Could you explain your work in a few words?
My work over the past 10-15 years has almost exclusively focused on various intersections between fashion, clothing and cinema. I have explored this through curated film seasons, exhibitions and various scholarly publications. I never planned to be this focused… but the format of the Fashion in Film Festival pretty much dictated that most of my energy was channelled towards this. And yet, it hasn’t felt like a limitation at all. In fact, the scope and range of what the festival has covered are very broad. I mean, dress is a prominent feature – player, even – in such a wide range of cinemas that you could endlessly develop ideas within this seemingly small parameter. If I was to define my work, I’d say I have always tried to draw attention to the expressive, poetic and magical possibilities of dress in the cinema where others have mostly focused on narrative and semiotic interpretations.
“As a student, I assisted at a large Kunsthalle-type gallery in Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum, which was showing seminal international artists such as Francesc Torres, Cindy Sherman, Bruce Nauman, Ann Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, and Nan Goldin. (..) At the time I was barely 20. It was a thrown-in-at-the-deep-end situation, and all felt very intense.” – Marketa Uhlirova
How did you start your career?
I studied art history at Charles University in Prague. It was in the late-1990s, which was a period of intense national self-reflection (following 40 years of Soviet rule). I remember a lot of debates about the East versus the West, centre versus periphery. I studied at a pretty conservative department where everything was conducted with a hangover of 19th century positivism. A lot of emphasis on encyclopaedic knowledge! I was exclusively taught by male professors, many of them rather authoritarian figures.
I always had an affinity for modern art, and eventually began focusing on the contemporary era. As a student, I assisted at a large Kunsthalle-type gallery in Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum, which was showing seminal international artists such as Francesc Torres, Cindy Sherman, Bruce Nauman, Ann Hamilton, Mona Hatoum, and Nan Goldin. I got to meet and entertain some of these artists. I also interpreted a number of their interviews with Czech journalists and art critics. At the time I was barely 20. It was a thrown-in-at-the-deep-end situation, and all felt very intense.
At Rudolfinum I also met the curator Amada Cruz (we wrote some of our very first emails to each other…) who made me apply to the MA curating course at CCS, Bard in New York. CCS was one of the earliest curatorial programmes at university level and it was a truly stimulating place to be. I am not sure how much I learnt about the craft of exhibition curating but the level of debate about contemporary art was really high. On reflection, what was very important to me personally was the opportunity to interact with people from all around the world – and I gravitated especially to classmates and faculty from Latin and South America (including critics and curators such as Cuauhtémoc Medina and Gabriela Rangel). In the meantime, I also met my partner, Joe Hunter of Vexed Generation, and through him and his business partner Adam Thorpe started paying attention to contemporary fashion. In fact, I proposed my final exhibition at Bard to be about fashion, and got absolutely slaughtered for it… looking back, I think including ‘culture industries’ in an art exhibition was seen as a transgression!