Bonniers Konsthall is proud to present the first large-scale solo exhibition in Scandinavia of American artist Sharon Lockhart.
For the past two decades, Sharon Lockhart has developed a working method sensitive for capturing communities and individuals in their everyday life. Her working process involves long periods of research in a given location, where she familiarizes herself with the local community, often forging deep friendships and initiating a strong collaboration. Her meticulous fieldwork is then transformed into painterly tableaux of still and moving imagery informed by anthropological research. Lockhart´s oeuvre is characterized by turning space, time and bodily movement of the everyday into rigorously composed photographic works as well as architectural film installation. The particularities of a given moment are transformed into reflections on human existence.
Milena, Milena is the second in an exhibition trilogy, or to be more precise, a narrative triptych that grows from Lockhart’s relationship with Polish teenager Milena. Lockhart first befriended Milena in 2009 in Łodź, Poland during the filming of Podwórka (included in the exhibition). Several years later, Lockhart rekindled her friendship with Milena and discovered Milena’s desire to write a book about her life. Triggering an on-going dialogue between Lockhart and Milena, this imagined autobiography has become the impetus through which the two have explored the ambiguous autonomy of the young adult.
Spread across three institutions and unfolded over a span of three years, each iteration of Milena, Milena features a slightly varied selection of works and marks an organic progression to the overall project. Comprising research (CCA Warsaw, 2013), production (Bonniers Konsthall, 2014), and contextualization (Kunstmuseum Luzern, 2015), Milena, Milena’s trajectory aims at reflecting both highlights of the artist’s 20 year career and her focus on a single character’s choreography of selfhood and identity.
The exhibition trilogy includes a series of strategically selected identifications that claim the biographical dimension of Lockhart’s work, thus operating as (self) portraits as well as projections. As such, the exhibition is framed by two works of a subtly biographical background: it opens with the cinematic tour de force of Double Tide (2009) —filmed in Maine, USA, where Lockhart spent her childhood — and concludes with the rarely exhibited series Untitled Studies (1993 – ongoing), the artist’s photographic diary, composed of re-photographed snapshots found in her own family album. At the center of the exhibition’s narrative is Milena, an enigmatic figure who remains disquietly absent, distilling the different threads of identification in her very non-presence.
It is within the framework of this exhibition that the threads of identification and representation play out. Sharon Lockhart’s ethnographically-influenced examination of authenticity, conditioned by sociological and psychological factors, as well as by behavioral signs of culture and the influence of collective consciousness, is echoed in a newly conceived series of three photographs of Milena – capturing her ambivalent relationship to the camera as well as her sense of agency towards her own representation – and celebrated in Lockhart’s experimental new work, executed in the traditional technique of stained glass.
This medium marks a new stage of Lockhart’s ongoing, conceptual investigation of the ontological qualities of the image. In this monumental stained-glass tableau of Milena, Lockhart travels between photography, painting and moving image, generating a sense of uncanny instability which corresponds with the psychological condition of the main character, who is caught within the frame of the work while spelling the letters of her own name.
Lockhart’s new work is a study of intimacy, shaped largely by the artist’s reading of theoretical writings of Polish-Jewish educator, children’s author and pediatrician Janusz Korczak (1878–1942). A legend of his own time, Korczak experimented with the methods of institutional education, based on the developmental enhancement of a child’s inborn abilities. Representative of the social pedagogy approach to education and a pioneer of children’s rights, he envisioned a future in which children structured their own world and became experts in their own matters. He crystallized his knowledge of child psychology, while learning to “(speak) not to the children but with the children”.