Karina Marusińska

Karina Marusińska is an interdisciplinary artist, lecturer and socio-cultural animator based in Wrocław, Poland, who conducted a series of art workshops with West Bromwich’s migrant communities during a 3 week residency in July. She talks to Bettina Fischer about her ideas and the outcomes of her project as well as the connected exhibition at Centrala.


Karina Marusińska

For your residency project you decided to offer workshops working with glass art. What was your motivation for engaging with people in this way?

I am not a stranger to advanced techniques or professional workshops of that kind. In my public projects, I combine these two techniques. On the one hand, we use materials which are present in people’s everyday life, although as readymade products only. There is no opportunity to experience them in the creation process. On the other hand, we have to adjust the level of technique to their ability in order to experience some freedom so they can get the work done by themselves or with a little of my help. I believe that when people eventually see the spectacular effects of their work, they begin to appreciate their potential in other spheres of life as well and to see their worth.


You focused your project on dreams. Can you tell me more about their role?

It has been said  that any real change in the world is first a ‘revolution in the direction of the images that govern us­.’ And that is why ‘only by changing the perception, a man changes his existence’. In today’s world, people run blindly. They do not dream because they believe that some things are beyond their reach. Fortunately, dreams are for everybody. My workshops have been a turning point when family members learned about each other’s needs. In many cases, it was a big surprise for them. People have discovered what they want … because they have spent a moment thinking about it. Painting on the glass released their ‘inner child’, for which imagination knows no boundaries. Art is the sphere of life where everything is possible. I am happy to use this fact. During the exhibition, their dreams will see the light of day. I think, when dreaming out loud, the chances are that the world will be favoured for their fulfillment. It sounds naive but I proved it many times on myself.


Karina Marusińska

What’s the meaning of the title of your project, ‘Good Visibility’?

‘Good Visibility’ is to see reality as it comes, and simultaneously to see the potential of change for the better. It also represents people’s dreams ‘spoken aloud’ and visible to others during the exhibition. It also acts as a positive point of view on the migrant community in the UK. ‘Good Visibility’ also applies to me. As a workshop leader, I try to discern and reinforce the resources inherent in each participant. First and foremost, however, I aim to make them self-aware and use their potential.


With this in mind, how was the response to the workshop? Can you share some of the feedback you got from participants?

Some people came to the workshop with great enthusiasm, others were very shy, so I had to encourage them to take part. They were afraid to start but once the shapes began to appear, they could not stop themselves. Some have discovered in themselves or in their children a creative potential. For others, it was a time to distance themselves from their everyday problems. But for most, my workshop became an opportunity to meet people. People of all ages, views and different backgrounds met. All these differences did not matter there. I also noticed that most people have had some difficulty finding themselves in a situation of absolute freedom.


Karina Marusińska

Tell me more about the exhibition at Centrala.

The show at Centrala contained two parts. The first part is the installation of work outcomes of ‘Good Visibility’ workshop participants, along with the documentation. The second part is an artistic interruption titled ‘Viewpoint’, which will take place outside right next to Centrala Gallery. These two elements of the exhibition are different in design but both are based on the theme of the ‘filters’ imposed on our reality. Both projects utilise image manipulation strategies but they differ in motivation. I wanted to point out that we have an impact on the reality that surrounds us, even by trying to visualise and realise our dreams but above all through the active and reflective reception of the reality surrounding us.


Will you continue the project outside of Birmingham?

Yes, however certainly not in the same form. I always try to make my projects take into account the uniqueness of a place, time, cultural conditions, etc. I would like my project to be continued in the future and further developed by people who are living there because much effort is needed to engage the West Bromwich community in their creativity and self-expression.


What else are you working on?

Currently, I am in a 3-month artistic scholarship in Graz, in Austria. This time I will focus on activities in the public space. This is only the beginning, so I am not sure just yet what will happen next.


Marusińska’s show ‘What the eye doesn’t know’ was display at Centrala from 22 September 2017 until 4 November 2017. The exhibition will also be presented in Geppert’s Apartment, the Gallery of Contemporary Art, run by the project partner Art Transparent Foundation.

Bettina Fischer speaks to artist Karina Marusińska about her residency and workshops in West Bromwich and recent exhibition at Centrala.

