The work of Petra Pětiletá (b. 1978) is closely linked with her personal life, above all the environment in which she finds herself at any one moment in time. This tendency can be seen in her earliest projects, for instance in the exhibition Made in UK that she co-organised with Magdalena Peševá for the Jelení Gallery in 2003. Pětiletá sneaked a camera into a factory where she was working in England and captured the moments when the machines were switched off and people took a break. These life-size photographs and a video recording of the hours in the factory formed the backbone of the exhibition. She opted for the opposite approach – a trip to dreamed-of places – in the project Guides (2003), in which she incorporated pictures of herself into photos taken from travel guidebooks. We also find the reworking of the real world into an artistic ideal in the series Apartment Blocks (2009). Pětiletá removed the indications of the lower class situated around the development and placed the buildings within an impossibly beautiful landscape.
Turn Me On (2005), in which the artist was not interrogator, observer or manipulator, but more a client setting tasks, consisted of the production of video clips that she had people from a non-artistic background create to their favourite song. It was a probe into her wishes, aspirations and fantasies. At the Altán Klamovka Gallery, she and Pavla Gajdošíková organised an exhibition called Peep Show (2007), in which she continued to examine the theme of observing others. She took this position to its extreme and had people looking inside expecting to see some form of impropriety. In fact, a camera located in a flowerpot behind them transmitted a picture of the viewers themselves in the act of snooping. She drew on her experience working as editor with a porn-film postproduction company in order to begin to interrogate the phenomenon of the transformation of actresses and the environment and mentality of the people involved (Community Concepts, 2006).
As well as work in which she reacts to a particular social environment, Pětiletá also expresses her opinion through the image. In her older works she worked with the computer and created a picture of a footballer who had been sent off. In a more recent work called Working Surface (2009) she reaches out to everyday reality via the non-traditional medium of embroidery. The theme was a desk and computer monitor. Another non-painted picture was a jigsaw puzzle, whose original coloured parts Pětiletá sprayed over in various shades of grey and then assembled. She returned to this work in the project Beautiful Time (2010), in which she reacted to the economic crisis underway while in Riga at the Survival Kid contemporary art festival. She got four participants who had responded to an advertisement to work for the minimum wage on putting together a puzzle with 4,000 parts during the festival. Pětiletá’s oeuvre could itself be viewed as a kind of jigsaw puzzle pervaded by unrepeatable life episodes that she transforms into art.
Jiří Ptáček: Petra Pětiletá (in: Umělec)