In conversation with Klaudia Prabucka, a student of the Academy of Art in Szczecin and winner of Access – Reactions | Best Media Arts Graduation Projects Competition.
Klaudia specializes mainly in experimental filmmaking and video. She also co-runs the Próżnia Gallery, an artist-run exhibition space in Szczecin. Social and political subjects presented in her work often gain a jocular and irreverent quality.
Julia Gorlewska: Your works frequently contain references to popular YouTube videos. Would you agree that an artist uploading their work to YouTube has a bigger chance of reaching a wider audience, similarly to online content creators? What is the role of a viewer, in your opinion?
Klaudia Prabucka: I feel like I might find it difficult to navigate YouTube as an artist. Collaborating with a gallery is poles apart from posting stuff on streaming services – it affects the context and reception of one’s work. Working in these two completely different areas, meaning as a YouTuber and artist, would render me mediocre at best in both. It would also impede the reception of my art and the message I’m trying to convey. YouTube videos often deal with mundane issues, whereas my goal is to encourage reflection and adopt a broader perspective on a given subject. An audience listens to stories told anew.
I want my art not only to stir up people’s emotions but also to present its subjects in a brand-new, unprecedented (or previously avoided) manner, even satisfying the viewers’ curiosity. To my mind, art should unsettle people, make them feel something that was hidden away, even for a brief moment.
JG: Did you watch these kinds of videos yourself when you were a teenager?
KP: I found the material I used to post as a teenager during the pandemic cleaning, and, to be honest, I was mainly embarrassed when I rewatched the footage. I was under the impression that I blocked it from my memory, but now, as they resurfaced, they helped me notice certain connections between the inspiration – intuition and the subconscious. I realized that when I’ve made decisions based on intuition, this intuition was programmed over the years in my subconscious. While referring to the popular videos on YouTube, I alter the way in which I communicate with the viewer and use the language he/she is familiar with, so it feels like home, but, suddenly, it turns out that this house is on fire. It’s meant to make people think.
JG: Let’s talk about the internet’s influence over the users… inflammatory language, fear mongering, even parodies and seemingly silly content along the lines of Stuff I Have Never Done Before can have a serious impact on young people, in particular. Could your works be treated as a cautionary tale of sorts?
KP: I’m concerned about the escalation of hatred in Poland. Neither do I want to teach anyone how to live, nor burst the bubble the viewers are living in – just to poke it a little, nudge, make it hurt somewhere after seeing my work. In today’s era of consumption and never-ending rush, it’s easy to lose sight of who we are. I want my content to inspire reflection, re-evaluation of certain issues and slogans which govern today’s Poland.
JG: You often allude to the socio-political issues in Poland. Is it a contemporary artist’s duty to take a stance on the current situation of their country?
KP: Artists don’t have to make art about politics, but politics does affect everyone in one way or another. I feel it’s my responsibility to address social issues and current events in my country. However, in my opinion, every artist should create what resonates with them personally – if they want to steer clear of politics for some reason, then, they have every right to do so, and no one can hold it against them.
JG: Watching your works, especially Zakopane Is a Resort Town or Wybory, made me think of a satire of the Polish people and nature, as well as manifestations of our national patriotism. How do they portray Poland from that era, in your opinion?
KP: Art is the visual archive of the political behind-the-scenes. Back then, Poland was like a backroom accruing tons of garbage – personally, I can’t wait for a garbage truck to take it all away, so I can finally enter a warm beautiful home, where I enjoy spending my time. That Poland is also pure comedy, though the dark humor of it all is the historical fact, not a joke.
JG: Your graduate art project unveils the vision of the future awaiting young artists in Poland – how will their career unfold after they finish their studies? In retrospect, we have the strictly romantic approach (championing liberty, freedom of creation and building a bohemian community). On the other hand, contemporary artists get more and more engaged in the social, political and economic issues. One could say that the state of a country takes precedence over one’s artistic creation. What is your opinion on this matter?
