Katarína Hládeková has long been interested in the life story of Russian emigrant Matrena Makovická, who in the 1920s followed her husband, writer and doctor Dušan Makovický to Slovakia, only to live in seclusion after his suicide. Over the course of three years, the artist produced a series of exhibitions that, through Matrena’s fate, commented on issues of national identity, the stigma of emigration and the social status of the “woman of a great man”.
Another possible interpretation of the turbulent life vicissitudes of Matrena and Dušan Makovický, who met as members of a community of followers of Leo Tolstoy’s teachings, concerns the disappointment of not being able to fulfil one’s own ideals and convictions. Tolstoyism can be understood as a determination to live an authentic life based on the values of love, social justice, harmony with nature and faith, and a consistent rejection of social conventions. Similar values, incidentally, are embodied in contemporary ethical appeals to environmental responsibility and social emancipation.
The current exhibition takes Matrena’s story even further beyond its original historical starting point. Another perspective has been added to mediate the experience of emigration, feelings of uprootedness and dissatisfaction in life. It is conducted through a character loosely inspired by the person of Sergej Magid, Václav’s father. In constructing this character, the authors were able to draw on personal experience and were able to use the opportunity of his participation in his own portrayal. The image of Matrena Makovická, on the other hand, was created in response to the few historiographical texts, surviving photographs and memoirs. The referent, in this case, was more Matrena’s (period-contingent, historiographical) image, and an interpretation of interpretation emerged, not humbly observational but deliberately subjective. Narrative fiction and typological stylization are evident and acknowledged in both cases, a fact reinforced by the literary nature of the works on display, which include textual passages and watercolor illustrations “from the life and works” of Matrena and Dušan Makovický, a letter from “strange parents” or a spoken dialogue and its written translation.