Jana Štěpánová: Immaculate Conception

Exhibition date

Jana Štěpánová - Immaculate Conception

Lesbian mothers pose with their children in Jana Štěpánová’s photography. They have the usual motherly
joys and worries as the majority of mothers, but the lawmakers of the Czech Republic have arrange one extra worry for them. Concerning the absence of a second parent. Although such a pair accordingly plans their parenthood, prepares for it, cares for the child together after its birth, providing it material and emotional security, the state sees only one biological mother with a child. There is a restriction on the parental rights of the partner, introducing unnecessary uncertainty into the family. If the biological mother dies, her partner, who the child most likely also calls “mommy”, will have no rights to it.

The title of Jana Štěpánová’s exhibition recalls the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary officially announced by Pope Pius IX in 1854. This dogma does not refer to, as it might seem, the notion that Mary conceived immaculately, but confirms the belief that she herself was immaculately conceived. Her body is then, by means of the papal bull, construed as sinless and pure. In contrast, the lesbian mothers in the photographs of Jana Štěpánová are construed as subjects that are, from the
viewpoint of contemporary Czech legislation, somewhat problematic. According to the law on registered partnership, homosexual pairs in the Czech Republic should not raise children. The current law even bans gays and lesbians from adopting children, but does not take into account that lesbians can utilize their natural ability to bring a child into the world – whether with the help of artificial insemination or on the basis of an agreement, for example with a friend.

Jana Štěpánová’s photography simultaneously touches on the area of manipulation of the human genetic code, which is taking on ever greater significance these days. Lesbian partnerships often choose the fathers of their future descendents in a utilitarian fashion; they have the ability to “design” their children based on their own wishes and thus fulfill a vision of a future gene-centric society that will be dominated by a so-called “gene-rich” class with access to means for the genetic cultivation of perfect children.

In her project Immaculate Conception, Štěpánová builds on her earlier work, a photographic series dealing with variable types of families entitled Family Map: Faithful We Remain, created in cooperation with Gabriela Kontra. Both photographic cycles emphasize the possibility of alternatives to the so-called nuclear family. The concept of family is changeable and every society understands it differently. What distinguishes a good family from a bad one is not the number of mothers and fathers, but how well the relationships between those who create the family function.

Curators: Markéta Dolejšová, Lenka Kukurová, Petr Motyčka, Zuzana Štefková


Text on the panels:

Honzik knows his father, they sometimes see each other. MOTHERS, however, HE’S GOT FOUR! He draws us altogether as a family.“

„WE TESTED THEM LIKE HORSES: we examined their health, quality of teeth and hair… and picked the best stallion.“

„I WANTED TO HAVE A BOY, my partner a girl. So we’ll fulfill each other’s wishes now.“

„I STILL HAVE NINE FROZEN EGGS… I am not sure what I’ll do with them yet.“

„Some KIDS BEG TO HAVE TWO MUMS TOO. I tell them that they already have their father and that’s cool as well, isn’t it?“

„Sebik wanted to know how he’d come into the world. We told him that DADDY GAVE A SEED TO MUMMY. Sebik then said that he would give a seed to his sister to have a baby together.“

„Julinka calls me by my name, because I go to work, and my partner „mummy“ – she’s with the kids at home. BEFORE WE WERE BOTH ‚MUMMY‘.“