Emília Rigová: (out of) the deadlock

Aug 02, 2016 - Sep 23, 2016

Opening: 2016. augusztus 2., 15:00

During her visit to Poland in 2014 at the occasion of the Porrajmos commemoration, the author made trips into nature. It was at one of such random walks that she found woods which became the site of her present visual narrative. The author brought a carpet with her with an intention to transform herself into a memorial in honour of the victims of the Porrajmos. By covering herself with the carpet, she became an object installed in the woods located near the actual place of the Roma genocide. When she wanted to return to this intriguing place the next day, she could not find it anymore. The place seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. Nevertheless, she encapsulated the atmosphere of the place and her intimate honour in an image that later served as a basis of the presented work.

The work entitled (out of) the deadlock is a video-installation accompanied by a deconstructed musical piece. Its point of departure is the historical fact of the Roma in the Slovak state taking refuge in the woods during WWII. The woods represent the ultimate refuge which remains to an individual or a group being excluded from the human community. They provided a hideaway and nurture. Nature thus figures here as a space of unconditional acceptance and “love”. The human figure in the embryonal position implies a danger and the instinctual response to it, as well as the relation of the man and nature—the man being a child born out of her uterus and finding a safety and nurture in it. The carpet represents the life of the Roma before the refuge, the life in the natural circumstances of their community from which they have been forcefully ripped out. The body is floating above the carpet, rather than resting on it, which hints at the uprooting. In a broader sense, the distance between the body and the carpet symbolizes that Roma oftentimes feel the necessity to supress some aspects of their personality or to distance themselves from their Roma relatives or friends if they want to succeed in the majority society. The stillness of the body is an index of the waiting of the Roma stashed away in the woods and of the need to be quiet, motionless, as if frozen. More broadly, it refers to the deadlock of the current Roma in their societies, as being forcefully assimilated, segregated or marginalized. The deadlock symbolizes an emptiness but simultaneously a potentiality, a lack of agency and a step towards its reclaiming. The soundtrack, an authentic recording from a funeral of the author’s relative, is consciously distorted to invoke a danger represented by the Nazis and their collaborators and the destructive effect of being rooted out from one’s life, from one’s culture. Though being a mournful song, the Romani music functions here as a symbol of the Roma’s capacity to break the deadlock which is, after all, inherent to every individual or a group.

The carpet featuring in the deadlock is an element the author has been working with since 2014. It is her original work. Its design has been inspired by the patterns of the traditional headscarves worn by Romani women in certain areas of Europe in the past and even today. It is a symbol of belonging to the Romani community but simultaneously hints at naturalization of the elements perceived as foreign (the carpets and colour scheme/patterns of Romani clothing) in the societies of Central Europe. The author in her work related to Romani themes always sought to use the traditional visual elements from Romani culture in a way to refer to Roma without caging them in or reducing them to their Roma identity. The carpet as an example of cultural diffusion and the traditional patterns from the Romani scarves as an example of a cultural borrowing refers to the history of mutual cultural influences within societies which has always been intrinsically the human phenomenon. The carpet appeared for example in her latest work from 2016, a performance that took place in the city centre of Prague. The carpet was simultaneously rolled and unrolled at its edges which made it move through the main passenger line in the heart of Prague. The performance reacted to the exclusion of the Roma from public space and was an act of its reclaiming. The author was walking on it inviting the passers-by to participate in the performance.


Emília Rigová (born 1980) is a visual artist coming from the Slovak Republic. In addition to her engagement with art, she teaches art courses (object, multi-media, inter-media) at Matěj Bel University in Banská Bystrica. For Rigová, an object in the form of an installation or as a performance or a site-specific intervention is a basic element of her art language. Further, she expresses herself through 2D interface of a computer graphics, informed by the fundaments of classical painting. Concerning the content of her work, she explores inter-subjectivity of emotion modified by a specific socio-cultural environment.  The main themes of her works are cultural or social stereotypes, alter ego, Romani identity, and psychological shadows. She had exhibitions in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Montenegro, Poland and Slovakia.

In 2012, the author created and has worked ever since with her alter ego character called Bári Raklóri. In the family, the author was called Bári which stands for “big”. The other component of the alter ego name is a designation for a non-Romani girl/daughter of non-Romani parents. Raklóri was used in the family when parents wanted to express their satisfaction over the neat outlook of their dressed up and chichi children. At such occasions, they used to say to their children: “You are beautiful as a raklóri/raklóro (non-Romani girl/boy).” In her family, the relation of Roma and non-Roma has always been seen and lived as symbiosis, rather than hostility. The name thus conveys this message by symbolic combination of a traditional Romani nickname with a designation for a non-Romani person. Bári Raklóri is thus an epitome of the symbiosis, mutual influence between the Roma and non-Roma and of the synergy which the author achieves by drawing on both worlds.

Nikola Ludlová

Curators: Nikola Ludlová, Júlia Baki

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