Helena Psotova was born in Usti nad Labem, the capital of North Bohemia in Czechoslovakia, where she had a number of exhibitions. She came to Hobart in 1989. Helena completed her PhD titled ‘True Fictions: An Investigation of Identity, Narrative, And Photography’ at the Tasmanian School of Art in 2002. She is married with two children.

50x50cm, C-type print

In October 1988, a fairly adventurous escape from my Czech past took me to Austria. There, in the overcrowded cells of the infamous refugee camp ‘Treiss-Kirchen’, I became aware of the triviality of my own being. I had no proper sense of the present, no idea of what was to come and, frankly, being a fatalist, I wasn’t too curious about it. I understood, however, that what I treasured of my past was certainly irrelevant for my present or future, and that the strange dream-like state was going to stay with me for a while. Ironically, for the first time in my life I felt truly free...

With little money and my identity limited to the regular small plastic identification card with Polaroid photo, I hitchhiked across the Austrian land, soaking up this world of foreign culture. It was filled with assorted types of people who, both admirable and impervious, had taught me a pliant way of existence; the part of me, which was understood by the others, had little to do with my real self. I became an unclassed drifter—an observant and uncommitted soul of the world. Wondering in poetic fervour, freethinking and daring, I reached out to every new precious moment like a child to a new game. And there was always a new role to assume, and always a challenge to perpetually re-invent myself. There were stories to tell and ‘lives’ to live, discovered. Their transience only exaggerated the thrill, my true identity was to be never discovered; I could be anyone, and I could be all…

This project is an outcome of a friendship with a woman whose journey reminds me of my own. I have watched the career and personal growth of this woman for over ten years now. The project, in a way of photographic narrative, suggests brief experiences of places and moments in the life of a young woman, who in a quest for expressing her hopes and dreams through singing re-discovered herself and her culture. Her journey has been to search. She belongs to every place, and to no place; a traveller who has left the familiarity of her homeland, to find a safe haven. The project comprises seven photographs, which depict brief life experiences in the form of an open-ended narrative, rendering reality where boundaries of truth and fiction are blurred. Frozen in a particular moment in time, they are indefinable, belonging simultaneously to the past and present; a specific place and a non-place.

Helena Psotova 2002