Leica Gallery: Antonín Kratochvíl, Domovina/Homeland

 

22. 6. — 9. 9. 2012 

"Homeland. You can really only have one which understands you the most and I think Czech Republic is mine. It drives you crazy because its part of you and it reflects you. Its like every day you are under scrutiny. It’s a self-critique. You face yourself every day in other people. It’s a combination of smells, sounds, food. Every country has a different smell. Right now, I’m sitting in my country house and I smell lilac, which was always associated with spring. Domovina. 

It was a quest. Especially in the early days of my exile when all I had were memories. Finally, when I got my US citizenship, I could go back. Domovina. Photography was like a therapy for me. Psychotherapy. The process of coming back, reflecting and understanding myself and my country and where I come from… I could put what I felt into photographs. I think I’m fortunate. 

I remember in America one of my friends said: „Where are you going?“ And I said, „I’m going home.“ He was shocked because he thought my home was in America. It didn’t work with me. I didn’t try to assimilate. I always knew I wanted to go home. In a casket or in a plane, either way. I said to my wife when I die bury me in my favourite forest where I used to go trekking as a teenager. 

Sometimes I’m very happy here and sometimes I’m very depressed. But I came back and I know why I left. I finally understand why I got out. It felt so good coming home."

© Antonín Kratochvíl

 

DOMOVINA was never meant to be taken in any literal way. I was more interested in the concept of "Home" as opposed to "Home" as a literal place. With Antonin it was looking at the traveler without a true home. Yes, he lived in New York but that wasn't his home of birth. His birth home over the years was not a place he could or chose to live. In many ways the show is in my mind Antonin's search for home and the meaning of what it is to live outside of your roots.  It is an attempt to understand what it is like when your home is torn from under you, be it from war, pollution, religion, politics or whatever. It is in many ways the journey of a life in exile with a happy ending when you see the photos of his family and his return to the Czech Republic.

© Scott Thode, curator

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