Sharon Lockhart, Podwórka, 2009. © Sharon Lockhart, 2008 Courtesy the artist, neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.
Sharon Lockhart (US) constantly reinvents the documentary form by questioning both its parameters and its message. Her exhibition at FACT brings together ideas about childhood, philosophical inquiry, and the politics of the voice, anchored by works that refer to a young Polish girl named Milena.
Podwórka is a film the artist made in 2009. Taking the ubiquitous courtyards (podwórka) of a dilapidated Polish city as a structural motif, Sharon follows groups of children as they effortlessly invent their own spaces of play within the existing architecture. While on the set, Sharon befriended Milena, who would become a key figure in her life and who would inspire a series of other recent works.
In the months prior to the Liverpool Biennial, Sharon organised a series of educational workshops in Poland for Milena and a group of twelve adolescent classmates (all girls aged 12–16). Led by educator Bartosz Przybyl-Olowski, the group worked with his key philosophical text for children, developing exercises and activities designed to empower the authority of their own voice, and emphasising the specific ways they choose to articulate their own perspectives about the world. The workshops are the basis for Sharon’s new film and an extension of her research on the influential Polish pedagogue Janusz Dorczak, whose writing influenced the United Nations’ declaration of the rights of the Child in 1959.
The outcome of the artist’s five-year-long research in Poland are photographs, a sculptural installation of text works, and a new film, co-commissioned by Liverpool Biennial, FACT and the Kadist Art Foundation which premieres in October 2014 at FACT. Sharon has also curated a regular programme of films addressing topics of children’s agency and selfhood, to be screened over the course of the Biennial.