Petra Malá Miller. Untitled from the series The Voice Reached Us Through the Floor, But the Words Themselves Were Lost, 2009-10.

The Voice Reached Us Through the Floor, But the Words Themselves Were Lost

Petra Malá Miller

June 22–September 15, 2013

Curated by Patrick Macaulay



“Memory believes before knowing remembers.”

William Faulkner’s quote describes the magnitude of memory. It is not just what we know, but who we believe ourselves to be and what we believe comprises the world around us. To Faulkner, memory is poetically essential in how we realize the world and ourselves.

The photographs of Petra Malá Miller explore the power of memory. She remembers and recreates her childhood through photographs taken in the present. The images in this exhibition are built on an earlier series in which she traveled to her childhood home to document accessible material from her past. She photographed the house of her parents and grandparents, objects, and the landscape in an attempt to trace the formation of her memories. The photographs are assembled into constructed memories. We see things as Malá Miller saw them. The viewer creates memory from the re-imagined remembrances of a child.

This series was started after Malá Miller moved to Lethbridge, Alberta from the Czech Republic. Her physical past was very far away and the memory, rather than being equally distanced, became more immediate, more imperative. She has built this series around two images from earlier work and then constructed a narrative from images of her new home and new surroundings. Her work suggests that the past grounds us in the present and the present mediates the memory. Newness, change and transformation are only truly explicable through memory. Petra Malá Miller’s analysis of personal recollection emphasizes the critical link between memory and current belief.

– Patrick Macaulay
Head, Visual Arts, Harbourfront Centre


My photographs explore the poetics of childhood innocence, ageing, memory and loss and raise questions concerning cultural identity, the individual, the family and the community.

By reconstructing incidents from my past and placing them within the present, I filter experiences, memories and reveries through an emotional process of recollection and translation. My work takes place at the intersection between the real and the imaginary, between truth and fiction, memory and forgetting. My work is primarily autobiographical – but the photographs defy precise definition. Several are staged tableaux. In others, I adopt the point-of-fact style of lyrical documentary photography. Fact and fiction jostle one another. Looking back, drawing the outlines of the past across the present, I negotiate spans of time and dislocations in space through a process of recollection and projection; recollections stranded in time and place, projections of things to come. For me, the camera as an aide-mémoire is a key to self-knowledge and self-construction.

– Petra Malá Miller

Petra Malá Miller was born in former Czechoslovakia and grew up in Blatnice, a village in southern Moravia. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague in 2008. In 2009, she received the ESSL Museum Award for Contemporary Art (Klosterneuburg, Vienna) and in 2012, an Alberta Foundation for the Arts award for her photography. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Europe, the United States and Canada. She is represented by Jiri Svestka Gallery in Prague. Malá Miller lives and works in Lethbridge, Alberta.

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