Dita Pepe: Staged Photographs from the Czech Republic
Dita Pepe (Ostrava, 1973), is part of a generation of Czech artists working while under an atmosphere of intense attention from the West to the country's artistic developments, similar to what happens towards other countries from the former Soviet bloc. This attention is in order to consolidate the entrance of art rising from that territory in an artistic circuit from which it was deprived during the forty years preceding the Velvet Revolution.
As well as many of the artists benefiting from the internationalization following the increased planning of shows dedicated to art from the Czech Republic - ( In 2000 Kunstlerhaus Dresden and NBK, Berlin, showed, respectively, Bohemian Birds - Positions of Czech Contemporary Art and Überlebenskunst - Junge Künstler aus Prag. After these two exhibitions an endless list of shows followed, and finally, last year, Going and Coming took place at K&S, Berlin, curated by Karel Cisar) - works from Dita Pepe could also be widely seen outside the Czech Republic. Selfportraits Series (1999-2004) was particularly well shown in the last two years: Last Year took part in the exhibition Wirklich Wahr! Realitätsversprechen von Fotografien, at the Ruhrlandmuseum, Essen; in the festival Encontros da Imagem, Portugal; as well as in the Moskow Photobiennale, Moskovo. In the preceding year the curator Milan Knizak had selected this series for the Prague Biennale.
Selfportraits is, from one perspective, a speculation on Pepe´s personal biography. Through the staging of portraits of people she knows, whose identity she embodies and by whose side she poses, Dita Pepe plays the roles of alternative personalities from her own, or that she almost had."I feel that everything in life is relative, when I look back on my life if things had been just slightly different, I could have ended up being someone completely different from who I am now". The photographs of the Selfportraits Series are linked by the repetition of certain elements: an anonymous person, their familiar surroundings - a living room or bedroom, a street or a car - and the artist herself metamorphosed: dressed up and wearing make up that makes her as similar as possible to that chosen person and posing by her side.
The ghostly presence of the artist emphasizes the details of intimacy, profile and social background of the person and suggests an ambiguity of the identity of the artist herself. Dita Pepe suggests two narratives: one of going in and out of the skin of the people she portraits, and the other of the personal story of each of those people, which can be presumed through their personal objects.
This kind of portraying places her amongst a number of contemporary artistic positions in which the complex issues of identity are a starting and arriving point for considerations enlarged to a social - cultural context that they take part in. Her metamorphosis is, however, used differently from other artistic positions like that of Cindy Sherman, since she includes a theatrical situation which demands the presence of others rather than the artist alone.
Dita Pepe and Petr Hrubes, Untitled, from the series "Body Sofa", 2003, 70x100cm
Dita Pepe and Petr Hrubes, Untitled, from the series "Venus as a Boy", 2004, 50x110cm
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