Horacy Muszyński combines film, performance, and video art in his work. With unique and experimental projects, he explores the boundaries between reality and fiction, and high and low culture. He also derives inspiration from the niche film production of the latter part of the 20th century. Horacy creates special effects and highly inventive visual stories, in which he applies elements from parody, B-movies, and amateur movies.
Recently, Muszyński was invited to take part in the residency programme SRV organised by art initiative VHDG in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. He spent 6 weeks in the scenic Friesland in the Netherlands. He shares his story from this truly exceptional residency which took place in the camper-like 9-meter vehicle called SRV Wagen adjusted to artists’ atelier on wheels.
Sylwia Krason: How did you find out about the residency programme? How did you apply?
Horacy Muszyński: In my case, I actually was invited to this residency. I remember that day was the last day of shooting my previous project. I was in a huge room full of fake blood, when suddenly I got a message inviting me to a scenic part of the Netherlands – Friesland. Then, I learned that the organisers saw one of my previous works, Kishonia, on Survival Art Review 17 earlier in 2019.
SK: What does your regular art residency day look like?
HM: This wasn’t a typical art residency where you get a room or a studio in a residency headquarters. VHDG, the organisation that invited me, gave me an SRV Wagen – a huge 9 meters vehicle. These cars were used as mobile shops to sell cheese and other consumable goods. One of them was bought by VHDG and refurnished to become some sort of a campervan. The artist can adapt the space of the car depending on the project they wanna make. In my case, I changed it to a film set, a mobile film studio. Every day, I was in a different place, meeting new people. Sometimes I was sleeping on a camping site, sometimes on farms. Once, I got stuck in the mud because Dutch weather is so pleasing and two tractors had to pull me out of this trouble. I was readjusting the space in the vehicle, transforming it into a futuristic machine from retro sci-fi movies.
SK: Tell us about the project that you are working on right now?
HM: I just finished working on Rixt, a sci-fi horror mockumentary. It’s the year 2031, times of COVID-94. For unknown reasons, the European seas are drying out. Filip Nowak, a Polish filmmaker, contacted a group of independent sea researchers located in The Netherlands. He decided to make a documentary film about them. I stayed in the Netherlands after that residency. I’m currently a participant in de Ateliers.
SK: Does the change of context help you in the creation process?
HM: Yes, I think that my works are strongly adapting depending on where I am. With Rixt, the project I’ve done during this residency, it all started with local myths and legends. Two months before my arrival, the organisers helped me to create a series of posters placed in the regional grocery shops, cultural centres, etc. We were looking for strange mysterious stories from the Wadden area. I stumbled upon many stories, some of them were famous like the one about Rixt van Oerd, a witch that even got her own monument on one of the islands. Other stories were more connected to specific cities or places, like one of the abandoned farms which was one of the film sets that was known to be haunted. I also collected some present urban legends, like the one about the dark tower of Leeuwarden, a huge black skyscraper with bright red neon lights that is supposedly a dark headquarters of an evil corporation.
SK: Do you place an emphasis on your work or rather on meeting people and exploring the city?
HM: I’m a really social person, so my work almost always involves cooperation. Here, I made an open call for a film crew and cast. Then we have a meeting, where everyone who wanted to get involved creates their own characters. By that time I knew – I wanted to make a film about a group of mystery researchers. Each person wanted a different role like a scientist, a mechanic, or a group leader of course. They created their own names and backstories. It is a little bit like a role-playing game. Thanks to that, I had a group of main characters with interesting storylines. Based on those characters I created a script. We worked together as a group – some people were playing, some were building the set or helping me with the makeup. This is what I love about low production movies – everyone works to create something together.
Horacy Muszyński (born. 1994, Poznań) – Graduate of Experimental Cinema department at Sczecin Academy of Art, currently participant of De Ateliers in Amsterdam. He combines film, performance and video art in his work. With unique, experimental projects he explores the boundaries between reality and fiction and high and low culture.
SK: What challenges and opportunities did the residency involve?
HM: Well, the main opportunity is to drive a gigantic car from the previous era. Sometimes I felt like a truck driver, which was a lot of fun. Being able to constantly be on the move was a great way to study the region, to keep you inspired all the time. Every night you met different people, tourists, and locals, you heard different stories. It is great to go through the map, pick a spot and then arrive there the same day. It was also a huge challenge – this was actually my first car. I passed my driving test a week before arriving in the Netherlands. Suddenly, I was in a different country, driving for the first time, in a car with a steering wheel without power assistance. It was a huge workout. The other thing was the language barrier. This region is known for strong independence, they have their own language – Friesan. One of the things I discovered was a manuscript named Orea Linda, which was dated for XIII century. It stated that all European civilisations had origins in Friesland and even the legendary Atlantis was built here. The manuscript was one of the biggest hoaxes from this region. It was written by Frisian nationalists in XIX century.
SK: Name three objects which were the most important to you during the residency.
HM: Cheese cubes with cumin. I discovered how great the yellow cheese tastes when it’s dipped in mustard. It’s the best company to Jupiler beer. It’s funny because the normal beer size in the Netherlands is 330 ml and when I showed them our “normal” size, they were quite surprised. Also, because the Netherlands is a very wet country, mosquito repellent is a must, otherwise you’ll be eaten alive by countless insects.
SK: What was the role of the institution in your residency? What did it provide you with?
HM: Well, I got the keys to a gigantic car – what more could you dream of? They took great care of me. They organised a budget that covered the whole experience. They helped me find new contacts, groups that I was working with. When they learned that I was making a film, they got me in touch with the local film institutions. We stayed till the late-night hours together on the exhibition build-up. But the VHDG members didn’t only help me in professional matters. They also showed me local bars, places to hang out – we’ve had some barbecue. I think it’s great when a working relationship transforms into a friendship. Luckily, it was just before the second COVID wave, which hit the Netherlands a week after I finished my residency. For the past six months, the Netherlands was in hibernation. Everything except grocery stores was closed. We had a curfew from 9 pm to 4 am – no guests and gatherings were allowed.
SK: What would you recommend to artists going abroad for an art residency?
HM: Well, I think of it as an adventure. Don’t plan too much because everything might change during your stay, be open to that. Allow yourself to sink into the experience. Also, try to talk with everyone that you find interesting even if they speak English. Trust me, there is much you can achieve with improvised sign language. Don’t get overworked, try to find enjoyment. Also, treat some of the time as vacations. You never know where a seaside trip will lead your imagination. And don’t forget your power bank.
The residencies are becoming increasingly popular due to the mobility at a scale previously unknown. It is difficult to provide a clear definition of what an artistic residency is, as there are so many types – from small-scale residencies organised by individuals, to residencies organised by respectable institutions. In this series of interviews, we talk to artists, curators, and representatives of international organisations on their experiences, challenges, and tips. Alongside the interviews, we run a Facebook group called “Open Calles, Residencies, Opportunities for Artists” where the art community members can share more opportunities and their experiences.