KP: The thought of finishing my studies scares the living daylight out of me. A great majority of people consider making art as a pastime. Statistically speaking, only 5 percent of students will be able to make a living as artists, while the remaining 95 percent will fail to meet the expectation of an audience, curators or influential people in the art world and will be forced to find other source of income.
When I decided to make art professionally, I also set the goal to myself for the sake of my own comfort to buy an apartment before I graduate. For me, it symbolizes security. I don’t want to fight my fear. It is the struggle to survive that can fill you with drive and creative inspiration, but also become a burden that hampers your further artistic growth, for instance, due to a material or financial situation.
The state of a country often determines both the artist’s language and creations. I think it’s wonderful that the artists want to voice their opinions. We still have a lot of work cut out for us as evident from two recent events in our own artistic backyard, namely, the protest against censorship of Pavlo Kazmin’s work at the Esteemed Graduates of Academies of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, as well as the debate around the scrapped piece by Natalia Galasińska presented at the Hestia Artistic Journey Exhibition. Artists have a voice. It’s worth using.
JG: Characteristic of your art practice is often an ironic approach to important subjects. You’re active on YouTube – the platform where anyone can post (at times very harsh) comments. Your project Obraz dla sąsiadki [Painting for a Neighbor] originates from the generational conflict between you two. You also show in your other works how this gap might release aggression or verbal hatred, which is so ubiquitous on the internet, often highlighted with emoticons or a wry smile. You often use this motif, don’t you? Where do you think does this intolerance and vitriol against other worldviews come from?
KP: What pulls at my heartstrings is the smile we’re embarrassed about in the first place. On the one hand, you’re laughing, and on the other you’re aware of the fact that you will be crying in a moment or a few years down the road. I’m concerned that we applaud the language of hostility and hatred, while booing the language filled with tolerance. Why is that? My neighbors live in a completely different filter bubble. The national television, which they watch, portrays Poland as the country under constant threat that they need to defend. One of these neighbors tried to justify her attitude while using the language of hatred. She suggested that I’m the one who’s uninformed because I never watch television, then, proceeded to recount the incident when someone had rung the intercom and threatened they would cut her head off if she didn’t take the banner on her balcony, if the banner had been hers. I said it had been precisely the reason why the banner should stay. It was absurd. Still, when I moved, I attached the blanket, which served as a banner, to a stretcher bars and gifted it to my neighbors as a token.
JG: Is your art intended to encourage reflection or even larger social change?
KP: I don’t think my art can change minds because it’s usually viewed by the like-minded people. However, I want to present a different perspective in my work along with positive language that makes one smile and brightens their day. Art doesn’t change the world. Politics does, and art offers a commentary. Never the other way around.
JG: Where do you find your inspiration? Is it society, social media, pop culture or perhaps something completely different?
KP: In one of our classes, Karolina Breguła asked us to really think what pisses us off, and I believe it was the turning point for me as an artist – you need to reconcile yourself with the things that cause you pain. For me, art has become the language I use to communicate with the world. In that sense, I actually do find lots of inspiration in society. I enjoy meeting new people, learning about their views on politics and the degree in which it has shaped their lives.
JG: Graduation is an important milestone for artists. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What’s your biggest professional dream?
KP: Although I take all the motivational and coaching videos with a grain of salt, I still couldn’t quite manage without visualizing any version of my far-away future. I love planning. So, it’s 10 years later and I open my solo art show. I’m a “lady professor.” My students have an inner curiosity about the world, we treat each other with respect, and when the next natural disaster strikes, we do our best not to drown in hatred and social callousness. My professional dream? To have a pension and become a professional artist as opposed to treating it as a hobby. Apparently, if you can dream it, you can do it…
Krystian Grzywacz is a young multimedia artist who relishes in experimentation with new media, movement design and media clash. Our editors were captivated by his piece Still Life, unveiled as part of the Best Media Arts Graduation Projects Competition held in Wrocław. Interestingly, it all started by accident.