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Gdańsk: ‘Innocent Colonies’ – exhibition

March 1, 2019 - April 27, 2019



We live in a world where the topic of immigrants appears more and more clearly in the socio-political discourse. It evokes extreme emotions, often resulting from the demonized image of the “Other”.

Ten years ago during the 53. International Biennale in Venice, in the Polish pavilion, Krzysztof Wodiczko presented the work entitled Guests. Fitting in a current of socially involved art, video-installation presented scenes from lives of immigrants in such way that the spectator could kind of watch it from behind a matt – separating receiver from reality – glass. Who were these nameless, stripped of social status people featured by Wodiczko? Where did they come from? What put them in that kind of life situation? We do not know that. The artist not only did not give us explicit answer to those bothering questions, it is through anonymity of characters of Guests, he showed us social exclusion as a global problem. Anyone can become an immigrant. Reasons for immigration can be various, not only: political, religious, induced by armed conflict, but also connected to economical situation.

Katarzyna Swinarska in her latest project “Innocent Colonies”, looking at the problem from a personal point of view, tackles the issue of a young Ukrainian girl taking care of her 105 year old granny. Unlike the author of Guests, Swinarska is interested in the individual case that is transformed into a metaphor of the problem. The situation of the Ukrainian caregiver becomes a starting point for an artistic speculation upon economic migration that, often enough becomes a camouflaged form of modern colonial exploitation. More and more Ukrainian citizens are forced to migrate with hope to improve the financial situation not only of their own but also of their relatives. They usually perform activities for which no qualifications are required. They are hired for the simplest, but also the most ungrateful jobs: including cleaning, care and construction work. It often turns into unfair stereotype, which is perceiving immigrants as uneducated, unmannered or simply “worse” in any sense.

The boundaries of the world, which we observe with the artist’s eyes, set out taut relations between women. The employer, the woman who provides the service and the one who needs it, live under one roof; doomed to each other, they are indispensable. The claustrophobic system fascinates with the perennial pattern, to which women are being pushed by patriarchal culture,  bringing rich and poor to the role of cooking, cleaning and taking care. Males are absent from this reality. In “Innocent Colonies” they appear only indirectly, as the authors of guidebooks for women from the beginning of the twentieth century, judging on, for example, how nice breasts should look like and how to recognize good wet-nurse looking at her bust. Absent mens are also a cause of rivarly between women and a target of their longing. This longing and desire for love are represented by big, black flowers inspired by Ukrainian folk embroidery. A positive element of the story told is the Ukrainian folklore, from which the Ukrainian immigrant in Poland draws strength and which becomes the inspiration for the painting series by Swinarska.

Katarzyna Świnarska graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. She came out as an artist in 2009 with a series of paintings at 39. Biennale of Painting „Bielska Jesień”. She works with painting and video which often follows the convention of video performance, she creates multimedia installations and sometimes works as a curator. She defended her doctoral thesis in visual arts in 2014.

In 2017: she presented her film “We—The Common Body” treating the issue of rivalry and love in artist couples; she worked as a curator of the exhibition "Avant-garde/ Paradoxical Sleep” dedicated to the phenomenon of modernist utopia in contemporary feminist art; she created a painting project “Biophilia” for an International Art Festival "inSPIRACJE 12. Breathtaking" in Szczecin. In 2018: she performed in her new project “Black dress”, currently she is working on her next exhibition “Innocent Colonnies”.

Swinarska won first prize at the International Competition for Experimental Films “In Out Festival” (2016) for her video performance “Digressive Identity”. Co-creator of the movie “Manufacturers of Imagination” awarded at the 2nd Triennale of Pomeranian Art (2016). Finalist of the Gdansk Biennale (2014, 2016, 2018), finalist of the Triennial of Pomeranian Art (2013, 2016); she was awarded a bursary of the City of Sopot (2014, 2016), a bursary of the City of Gdansk (2010, 2018) and a three-month art residency in Switzerland (2012).

Her art works are in the collections of NOMUS — Museum of Contemporary Art in Gdansk, “Wyspa” Art Institute in Gdansk, State Art Gallery in Sopot and in private collections in Poland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States.


March 1, 2019
April 27, 2019
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Gdańska Galeria Miejska 2
ul. Powroźnicza 13/15
Gdańsk, 80-883
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