Hand in hand, we walked the streets of Prague, under the scorching July sun.
What would Kafka think of today’s Prague?
Would he learn to navigate the car-filled streets?
A never-ending array of souvenir stores with blaring music filled to the brim with crystal vases, “I Love Prague” scarves, hats and T-shirts, Krtek toys, tacky restaurants offering Czech beer and ice-cream seller stands. We elbowed our way through Charles’ Bridge and were amused by throngs of people having their photos taken by the Dancing House.
With his jet-black hair and piercing gaze which testifies to his anguished personality, would he appreciate the city’s vast expanse and its cosmopolitan feel?
Would he be overwhelmed by the multinational tourist masses traversing the streets from one city highlight to the next? Would he feel alienated and lonely among so many strangers?
Would he find the giant kinetic statue of his own head made of glassy panels worth having a selfie? Or more probably, would he find it physically repulsive, just like his own looks?
There seemed to be no more traces left of the time when Prague was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fin de siècle city was hidden behind gaudy posters and commercial signs. It was hard to find it beneath the omnipresent veneer of cheapness and plastic contemporaneity. We had to peel layers upon layers of shabby modernity to catch a glimpse of the old city tissue: it revealed itself at moments only, quite unexpectedly and it allowed us admire its former beauty: like at Hradčany at 7 o’clock in the morning: the whole area reminiscent of Josef Sudek photographs: monumental and majestic streets, abandoned by people, centuries’ old buildings towering over cobbled streets. Silence, dotted only by cooing pigeons and tolling bells. So this is how it might have looked like, we thought with awe.
my little one is learning to swim*
and yet there is something left: gills, fins. she is aquatic and terrestrial, still a thermophile,
enmeshed in intestines. almost a fish, a bit a turtle, a bit a root.
she may get hooked and stick to the ground, she may move into the belly
and live among algae. with the umbilical cord around her wrists.
the little one hopes that her desire to be with water is temporary,
and later everything will get back to normal: the sky, the ground, four walls, ninety degrees
in between. a window, a tree behind it, a window-sill, a table, a bed.
the little one believes that the webbing between her fingers can be bitten, and that the teeth will do.
* poem by ewa świąc
The series entitled “Learning to Swim” explores the mother and daughter relationship; it is about the physical and the emotional distance that increases as the child grows and gains independence. It is about the feeling of immense pride and also great pain. It is a story about “the challenges of feeling in between—youth and adulthood, the nest and the world, the comfortable water and the firm earth that we all must learn to walk on, someday.”
A few years ago, I moved from a big city to a small town.
This was a unique experience. The photos tell a story of my wanderings through the town; peeking into people’s windows; looking at children playing and friends talking; seeing them far away, as if through a thick wall of glass; they recount my inability to connect with them in a consequential way. My failing attempts at establishing meaningful relations, which would go beyond every-day small talk; my dawning realization that at a certain point in life, it is very difficult for some people to find their bearings after moving to a new place.
Solitude in a big city is anonymous. In a small town with a community that is reluctant to let a newcomer in, solitude has the face of the person who is alone.
The term phatic communion was coined by Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in his essay „The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages”. It denotes the linguistic function of a language aimed at the maintenance of superficial social interaction rather than imparting information or sharing ideas.
Alicja Brodowicz – born in Kraków, Poland.
Graduate of the Faculty of English Literature at Universiteit Utrecht (the Netherlands). Translator by profession.
Graduate of the Institute of Creative Photography at the Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic.
Finalist and laureate of multiple photography competitions (e.g. IRIS Award (Australia), Photography Annual Awards (Czech Republic), International Photography Awards (2013, honourable mention), B&W Child Photo Competition, International Photography Awards (2015, honourable mention), 7th Julia Margaret Cameron competition for women photographers (2015), MIFA 2015, (honourable mention)).
Publications in online and print magazines: SHOTS, GUP Magazine, Digital Camera Polska, Lens Culture.
TIFF Festival Rivers & Roads 2016
Světlo jinak VI, Muzeum umění Olomouc