Fast Confession - cellist Terezie Kovalová: The state is going to put a tax on the compensations it gave us
She is beautiful, and she’s her own woman. Terezie Kovalová is one of our best cellists, she takes a modelling gig every now and then, but firstly and foremostly, she plays music and teaches others how to play. In an interview for LP-Life.com, she talked about the difficult coronavirus era, when her spirits sank to the very bottom, but also about the projects in which we’ll finally be able to see her soon.
How did Covid affect you as an artist?
At first, I thought it didn't affect me much, and I guess it really didn’t when it all started. I’ve had years of experience with being ill for prolonged periods of time, so it wasn’t a problem for me to stay at home and do nothing. On the contrary, I saw it as a mandatory vacation, which I sort of needed anyway. But there is quite a fundamental difference between deciding to take a vacation and having it forced on you, when you really can’t do anything. When I was on my first month-long vacation a few years ago, I was lying there wondering what it would be like to have a vacation for three months, perhaps even a year. Then it really happens and it makes you want to throw up.
In the spring, it wasn’t that bad yet, the problem was rather that my husband was trapped in the States and couldn’t get home. By the end of spring, I really needed to share it with someone, and I didn't have much of an option to do that, because the only time I could communicate with him was from midnight to three in the morning when he was on the phone, and you don’t get much done in those hours. In the summer, not everything was banned, so I lived off the couple of times I could play. But the real problem came in the autumn, and especially later, at the turn of December and January. I naively thought that once the year ends, it would be like turning a page, December would end, the new year would begin, and everything would be different. That was probably when I really hit the bottom, I was very depressed in January.
Because you couldn’t perform?
Not really, rather due to the knowledge that we weren’t actually at the end of the food chain - we weren’t in it at all! Nobody really cared about us, not even the group of people who should have had our backs. Whenever he appeared on television, our Minister of Culture talked about everything but culture. I had to laugh when representatives of the Kultura žije “Culture’s not dead” artists’ initiative, which has been active for quite some time, finally managed to meet with the Minister about two months ago. They wrote that he threw himself into it vigorously, and I thought: a little too late, after a year. That was probably the worst thing for me, the knowledge that a lot of people considered us redundant. Paradoxically, even the people who don’t shut up about us, saying we’re scavengers and suchlike, turn on their TV or radio every morning.
A lot of actors and singers went to do something else because they’d simply ran out of money. Were you one of them? Did you receive any compensation from the culture department that one could actually live off?
There were compensations, and they’re still being distributed, if I'm not mistaken. But once the state wants us to pay taxes for those compensations, we’ll be in trouble.
Is that about to happen?
They want to tax it.
So you’ll have to pay them back?
We will have to pay taxes on the compensations the state gave us so that we wouldn’t die of hunger.
I guess they think you’ll already making some money?
Who knows. In this respect, I had it easier than many other people, because I have no children, and although I have to pay a mortgage, I have a husband who helps me out overall, both financially and in general. And most importantly, I’ve always been a pragmatic person, so I have saved up some money. Although I felt the lack of income, I’m not the type of person who would have issues with cutting back, so from this point of view it didn’t bother me so much. What bothered me more was that I didn’t have anything to keep my brain busy.
In January, I reached the very bottom, my husband and I had an argument, he told me that he’d had enough of watching me sitting aimlessly at home. So I did some networking, took on new students and I started working in my friends’ company Pet farm family; they make luxury food for dogs and cats. They’d offered it to me already in the summer, if I ever needed to unwind. My position in the company was that of a go-to girl - I was a driver, manual worker, everything that comes to mind. It wasn’t just about going to do something that generates an insignificant amount of money - because it was renumerated as a part-time job, but it gave me real satisfaction because I knew the moment I met someone who’d throw in my face why I hadn’t gotten a real job as an artist, I could tell them I had. And I was actually working with my hands.
Do people really tell that to you?
It's more like I’m ready for it. I’ve been noticing on social networks that a lot of people hold this view. As I said, it's all the more fascinating for me now. I don't know a single person who wouldn't at least turn on the radio or television at home. Even that is a kind of art, it falls under creative activity and people who condemn us should realize that everything they consume has been created by us. The fact that they’re not used to paying for it is a different problem.
I’ve read that you have insured your musical instrument, but only in London. How much does it cost? Have they been more benevolent because of the pandemic?
On the contrary, the price has gone up a little due to Brexit. I can’t tell you from the top of my head, but I know that the fee always covers it for a certain period of time, I'm not sure for how long, whether a year or half a year. But it’s already paid off for me, it happened to me that the neck of my instrument cracked. It does happen, it's not that extraordinary, because there's great pressure at work in the instrument. They really covered it - and gave me twice the sum that’s normally needed for repairs in our country. So it really does pay off.
Why don't you have your hands insured? Especially now that you've been working manually.
I found it funny that after I admitted it somewhere, an insurance company called me. I don't know, I haven't really thought about it yet.
Haven’t you ever had a broken finger or something?
No. But I pay a lot for health insurance, precisely because I've had a lot of health problems ever since childhood. I'm chronically ill. I have good health insurance overall when it comes to the musculoskeletal system.
The theatre season is about to end, but we have a lot to look forward to together, right?
I was invited to be part of the Magic Fountain project, produced by the Pyroterra company. It is a multimedia performance that tells the story of the life of Mr Křižík, who was a world-famous Czech inventor. I’d say he is comparable to the likes of Nikola Tesla.
