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Super Labo : Marie Tomanova : It Was Once My Universe


Marie Tomanova launched her new book It Was Once My Universe at the New York Art Book fair in NYC in October and in Paris, Prague, and Antwerp in November.

The photographs were created between December 16, 2018 and January 5, 2019 during Tomanova’s first return home in over eight long years to her small family farm in Mikulov, Czech Republic. Intimate and vulnerable, It Was Once My Universe is about returning home and realizing that you have changed and home has not. It is about the contradictory feelings, and disorientation of this experience. It is about family, memory, distance, and time. It is emotional. It is private, unprotected, and exposed. It is about seeing your past self come into contact—or conflict—with your current self. It is universal—it is about going home.

It Was Once My Universe is almost the other side of Tomanova’s critically acclaimed Young American (2019) and New York New York (2021), books about coming to the United States and finding her identity and celebrating that of others. It Was Once My Universe is about returning home and feeling lost. It is about being in-between.

In her Foreword to It Was Once My Universe, author Lucy Sante writes eloquently about how artists often leave hometowns and go to the city, to a place where they can really be, realize themselves, and find others like themselves. And that is what Marie Tomanova did in 2011. She left her family farm and went to the United States. There, she began to find herself, her identity, and others like her, a process that resulted in Young American, in which Tomanova presented her own compelling vision of “America” from the standpoint of an undocumented immigrant, during an oppressively conservative period in the United States. Between 2011 and 2018 in the United States, when things were difficult, Tomanova revisited and idealized home in her mind, so when she finally was able to go back to the Czech Republic in the winter of 2018, she was unprepared for the deep confusion and discord she found in herself.

These photographs of home still make me uneasy. They are deeply personal and reveal who I am and where I come from. I remember standing in the old quarry towards the end of my trip, dressed in my mom’s teal coat, looking around with a deep strange feeling in my heart knowing that – it was once my universe. All of it. It was all I once knew. —Marie Tomanova


Marie Tomanova, It Was Once My Universe
Published by Super Labo
Author Thomas Beachdel
Foreword by Lucy Sante
Texts Thomas Beachdel, Marie Tomanova
Hard cover, 128 pages
85 illustrations (color)
Height 23.4 x width 27 cm
ISBN 978-4-908512-61-2
ISBN 978-4-908512-62-9 (Special Edition)

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