In her essay, On Being Ill, Virginia Woolf writes: Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view … it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to influenza; epic poems to typhoid; odes to pneumonia … But no; … literature does its best to maintain that its concern is with the mind; that the body is a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear.”The installation consisting of textile objects and videos by Tereza Vinklárová in Galerie mladých layers several themes over each other. The topic of physical illness, but also taking care of one’s own mental health and the possible psychosomatic causes of manifestations of the body’s ailments are inextricably intertwined with her personal testimony of experiencing physical debilitation and an unequal position in a seemingly non-hierarchical system of interpersonal relationships.
Similarly to Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag considers the condition of bodily ailments as the flip side of a realm of prosperity in which we have dual citizenship. In her essay, Illness as a Metaphor, she describes the condition of a sick, weakened body as bringing “consciousness to a state of paroxysmic enlightenment” which can then become the impulse for the healing process in a countermovement: searching for possible causes of health problems in the overabundance of emotions we cannot let speak.
The Spell of an Unspoken Promise is an expanded video-installation, or a particular type of an other cinema as described by Erika Balsom. The scenographic character of the installation divides the exhibition space into an auditorium and a stage. The sculpted objects of lamps and seating bags are stylized in the same manner as the costumes and scenes in the video. Objects’ soft textile materials, the warm colors of the lamps’ fluorescents and even the rounded shapes of the islands on the floor tempt us with their hospitality, so that their slightly sinister tentacles and lianas could wrap around us and hold us for a while.
Indeed, the central message is conveyed to us through the personal testimony of the person in the video, whose voice speaks to us in the neutral gender. A certain detachment and searching for strength to speak about the unspoken can also be perceived through the use of stylization of the costume, which loosely evokes fantasy and its associated supernatural powers of healing shamanic rituals. The spoken word text itself is fragmented and alternately conveys different experiences of the body’s illness, the unwritten rules of how a community functions, feelings of acceptance and also exclusion and ultimately the abuse of power against group members. The personal and unspoken becomes spoken, engaged and healing without an undue tabloidization.
Text by Ivana Hroncekova
Photos by Eva Rybarova