Artist Tereza Bušková on capturing Moravian rituals and conquering the London art scene


My guest in One on One today has been described as a ‘young Czech Matthew Barney’ and a ‘rising star’ on the London art scene. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art two years ago, Tereza Bušková has exhibited in some of the capital’s highest-profile spaces such as Gallery 176, and Gallery One One One. Bušková’s screen-prints and films draw heavily upon her Czech origins. In October, her project ‘The Spring Equinox’ will be exhibited in London alongside the work of compatriots Kateřina Šedá and Josef Bolf. On a recent visit back to Prague, I met Tereza Bušková and asked her first about the story behind her critically-acclaimed ‘Spring Equinox’:

“I have always been interested in the life cycle and the most important rituals that happen in our lives, such as marriage and death and birth. In fact, marriage is something that I was exploring in the past quite a lot in my work. And I’m interested in the four seasons, and therefore I decided to start with the spring, because I love spring. Something that really fascinates me is the symbols of spring and the rebirth of everything.”

You have a muse with whom you try and reenact some of these rituals, not necessarily in a modern way, but maybe out of their original context – is that the main idea?

“When I came to the Czech Republic to film ‘The Spring Equinox’, my idea was to go to these villages where people still very much do crafts on an everyday basis, they go to church on Sunday wearing their traditional costumes – which are very rich in this particular village, Ratíškovice, which is one of the oldest villages in Moravia – and the idea was to really get to know folklore and those traditions, because in the past I only knew these traditions from books.

“The original idea was to kind of mix the old with the new. But when I went to this village and I met those people, I realized after the filming that it is not as simple as that - you can’t just say ‘here is the footage from Ratíškovice, here is my footage which I filmed two hours away from Ratíškovice in a different village’. So, I started editing and working with the sound, and it all kind of came together, and we were all very happy with the result and… the film was born!”

But that first part of the film isn’t a documentary of life in Ratíškovice, it looks like you have staged various scenes. How did that work, were you setting up various villagers in certain situations, or how did you do it?

“It was really hard. Because when I came to the village, I had a little helper. There was this lovely lady who was born in Ratíškovice, who knew my work and who was excited by it. She said ‘I’m going to help you; I’m going to show you things you will not see in books’. But when I came to the village, the mayor of the village found out that there was going to be a film. And the word spread. And they called the little kids and they called the older kids and they called the grown-ups and all the people. And they all dressed up in their traditional costumes, and they all came to the area where we were shooting and took their instruments and their most beautiful costumes, which they really only wear to weddings.

“I was stunned by the beauty, and excited about how much material I was going to have in my film, but then again, I was a little bit scared, because I thought ‘hang on a minute, now I can’t really control it, this is getting a little bit out of my hands’. And they did take control.”

Do you think that living and working in England has changed your view, not only of Czech folklore, but of your own art in general?

“Yes definitely. I mainly think that what gave me all this rich experience was studying in the UK. I’ve been really lucky to be able to study abroad, in the UK, in very good schools, where I met very interesting artists, where I went to very interesting lectures. And I had the opportunity to try different techniques, to not just be based in the painting department but to experiment with different media, to cross over from the print-making department to film. That is something that doesn’t happen so easily in the Czech Republic.”

In recent months you have had a lot of success and a good deal of good publicity in London. Does this come as a surprise to you and how does it feel?

“My husband says it feels like a rollercoaster living next to me, because in the last few months there has been exciting news every two weeks, and then every week, and then every day, which is absolutely amazing, and which is something just wonderful.

“I always wanted to achieve a lot with my work and I always believed in it. But when this happens, this publicity, and this appreciation from the outside world, it is something that you can never be prepared for.”

Do you think that your films and your performances are speaking to everyone that they should, or do you think that people are still slightly wary of performance art and film art, and therefore the desired audience isn’t yet getting to see the kind of art that you are making?

“Yes. I do believe that. I do believe that not many people are specifically interested in moving image or performance art. But what I find exciting from my own experience is that I can reach or touch more people when I’m showing my work outside the white walls of a gallery space, where my work, because of its kind of spiritual, magical nature, doesn’t really come out that well, doesn’t work.

“When I did a live performance on Charing Cross Road in London, in Window Gallery, which is part of St. Martin’s School, it was very exciting. I was doing what I do on one of the busiest streets in London in front of hundreds of people and the normal public. I guess that some of these people never go to gallery spaces and wouldn’t think normally about art. And they were kind of forced to watch my weird imagery and experience something very different. The response was very good and it was the most exciting performance that we have done so far.”

Can we expect any of your work or performances to come here to the Czech Republic any time soon?

“I do hope so. I don’t have any specific plans yet, but I am definitely interested in showing my work to a Czech audience. Because obviously I am taking loads from my culture, and I think it is about time to show it here.”