The Bric-a-brac of Memories: Reflections

By Tereza Stehlíková


Where did you come from girl, suspended in mid-air like an angel? What secret do you hold to conquer the force of gravity?

The things – events, stories, objects, faces – which get remembered as opposed to all that is forgotten.

The nature of forgotten things: the uncomfortable, the unremarkable, or simply that which doesn’t stand out, being overshadowed by something louder and brighter.

Or something that is too similar to what, in the linear perception of time, comes first, taking all the attention to itself. Revolutions, wars, liberations. Sudden surprises and disappointments.

Heroes and spectacular failures.

What lies behind the landmarks, fallen into the cracks between the textbook articles and atrophied memories (memories recounted a thousand times so that they become caricatures of themselves) are ‘ordinary’ moments which make up the fabric of our lives: going to a shop to buy some fresh rolls and milk, looking from a window at a passing tram. Meeting a friend for a glass of wine. Meeting her again, in the same bar.

The more we learn a certain adopted version of a given story, the further we are from being able to access the living memory of the moment described, and the less textured and mysterious our past becomes.

Through human intervention, in the filter of our minds, the past (the time which is out of our sight) becomes divided into history and its absence. From distance and through a merciless selection process, history becomes relatively tidy and ordered, however misty the moment of its making might have been.

The texture, richness, experience and complexity of our lives is channelled into the life line of a so-called official memory while, all around, the vast reservoir of the unconscious stretches, the home of history’s rejects, repetitions, hidden truths, forgotten meanings…

Only the devil knows all that we could know.

Looking into the shop window of a small junkshop in Prague, a collage of realities and reflections, she feels like some of this unconscious past has temporarily been reclaimed. Here, at this point, the city is not just a mirror that reflects the most current happenings. It is now also a window which allows her to look beyond the passing moment, into the deep sediments of the past.

This shop is a living museum, a homage to the unremarkable and forgotten. Simple utilitarian objects elevated to the status of serious archive pieces.

Now the old cigarette box, now the suspended knight with a long sword, now the faded newspaper print, now the old LP of Christmas carols, now the green Mephistopheles with a knowing face…

Inside the shop it is twilight.

Excluded from its narrow confines, history’s illegitimate cousins have gained a freedom unimagined until now.

High above, a black horse is galloping forever into the void of time.

Down below, a wanderer in a hat with thick beard looks somewhat lost.

Glasses, pots and teacups.
Fake jewellery, faded mirrors, polished door handles.
Broken dolls and toy cars.

The levitating face of a Madonna, framed by false silver, bears a witness to all their silent confessions, aware that in the bric-a-brac of history, all lives are equal – equally worthless and worthy.

To live here you must denounce your past and future, and live only for the presence.

She remembers the green Mephistopheles and finds him in the shop window, gazing out.

Leaning over his shoulder, he looks at the busy street.

A young woman with a pram passes by.
A bird crosses the sky.
A crowd of people leaves a tram and rushes on.
Only an elderly lady stops, gazing at something in the window with serious searching eyes.

When a mirror becomes a window that you enter, everything is forever changed.

The outside human world is beauty and the sorrow of the unremarkable. The reality of the fleeting moment temporarily revealed in all its strangeness and poignancy. The living instance falling into oblivion, obliterated before it had a chance to fly.

Is not all human history just an illusion, a comforting deception, a simulation of continuity where there is none? Moments picked and strung together like beads of glass on a necklace of time, while thousands more remain scattered, without a place in the calendar of memory.

She renounces her future and her past.
She closes her eyes and thinks only of ‘now’.
The necklace of time no longer seems constraining.

Freed from the expectation of living time, she feels herself slowly lifting.

Tereza Stehlíková is an artist. Born in Prague, she lives in London (;