he spoiled between two and five of them. And unfortunately, this also was one of the ways in which the number of my Parasites came to be reduced. Association with Parasites? Ornament, animal, hybrid, mutant, failed clone, blown-up unknown insect or microbe, supermarket chicken in plastic, organic compound of human parts or natural unnaturalnesses...? That I leave to the viewer.

Such then is the fate of parasites... Life does not handle them with kidgloves. But to go back to your project SADO, whose principle is essentially likewise parasitic. This time, your work has succeeded in gnawing its way out of the gallery and is nesting in bookshops and newsstands, in tabloids over here and abroad. In the form of publicity it has begun to make its way into opinion-forming dailies and onto the advertising panels of buses, trams, trolley buses... Part of the media-fostered campaign of the project was also the pompous presentation to launch the magazine, with the participation of the foremost Slovak 'fitness expert', Zora Czoborová. How come Zora became interested in Dorka, and Dorka in Zora? What is your own stand – as a cover girl – towards body-building? Do you tone up problem bits? Do you tone up bitty problems? And do you tone them up or shore them up?

I draw reinforcement from sleep and often from good food, from looking and listening; I tone up by hitting on and taking over new ideas or topics. I don't seem to perceive my own body much as a problem bit, or bitty problem, and thus I reinforce it innocently and spontaneously. For instance, incessantly walking upstairs and downstairs and nearly always with my 10-kilos plus Serafína. As to our former fitness champion and present media star, I just don't come up to her. Of course, my invitation to her to launch my journal was made humorously and she took it that way – yet she did come and she was wonderful. On that occasion she confessed to me that up to that time she had done nothing along the lines of fine art. And that, too, was mutually fascinating. Preceding the idea of this invitation was a challenge from a prominent Slovak composer (in 2000): if I managed to get this superwoman with her surpassing body to my opening, he would prepare a special composition for the occasion. Could it be that for frail and withdrawn men their polar opposites can be muses? Well, the composition has not appeared as yet...

A hint of an auto-erotic pose in your Corporalities induces the image of a playboy cliché. A haptic accentuation of an oversize bosom might be associated with extreme sexual practices. On the other hand, bulging breasts may also be suggestive of maternity and the conventionalized role of woman in the society – alongside the automatic notion of breast-feeding, we may also look upon the body as malleable material to be kneaded, with reference to e.g. such traditionally female work as dough kneading. By the way, do you like baking? What is your favourite recipe?

Well, there is no question of silicones. To undergo plastic surgery and gain breasts like armour in the shape of a big split orange is not the right recipe for photographing Corporalities. Back in 1998 I made a few timid little sketches and some five years later re-photographed the breasts in classical mid-size format and enlarged the cut-outs to 100x100 cm. From a little concealed intimate gesture they thus grew into an uncompromising large sign or "live" statue. At several group exhibitions it happened that the number of photographs within the gallery's ground plan was determined solely according to their dimensions. However, when the photographs were unpacked inside the exhibition hall, it became evident that instead of the originally planned six photos, two or three would do, and these, by their monumental form, would also drown out the adjacent works. They take up far more space in the eye and mind than that measured out in inches, and thus I occasionally had to face ill-will on the part of my co-exhibitors with their less arresting works.
I don't knead much dough for baking, I prefer to cook meals. My speciality is thick red vegetable or fish soups which a spoon will stand straight up in. My husband calls them "hilly" soups. He likes them not only for lunch, but in winter also for supper. In addition, for the time being I am still breast-feeding my daughter and thus in my everyday life I am – in your words – in that conventionalized role of woman.

I had an opportunity to view your video Slough for the first time in 2003 during the Prague Digital Photography Festival InOut. In the middle of Staromestké Square tourists watched with wonderment a large-sized screen showing an imperceptibly moving mass of tangled limbs. The weather was already chilly, yet curiosity to see how it all would end up kept the spectators glued to the ground. In practically all your photos and videos the human body appears in a fragmentary shape. Instead of a whole harmonic action, you portray details or torsos – whether in the form of relics, organic neologisms, or corporeal objects. How many real bodies were involved in this video-take? And I'd also like to know what these bodies looked like? Do you think that new relations subsequently developed among them?

I don't think so, though I am not sure – you'd have to ask them. Once the photographing was over, the models, playing practically motionless bodies, dispersed. In fact, some of them had never met before, while some were chums of long standing. Music for Slough was specially composed by Martin Burlas. The slow, repeated and unfolding musical motif creates tension bordering on the obsessive, in contrast to the quasi motionless bodies. In the hardly perceptible motion, from three up to five intertwined figures swarm on the screen. This mixture may recall some bizarre, anomalous organism. The video, running for over an hour, comprises five parts in which purely female and purely male parts alternate in changing time periods. The aim was to create something like a modern picture on a flat screen. After all, how many modern homes today have a TV set running non-stop? And not solely in just one room.

Let us also cast a glance at your portraits with the working slogan Necks. The figures' tensed up pose, with their heads inclined, associating a view from a martyrdom scene in a baroque ceiling painting and simultaneously the snapshot of an erotic amateur video, define the close interval between suffering and delight. The fact that you have assigned this set to the "corporeal" section of the catalogue is underlined by a blending of the lewdness of the portrayed genre with the nude through a minute shift in the bodily gesture. Instead of a "dignified" climax to the human figure showing an individual face and a fashionable hairdo, you offer us some sort of leathery stumps without an appropriate completion, dominated by throat, collarbone, chin and nostrils. In certain cases these pictures even evoke a physical need to "wring necks". Once the painting was completed, how many of the inclined heads never resumed their original position? And why have you, in this particular case, chosen painting as your medium?

I did not wring the women's necks! They joined in of their own free will. And would you decline were I to ask you to pose for your oil portrait? We have been taught from childhood not only to be pretty, but also to know how to convince our environment of it. A female oil painting possesses that promise. However, even though everything in my oil painting is as it ought to be, the essential item is shifted – at the decisive moment the woman being portrayed turns away her face.
And this with all the characteristics of her temperament and her momentary state of mind: coquettishly, light-heartedly, joyously, curiously and playfully, but also pathetically, convulsively, with badly-concealed pain, unwillingly, angrily even. In that reverse portrait (or more precisely anti-portrait) too, one may sense traces of the distinctiveness of the person portrayed. Female portraits (Necks) are the most dignified and at the same time the most ironical in oil painting; Slough is the most baleful as slow video at the interface of a static and a kinetic image; in Corporalities skin unevennesses are best seen in enlargements of classical untreated photographs; Parasites are most disquieting as cut-outs from photographic paper in installations directly on the wall; Messages to the Mirror are successful as folders of digital prints and my catalogue as a periodical exhibited among women's magazines. I am pleased when, among a broader range of expressions, I manage to find the most vibrant one for the artistic concept.