|Artwork created during residency|
|Artwork created prior to residency|
Residency: May-June 2013
I first heard of Sculpture Space through a friend who was in residency there. When I visited her we went across the street to the Polish Community Club for some pierogi (Polish dumplings). I was immediately inspired by the building’s nostalgic interior. I knew than that I wanted to do a community-based project, a project that deals with the subject of immigration and incorporates the spaces of the Polish Community’s dining and dance hall. The story of immigration is a personal one and I wanted to somehow reflect on my experience.
My first application to Sculpture Space got me on the waiting list. I reapplied several years later and was accepted. Video based project about Polish Community Center was still on my mind. I also planned to develop a specific installation for the video that explores exhibition as a medium. The process of developing the video was full of uncertainty. I had to establish a connection with the community and to gain their trust in search for a story. I spent most of my time outside of the studio “socializing,” arranging for interviews and shooting video. Most other artist in residence worked in their studios on physical sculptures. I felt self-consciously pressured. But the project was growing. I kept meeting interesting people and the video expended from the Polish Community Club to other parts of Utica. By the end of the residency I have collected a lot of footage but felt I had a long way ahead of me to edit it into a cohesive whole. The exhibition design idea I was working on wasn’t working out. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. Literally sitting on my packed language, few hours before getting on the train back to New York, I recalled Sculpture Space director, Monika Burczyk’s comment on my work and had an epiphany. I spent few months in my home studio editing the video and designing new site-specific installation.
I am very grateful to Monika and Holly Flitcroft for making it possible for me to come back to Sculpture Space to install finished work, organize exhibition and screening.
In the end, the show consists of video documentary about Utica and includes a small, physical archive. The video combines images of the city with people’s stories obtained through interviews. It draws a relationship between different immigrant populations and changes in the economy of this post-industrial town. It features interviews with members of the Polish Community Club, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and West Utica Concerned Citizens community group. The installation, inspired by De Stijl aesthetic, plays with visual and spatial illusion. It evokes enthusiasm for utopia in art and everyday life. Complicated reality of that vision is echoed in images of modernist architecture, appearing throughout the video.
I want to thank George Hendrickson and Mark Roscup for their help in fabricating and installing the exhibition, people of Utica fro their stories, artist in residence for creating inspiring work and visiting critics for their critical comments.
About the Artist:
Mikołaj Szoska is from Kraków, Poland and current lives in Brooklyn, New York. He holds a professional degree in Architecture from New York Institute of Technology, studied selective issues in modern and contemporary art history at Columbia University and received a graduate diploma with a focus in Critical Special Practice from Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work has been presented at a number of group exhibitions including Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College New York, Cranbrook Art Museum, Michigan and DyimlerChrysler, Berlin, Germany.
In parallel to his art practice Mikołaj has taught at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Pratt Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rhode Island School of Design. He is an active member of the New York based, alternative media collective Paper Tiger Television.
Experimenting across a variety of media, including video, installation and public practice Mikołaj’s work explore strategic use of space within exhibition making, urban environments and other forms of public sphere. His practice is motivated by ongoing inquiry into the social, political and economic functions of culture.