Katarzyna Perlak, Vulnerable, 2017

Wish Landscapes

Artist: Katarzyna Perlak
Curated by: Kasia Sobucka

Detroit Art Week
Trumbull & Porter Hotel, Detroit, USA

16 - 21 July 2019

Wish Landscapes, is an intimate collage of video, installation, sound pieces and performance by Katarzyna Perlak. In the proposed exhibition, we’ll explore the relationship between history, “national values” and power structures, revisiting Eastern European folk traditions and employing feminist and queer reading to question why queer love hasn’t been preserved and celebrated in folk history and ask what the tradition is, whom does it belong to and how can it be reclaimed by those that are marginalised within it?

Politics and feelings have been a driving force behind the development of Katarzyna’s practice. She’s most influenced by her experiences as a woman, queer, Eastern European and an immigrant and these are themes the artist regularly explores. The starting point for her work is often autobiographical experiences, which she then expand into intersubjective dialogues, tapping into ideas of collective memory, desires and shared vulnerabilities. While continuously revisiting hope, affect, helplessness and strategies of coping with situations of crisis - political or personal – Katarzyna’s works have become increasingly engaged with text and semantics. She also investigates the epistemological transference from ‘utopian visions’ to ‘utopian feelings’ and consequently the shift from the spatially oriented notions of utopia to those that are time oriented and based in ‘utopian experiences’.

The proposed exhibition will also explore experiences of exhaustion and hope and will be dealing with the subjects of migration, home and belonging through the portrayal and representation of stories and experiences depicted by the participating artist. By doing so we encourage the viewer to consider and experience history as a discourse made out of multiple, overlapping and contesting narratives rather than as a single, fixed entity.

Wish Landscapes takes its title from Ernst Bloch’s definition of the relationship between contemporary notions of utopia, hope and horizon. We will ask how the contemporary status of utopia is explored, enacted and contested in critical theory of arts, with a particular interested in the present-day utopian formations influenced by queer (i.e. Jose Esteban Munoz), feminist ( i.e. Sara Ahmed) and post-colonial thinkers (i.e. Fred Moten).


The exhibition will include the following works:

Happily Ever After, (2018) The video is a documentation of a performative work, a wedding, that was commissioned by Arts Territory as a part of The Illusion of Return project. A performative, fictional lesbian wedding that was exercising utopian strategies for ‘world imagining’ and ‘world-building’. During her residency in Wrocław, Poland Katarzyna looked closely into local wedding customs and organised and filmed a traditional Polish wedding. Playfully twisting the quite conservative reality in her home country, she created a utopian (for her) reality in which the wedding was to celebrate the marriage of two women (this is currently forbidden in Poland). The performative wedding party of Katarzyna Perlak was a kind of collective performance. The wedding - an event - a spectacle, sympathetic, parade, full of joyous pomp, during which various identities, costumes and attitudes manifest, was not devoid of tensions, conflicts and social conventions encountering radical ideas. The performance referred to folk connotations, migratory experiences and the tradition of celebrating the joy, ‘over the new way of life’. The wedding in this work becomes a storytelling vehicle that is shaped by dialogues of embodied encounters, socio-political visual codes and transient spaces.

Vulnerable (2017), a sound piece presented as an installation, is a collection of 142 exchanges with participants who tell me how to pronounce ‘vulnerable’ properly. The work reflects upon the relationship between language, power structures, social mobility and vulnerability.

Tighten Throat and Butterflies, (2017) A durational performance during which the artist will be serving an ‘Everything will be fine’ cake. Audiences will be invited (one by one) to make a wish and blow out the candle. The work creates a space in which wishes can be remembered/identified and hope generated.