The Illusion of Return

Artists: Ania Dąbrowska, Alicja Rogalska, Joanna Rajkowska, Katarzyna Perlak
Curated by Katarzyna Sobucka

Various locations
Sept 2017 - Aug 2018

'The Illusion of Return' is a project dealing with the subjects of migration, home and belonging through the portrayal and representation of individual stories depicted by participating artists. This project of narratives – drawn from artists journeys and experiences of reversing their process of immigration to the UK – include research, residency and commissioning. The project engages the artists (who have decided to live in the UK) with the ironic injunction to “go back home” – both literally and exploratorily. Artists thus take part in a residency in their home countries which focuses on the psychological and emotional aspects of the cultural schisms and contrasts which emerge between the UK and country of origin.

The residencies take the artists deeper into their lived environment, the cities and towns, and they engage in a reinterpretation and cross-evaluation of their cultural legacies, their personal stories of migration, and their associated myriad of identities. experiences of migration; conceptions of “home” are both problematised and contrasted, and the roles of dreams and illusions in reifying and producing notions of “home” are aestheticized in practice.

The project confronts the artists with self-appraisals of the extent to which their identities are (un)tied with their place of birth; their belongingness is intrinsically brought to the forefront of their artistic enquiries, with the nature of their belonging (in and across origin, migration and the UK) being explored through the artistic media. The substantive ideas, values and practices which make the artists identify with a specific culture or country are asked about, and the artists are invited to represent and deepen their understanding of these. The process of migration in complicating and further problematising their identities, values and concepts of self is also a central theme.

'The Illusion of Return' aims to challenge our common ideas about migration, national identity and a collective sense of belonging. While family, ancestry and birthplace are vital to our sense of who we are, this project examines how these bio-genetic ties interrelate with the socio-political identities of the artists, because of migration, in complex and at times contradictory ways. The project explicitly and implicitly promotes collaborative and progressive integration within and between cultures; it celebrates diversity and extols tolerance; the emerging political trend towards nationalism, populism and protectionism, evidenced in Brexit and the election victories of Trump, Erdogan and Putin, stand counter to these values, so the project covers a timely and pertinent theme.

The outcomes will be included in an exhibition and via live events, accompanied by dedicated artist-led outreach and education programmes; these will include a series of conversations pairing artists with public intellectuals to address critical topics relating to identity and migration; symposiums as well as workshops with community groups will also be held.


Katarzyna Perlak, Happily Ever After  and  Folk Love and Utopia 

Joanna Rajkowska, Two Men and a Mattress 

Alicja Rogalska, Milk and Honey and Postcards from Emigration

Ania Dąbrowska, Heirloom


Supported by The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Scholarship Program.

Partners: Art Transparent, Wrocław