Sharon Lockhart. LITTLE REVIEW, 2017. Courtesy of the artist, Gladstone Gallery, neugerriemschneider, and Zachęta – National Gallery of Art

The 57th Venice Art Biennale: Sharon Lockhart at the Polish national pavilion 8

Three questions for Sharon Lockhart, the artist presenting at the Polish national pavilion

At the 57th Venice Art Biennale, Poland is represented by the internationally acclaimed American artist Sharon Lockhart, who has been active on the Polish art scene for nearly 10 years now, realizing her projects there and participating in exhibitions. In Venice, Lockhart presents her installation Little Review, curated by Barbara Piwowarska. The project deals with adolescence and the end of childhood, giving a voice to young women and teenagers entering adulthood. It includes a film featuring past and present female students at youth socio-therapy centers in Poland, and a photographic series presenting the history of “Little Review”, as well as translated select issues of the periodical “Little Review”. 

Sharon Lockhart. Agnieszka, “MANIFESTO OF THE MILKY NIGHT,” Little Review no. 131 (4568), May 10, 1935, Department of Library Collections, National Library of Poland, Warsaw, February 2, 2017, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, and Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw. Copyright Sharon Lockhart

What would you like the viewer to turn their attention to when looking at your work? What should they be aware of in order to best understand your work?

The Little Review installation encompasses several interconnected elements— translated issues of the original Little Review (Mały Przegląd) presented in English for the first time; photographs of two young women of Rudzienko in the National Library of Poland, engaging with the archival newspaper; and a film installation titled LITTLE REVIEW. There is also an educational component which includes workshops focused on new artistic and social programs that inform, complete, and continue the entire project. The workshops aim to provide life skills and training in order to help the young women find their own voices and see that the world has endless possibilities. In many ways, Little Review serves as a voice for these young women.

What was the first impulse that sparked the idea for this work?

The ideas for all of my projects in Poland, starting with 2009, have developed and coalesced organically from when I was making Podwórka. A few years later, in 2013, the Liverpool Biennial asked me to do a commission and I took the opportunity to go back to Poland. That was when I met all of the girls at the Center and started planning workshops for them, which would eventually serve as the starting point for my film Rudzienko (2016).

The theories and work of Janusz Korczak really inspired this project. Korczak was a progressive writer, philosopher, and advocate for children’s rights in the 1920s and 30s, which is when he published a popular pre-war newspaper, Little Review (Maly Przeglad) – a weekly insert to the Jewish newspaper Our Review (Nasz Przegląd). This paper was written and edited by children in the years leading up to World War II (from 1926-1939), and through their eyes, covered topics still relevant today. The idea of empowering children by having them contribute to the newspaper, and thus have their voices be heard, really spoke to me. I wanted to follow Korczak’s model and instill the same sense of agency in the young women of Rudzienko that he had given children decades prior.

Little Review can actually be viewed as the third chapter in a series of projects I began to perceive as a trilogy. Podwórka explored the ties created during childhood, whereas Rudzienko took the process of maturation as its main subject. Little Review, in turn, is about giving a voice to these young women and allowing them to stand center stage.

Sharon Lockhart. Ola, “TODAY IN POLITICS,” Our Review no. 167 (8863), June 16, 1939, Department of Library Collections, National Library of Poland, Warsaw, February 3, 2017, 2017. Image: Courtesy of the artist, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, and Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw. Copyright Sharon Lockhart

How would you comment on your work in the context of the unifying theme for the 57th Venice Biennale – VIVA ARTE VIVA ?

I’ve found the statements put out by the Biennale to be quite inspiring. Art can be a forum for ideas where special things can happen. I’ve seen it in my work with the girls. They come up with such amazingly surprising and honest statements. I’ve also found them to respond to the aesthetic experience in ways that they find surprising themselves. In partnership with the Zachęta National Gallery of Art and other non-profit institutions, we’re working to establish a sustainable education system of workshops at the Center. We’ve already prepared an eight-month program to bring creative and inspiring minds to Rudzienko to engage the girls in the process of confronting and working through their current circumstances, and we are working to make it sustainable. I envision the program expanding as the girls find and develop their interests and voices.

More about the artist:
More about Poland’s national exposition:

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