One could say that Anna/Anča Daučíková is the first Czech/Slovak feminist female artist—except that Daučíková’s work problematizes the terms of this seemingly simple enunciation. Who can claim to be the first? Who can act in a nation’s name? What does it mean to be feminist? Can a subject to whom female gender has been assigned at birth resist becoming female? Who qualifies as an artist?
Daučíková was born in 1950 in what was at the time Czechoslovakia. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, she moved to Moscow in the 1980s—when everybody was trying to travel in the opposite direction. She didn’t do it for politics, she did it for love: she was following a woman to a country where, according to its government, homosexuality did not exist. In Moscow she lived as a glassblower and an undercover lesbian while practicing automatic abstract painting, photography, and writing. She worked in secret on Scene Book (2014), in which she détourned state surveillance techniques to create a script for a film that was never made, a scientific and literary, irreverent and hilarious account of her neighbors’ sex lives. She traveled often to Ukraine, visiting outcast painters and dissident intellectuals. But she didn’t do it for politics, she did it for love.
On the strength of her glasswork and painting, Daučíková became a member of the Soviet Artists’ Union. Nevertheless, like homosexuality, her conceptual and video/photography work was invisible in Moscow; otherwise she could have become the first lesbian Soviet artist—or even the first transgender Soviet video artist. Daučíková’s transitioning, Anna becoming Anča (now preferring Anna), involved moving from glassmaking and painting into video, using the camera and editing as prosthetic organs. She returned to Bratislava in 1991—when everybody was traveling in the opposite direction—where she cofounded the queer feminist journal Aspekt. Videos such as Queen’s Finger (1997), Kissing Hour (1997), Home Exercise (1998), and We Care about Your Eyes (2002) include enactments of the everyday disrupted by rough editing. In Portrait of a Woman with Institution—Anča Daučíková with Roman Catholic Church (2011), a woman sues her husband for divorce on the grounds of his inability to satisfy her sexually. The artist plays every role—the woman, the male ecclesiastical examiner, and the male witness. Daučíková’s work could be described in fact as a political anatomy carried out through a series of displaced self-portraits, taking up documentary techniques, fiction, and drag to mock and decenter norms of gender, church, and state.
—Paul B. Preciado