From the exhibition "Shelter" at WYSPA in Gdansk, Poland

Piotreks portrait of his mother (C-print, 2009)

Shelter

Project and exhibition 2008-2009

Text by Knutte Wester

It is spring 2007 and I am in Gdansk in Poland, invited by the Wyspa Institute of Art to conduct a social art project. My starting point is to find a refugee camp where the project can be carried through; instead I find a shelter for homeless women and children. I begin to work together with some of the children and mothers who live there temporarily. We make a series of video works together, with animations that the children themselves are making. They contain fragments from the life at the shelter, stories about dreams as well as nightmares. There are songs, faces, and so-called head-footings, but also stories about the lives of homeless mothers. While working on the animation, some of the children become fascinated by a drawing ink. Slowly, the ink begins to find its way through the entire work, and into my whole body of work, where ink drawing has become an integrated part of several pieces.

The project is artistically expressed through text, images and four video works. When exhibited, the central point of this project is an installation piece with a puddle of ink on the floor. A movie is projected on it, showing the children’s portraits of each other. The young, poor and unmarried mothers are like refugees in their own country, involuntary nomads.

A hundred years earlier a photographer took a photograph of my grandmother and put the image in his shop window. He put out a note in which he asked if anyone wanted to have the baby in the picture. In a way, this story becomes the starting point when we start on a new work, a new monument without a home, a kind of sibling of the sculpture we did at the orphanage nearly seven years earlier. The child, who we can call "L", which is doing the face, says that she fully understands the story of my grandmother. Somehow, in that moment, the story becomes her own. Our work light turns in to the memory of the lightning that dazzled grandmother, the moment when her eyes closes and the hope of a different place starts.

When I return a year later "L" is no longer at the orphanage. The others tell me she has been adopted to the US, but they don't know where. When I return again another six months later and ask if anyone heard from her, no one remembers her. (But there are new seven year olds shouting that they want to cast their faces.)

The Shelter Monar-Markot (C-print 2009) 

Above: Documentation from animation film project

Below: From exhibition at "Ropa" in Stockholm

Below: From exhibition at WYSPA in Gdansk, Polan

© 2019

Knutte Wester is Represented by Gallery Andersson/Sandström