He really was a great inventor, as well as a great philanthropist who followed his heart. I think that if it weren't for some of the tragedies in his life, he would have definitely reached Tesla’s level globally. It will concern his fountain, which was one of his creations, absolutely unique in its time. It is located at the Prague Exhibition Grounds, and the story of Křižík’s life will unfold around it. Of course, it will be somewhat exaggerated, with various magical, otherworldly elements added. That will be my case, too - I will personify the element of fire, which will try to prevent him from inventing and using electricity, which made him famous.
But you will be mainly playing there.
I will be playing the cello, yes, but through playing the instrument I will often function as a personification of something fundamental that hindered him in his life and that he struggled with. Although I will be playing the cello, I will actually have a role there. I won’t be talking, but my performance will be very visual. It's a challenge I haven’t faced yet. The audience can look forward to seeing this performance at the beginning of July.
You like these alternative things. Is it better for you that it's not in huge auditoriums?
I honestly don't care if it's in the auditorium or outside. I went for it because I am fascinated by interesting people, and Křižík was without a doubt one of them. For me, it is connected with my adolescence to some extent, because there were a lot of Cyberfire-type events in Ostrava back then, which I consider something like the first swallow of a modern circus. At the time, it featured fire throwers, acrobats, and I really liked it. It feels very good to be involved in a project that's built on something similar 18 years later.
Where else can we see you?
You can definitely see me in the Crow, a performance that we’ve prepared with the girls' dance association Holektiv. We will appear at Letní Letná or at the dance festival Move. I hope to be able to get Zvíře jménem podzim (The Animal called Autumn) to a couple of events. Now we're about to hit the road with my band Himalayan Dalai Lama, which has released an album called Isolated Bonds. Things are happening, but it's still under wraps.
Do you already feel better than in January? Are you happier now?
I started going to therapy, so I'm definitely happier.
To a psychologist?
Was it the covid situation that brought you there?
I’ve been in therapy off and on for years. I think that if everyone everywhere saw therapists globally and learned how to communicate not only with others but also with themselves, humanity would be way more advanced. So the moment I feel like I'm stuck in a rut and need to get moving, I look for ways to overcome it. This is a great thing.
But a therapist can't tell you what to do. So how does it help?
He’s not there only to help you in general, he should help you manifest some of your needs. The last time I was in therapy, I only went there for about two or three sessions, as I really just needed someone to tell me that I wasn't crazy, that what was going on in my relationship was really not alright. What I told her was a confirmation that my gut feeling was right, and thanks to that I was able to break free from that relationship.
A therapist is your ally, not someone who’d tell you exactly what to do, that's not how it works. But they’re there to help you become your best self. One goes there to find one’s current truth, something one feels and needs to have confirmed. By communicating with someone who doesn't know you, and therefore can be as objective as possible, you can get a completely different perspective than the one your parents, friends, or partners can give you. It can open a completely different door for you, and it doesn't have to mean someone tells you to do this or that. They’ll tell you, for example, to try and look at the situation from a different angle.
Main thing it works for you.
Yeah, that’s why I’m doing it. What fascinates me most is how ashamed people still are about it. Can you imagine what humanity would look like after World War II if everyone had gone to therapy?
It’s pretty common in America.
It’s not the same thing over there, unfortunately, it’s a lot about drugs. Consumption of psychotropic drugs has reached an incredible level in the USA. It’s very important not to mix these things up. But at the same time, I like that they have this approach where it's normal to go visit someone and talk about your problems. Of course, it shouldn’t look like, you sit down, spill out some crap, get an Oxy prescription and go home.
Are you still in modelling?
I am, but I'm too old for it now, and too big.
But the offers are still coming? Do you still enjoy it?
I enjoy it a lot, but I don’t get many offers anymore. I'm in quite a unique position. When something’s to be photographed for a magazine, they usually need fresh, unknown faces that would sell it. On top of that, the narrative that clothes for sale should be displayed on people who can realistically represent them has yet to change. My mom, for example, is the type of person who doesn’t have a problem with spending a lot of money in a boutique, and she doesn’t want to buy clothes that are presented on fifteen-year-old girls. It surprises me all the more that this approach isn’t already becoming a trend. We really don't see representatives of age categories for which the clothing is actually made in magazines. It's not about appearance, fat-shaming affects both fat and thin people alike, it's more about the fact that an adult woman has a completely different spark than a fifteen-year-old girl who doesn't know much about life yet. Of course, there are girls who have the right look in their eyes even at this age, but it's not so common.
So I’ve more or less returned to what I’d been doing before I signed with an agency. I look for various photo opportunities, I respond to various offers from social networks and I do it the way I enjoy it. This is how I discover new artists and other people who are visionaries. It's not just about shooting a fashion editorial, I really go and come up with something that I can really sink my teeth into.
What kind of plans do you have with your husband for the summer? Are you going on vacation?
We returned from vacation a few weeks ago, we were in the Emirates. My husband lived in Florida for a long time, now he can't even get back, he has a job there and he’s not allowed in for a year. Our musculoskeletal systems jointly declared that they needed a vacation, so we went to the sea. It was great, which made going back even harder. Otherwise, we have no plans for the summer. Our plan is to finally be able to get back to the United States, because that's really important to him. Now it looks like he might be able to enter.
So that he could come back again.
Returning home is easier, repatriation flights in crisis situations exist. But he would really need to go there right now.