On one of the first days of August 2016 — a month in which a lot of fellows left the Schloss to go back to their homes, while some others went for summer vacations, and a few fellows stayed in the castle — I decided to prepare a Palestinian dish for a dinner. It was the first dinner party I made, and I sent an e-mail to the fellows’ mailing list asking who would like to join. About 16 fellows responded saying that they would join for the Arab Palestinian dinner party; some of them were fellows who just arrived in Solitude, one of those new arrivals was Karolina.
We didn’t have the chance to talk then, and it took us few times to have a calm conversation during our crazy and beautiful time we had at Solitude. But, in the end, we found time during lunch, dancing parties, and the special one was when I had the interview with her, five days before she had to leave Solitude and return to Poland, after three months of residency.
Karolina Halatek (1985, Poland) studied Design for Performance at the University of the Arts London, Fine Arts at the Universität der Künste Berlin, and Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw/Poland. She uses light as the key medium and material for her installations and videos. She is fascinated by the power of light to convert the objective fixation of visual experience into a pure experience of light. She creates experiential site-specific spaces at the interface between the visual, the architectural and the sculptural. Furthermore, she is interested in some of the methods used by scientists. She’s collaborated with quantum physicists, founders of the superstring theory, and precisions mechanics engineers.
Rasha Hilwi: What do you think about this place?
Karolina Halatek: This is a very broad question, what comes to my mind in that moment is that we are taking time out from cities — from environments that naturally distract us in daily life. So, for example, I was thinking that I’ve always lived in a city, and if I went out from the city it was mainly during holidays, short time to be away from the city, and this is my first experience in my adulthood out of the city for such a long period. We all have our cultural backgrounds but suddenly we are in nowhere place. And it’s just very sort of abstract, because at the same time you have no identity here, but you still have your background, and also you have something very new and you can represent yourself the way you want. Also meeting some people who don’t know your country, and you don’t know their countries. I was thinking about Yania Suárez Calleyro, and how I’ve never actually met a Cuban before. And I’ve never thought about the reason before; so why? Because there is a communist regime there, and it’s very hard to travel…and Cuba is far enough away. Also if Cubans want to travel to Europe, mostly they travel to Spain, to the western side of Europe, but not to Poland. These kinds of meetings made me aware of the geopolitical situations. It’s like finding out, getting new information through meeting with people, kind of new perspectives of the world, cultures and other countries.
Rasha: Is there a story that touched you somehow? Some story that you had through meeting with people.
Karolina: I have different stories, but what really counts is maybe more an impression from knowing the people. And here, in Solitude, you live with the person, you have the chance to meet and talk in different contexts; after presentations, during lunch time, randomly on the corridor and some other exhibitions or events. Plenty of possibilities to know people in different situations, and this gave me a very interesting insight. It’s like a story that happened, but maybe it’s more connected to the first question, that you got to know the practice of the artists, the musicians, the researchers. You enter their space and you find out the artist’s practice and you’re able to have personal conversations at the same time which is very special and not usual in the terms of understanding their practice, why people do what they do. It’s like you have a full spectrum of the person, or almost full, and each person becomes very interesting.
For example speaking about Jorge Orozco Gonzalez — as you know I spent a lot of time with him. But why did I spend all that time with him? Because it was like I kept randomly meeting Jorge, even when he went to throw his trash we met, we were joking about that! (laughs). So we had a lot of coincidence meetings. And after that, we start meeting and talk about our work. And if we hadn’t met, I wouldn’t have heard all those stories about his work, and about his life, and about what brought him here. And, as I was living nearby Jorge’s exhibition during September and October 2016, — and because of the personal friendship we built — I could tell what his drawing is about to people who visited it and didn’t understand it, mainly because there were no descriptions on the drawing. So on the friendship level you have a better understanding of art.
And I think it’s super specific for this residency. Because other residences, that I can compare to, were very different; we were meeting the artists during events, but we didn’t live together like Solitude, what happens here won’t happen in any other place where you don’t live in the same house.
Rasha: What will you take from here back home?
Karolina: I would say that I will know that after I will be back… As you said, when people are still here they can’t really see what it was all about. I still have five days to go, and I think what I am thinking now will still be processed. I took a lot of photos and videos and will keep having the echoes of talks and all these memories. I still don’t have a sharp distinction about what was all about. I kind of have it, but, as you know, my time here was so polarized in terms of different kinds of people and activities I had that I feel it’s like almost a new life, I had few different lives in these three months. I feel it was like a season, every week was a new season throughout my residency. It was so organic and natural, it was always alive and in movement.
After I finished the work on Karolina’s interview, I contacted her — more than three months after she left Solitude — and asked her the last question again — »What did she take with her back home from Solitude?« — and asked her for a photo. She replied to me saying, »Mostly I took the words I have heard, memories of the conversations and the silent pauses.«