KULISHEK

1989. China. Czechoslovakia. One meeting place – Moscow. Linda Zhengová’s photo series captures the artist’s complicated family history. Be it living under different communist regimes thousands of kilometers apart, the inherent cultural differences, or even their eventual separation, the KULISHEK series create an intimate narrative of a family forged and fragmented in a globalizing world.

KULISHEK

My parents had to go through a chaotic era of communism, cultural differences, a long-distance relationship, an unexpected pregnancy… But there was one thing that made it all worth it – their love. 

Or at least, I hoped it would.

My mum and dad met at Moscow University in the 80s. My mother came from former Czechoslovakia and my dad from China. At the time, both countries were under a communist regime, so the only possibility of studying abroad was in fellow communist countries, of which Moscow was the epicenter.

They fell in love. When the Czechoslovak communist regime fell apart, the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The sudden regime change heavily affected the relationship of my parents, forcing them to be together only at a distance.

There were moments when my parents thought they would never see each other again. Their letters represented hope for a better future and a vision of being together.

After I was born, my dad could stay only a few days in order to be present during the birth and then he had to travel back to Moscow to finish his studies. The future was very blurred and unstable… The vision that we would live together one day never materialized.

And even today, my parents are still married, yet live apart. Throughout the years, they grew apart so much that they could never get used to each other again. However, I understand, because they had to go through the chaotic era of communism, cultural differences, a long-distance relationship and an unexpected pregnancy. And I did not make things easier either.

As my mum said: “A long-distance relationship works only when there is a strong vision of living together in the future. Twenty-three years have passed, and we still live separately… And now the emotional connection is disappearing more and more…”

Due to this dubious, yet strong family relationship, my understanding of home is very much  fragmented and temporary. When I lived in the Czech Republic, I wanted to leave as soon as I finished high school. I thought that once I’d moved from Pilsen to Prague, people would be more open-minded and I would feel more at home there, but that was not really the case.

All the time, I felt that even though I considered the Czech Republic my home, others always found some ways to let me know that it is not, and that I am a foreigner. At some point, I started believing this myself and I became very confused about my identity. However, I then adopted this “nowhere is my home because I am a foreigner everywhere” identity and tried to embrace it. I turned it into a motivation to emigrate to the Netherlands. Since that moment, I have always nomadically transported myself to places to re-discover the notion of home. I still haven’t found it, though. Because my family is very fragmented, and we see each other mainly only during Christmas in Pilsen, I can say that that is the only time I actually feel at home.

I see KULISHEK as a project that is not only about the love story of my parents, but also about the impact of political regimes on our lives, mixed-race families, and these factors’ effect on my personal life and perception of the notions of home, family, and relationships.

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Bio

Linda Zhengová (b.1995) is a Czech photographer and writer currently based in the Netherlands. She uses the medium of photography to challenge the existing boundaries and taboos surrounding the themes of gender, sexuality, and trauma. Her works are an intersection of academic and visual research. At the moment, she is editorially contributing to GUP Magazine, EEP Berlin and Discarded Magazine, platforms showcasing the developments of contemporary photography. She is the author of The Ambiguity of Visual Representations of Trauma (2020) and Catharsis (2021). She is also the curator of XXX a new section of Discarded Magazine showcasing the vision of contemporary erotic photography. 

Website: lindazhengova.com

Credits

Artwork / Linda Zhengová @lindazhengova

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