Adéla Babanová (1980) belongs among the group of front representatives of Czech art who work with the politics of a moving image. Her work is anchored primarily in the media of film, which the artist uses to examine and observe aspects connected with the truth and perspective – or the subjectivity of storytelling, personal and collective memories, temporality, and their penetration in the relation of the narrator and collection of realistic (objectively known) and fictive prototypes, which determine the narration and its later interpretation. The majority of the work of Adéla Babanová is based on real factual events and stories, the archive documentation of which the artist uses to build a new story, its edited re-telling, or as a documentary part of a given narrative. A recent example of this is her work Return to Adriaport (2013) – a fictive film documenting the real project of Professor Karel Žlábek and Pragoprojekt from the year 1979, the objective of which was, with the help of a tunnel, to connect Czechoslovakia with the Adriatic Sea and turn the socialistic Czechoslovakia into a seaside country. With the use of period artefacts and extensive archive documentation Babanová treats a utopian vision and simultaneously remodels this vision – story into a realistic historical event. The artist points out here the power of the media of film, which is in essence built on human openness and desire to accept this reality as truthful and hence unknowingly eliminate the boundary between reality, fiction, interpretation and made up historical facts that often, in the course of time, thanks to the power and character of storytelling, become a shared part of collective memory.
We encounter the question of subjective and collective memory and the possibility of their manipulation also in the artist’s last film Where Did the Flight Attendant Fall From? (Odkud spadla letuška?) Similarly to Return to Adriaport, this is also an elaboration of a real event, specifically it is the story of flight attendant Vesna Vulović who was the only one to survive the airplane crash near Česká Kamenice. In this case, the film focuses primarily on the interview with the flight attendant who lost her memory following the crash. The process of the (impossible) recollection is presented here as a form of manipulation, which rather than supporting the truthfulness about the event, tries to artificially read into it. The only witness of this accident, whose role is perceived from the position of some sort of universe of truth, is presented here as a weak but the only component in the formation of collective memory. The process of recollecting and memory in general are presented as an easily influenced component, the significance of which in the role of human history and the understanding of human history is quite fundamental. On one hand, with respect to historical context, one can read her work from the view of the Normalization era the objective of which was to maintain society in believing truths suitable for the regime, on the other hand, however, it is possible to view her work from a politically uncoloured perspective where the question of forming history and objective truths is independent of a regime, is instrumental and today, in many respects, it is very current.
Babanová uses a very specific film language in her films which is characteristic for a historicizing component – two of her latest films are set in the time of Normalization, and a new film that is in its preparation phase takes place in 1964. The artist accents the period aesthetic, which becomes one of the characteristic elements of her work. Staged reality naturally weaves with period artefacts here and further thins the already thin boundary between reality and fiction, memory and story, recollection and forgetting. As long as we still try to find the boundaries of this fine line through the characters, as was the case in the detective story Ich hab hier eine Leiche (Já tam mám tělo) (I Have a Body Here) from 2012, the result will most likely be just an analysis of complex relationships between characters and their subjective views, which multiplies the layers of the story and points to the fact that an objective view of history is rather a thing of subjective decision, which is built on the conscious rejection of the grey zone, which is a part of any depiction and grasp of reality or its history.
Markéta Stará Condeixa (via artlist.cz)