Gove Horse, Faisal Hussain

Birmingham-based artist Faisal Hussain recently presented his first solo exhibition Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects at Centrala, a show that included Muslamic Rayguns, Prevent Cupcakes and a Muslim’s suitcase. Bettina Fischer talked to him about motivators behind his work and the need to face hatred with humour.

Gove Horse, Faisal Hussain

Looking at your past projects, you have touched on themes around migration through your heritage-based works highlighting stories of South Asian migrants in Birmingham and Spain. How has this exhibition – which approaches suffering around the victimisation of Muslim communities – come about?

The reason for that shift was that the archive-based stuff was to do with showing what was hidden and trying to decolonialise some of the ways that people of different backgrounds are often overlooked in terms of heritage. So the subject of the F.light project and the Super Migrant project was to uncover hidden parts of history. The reason that this shift took place is that I started thinking more in the present day. I started thinking about what was going on here and about how people potentially would look back at this present point in time as being quite interesting. So I tried to put myself into the future because of all the archive work and then imagine what would be good to comment on as if I was looking back, if that makes sense. And that’s why this stuff to do with victimising Muslim communities came about. Because I knew no one else was talking about it and I didn’t want to wait 10, 20 years for someone to go ‘Oh yeah, we should have talked about that!’

On a concrete level, what’s within the exhibition?

Jokes, partly. People should expect to be entertained. They should expect to be calmed, hopefully. And hopefully they will also come out with a bit more of a playful attitude to do with some of the more negative aspects of the accusations that are being thrown around certain communities.

Muslim Stereotypes, Faisal Hussain

The exhibition seems to be tied so closely to emotions.

The exhibition is built up from a lot from negativity and through this process I’ve learnt how to feed off negativity and use it as an art material. I’m really thankful for all the love that’s come out of it. But there’s been a couple of negative comments as well, which I find absolutely hilarious. I find uncovering negativity towards communities a really interesting space to play with and I think that’s where the real stuff is, the hidden, simmering, under the surface kind of hatred, not the blatant, horrible hatred of ‘Please leave our country’. It’s fun. It’s fun to make fun out of people who need to change their minds, who need to maybe learn a bit more about people from different backgrounds.

Are you using a humorous attitude as a way of overcoming and challenging hatred?

Yes, this is what I’ve learned from this project. It’s the balance between humour and ridicule. And to be able to be playful, but then if required show people the banality of their belief through ridicule. That’s where we need to question aspects of bigotry and aspects of stereotyping.

Muslamic Rayguns, Faisal Hussain

In your show you used many different media, objects mainly. How does the project’s theme play into your concept of exhibiting objects?

The subject led the work and I wanted to experiment with as many things outside my comfort zone as possible. I have always created stuff based around digital or sculptural work and I wanted this to be an opportunity to study and do as many things as possible. And that’s why you’ve got everything from cakes, to toys, to projections, to video work, through to objects found online and a certain amount of technology and model making. Because the stories and the subject matter were so varied, they lent themselves to be played with a bit more. I have to play as well and need to make sure that I’m having a good time – as well as having a bad time with art. Sometimes as an artist I think you forget that.

Are you planning on exhibiting this show somewhere else?

Yes, hopefully. It depends on what other institutions within the region say about it. Also there is the aspect that this isn’t an Islamic exhibition, it’s not a Muslim exhibition. I’m not an Islamic artist, I’m not a Muslim artist, I’m an artist who happens to be from a Muslim background and therefore this work has an application, not just because it’s talking about communities so that it would need the community labeling. I want it to be very open, I’d like it to go to places that will allow people to question certain subjects around what the exhibition’s about.

Prevent Cakes, Faisal Hussain

Will there be more objects added to the Suspect Objects collection?

Yeah, these are only half of the proposed objects that I wanted to create. There’s loads more and to be honest there are new ones coming up every day because there are so many contradictions to do with identity, activism, politics. As long as these contradictions are coming up, there’s always a need to question that kind of bigotry, but done in a way that is approachable and that has respect for those communities.

Are you working on anything else not immediately related to this project?

At the moment, yes, there is another project that I’m working on. It’s heritage based and again it’s about Asian youth culture and about uncovering stories and heritage to do with people growing up in Birmingham in the 1960s, to people growing up in the 2000s. The next art project that I’m hopefully going to do is potentially going to be more sculpturally based since I also make wall-mounted sculptures.
Hussain’s solo exhibition Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects was on display at Centrala Gallery, 1 September – 14 October 2017.

Birmingham-based artist Faisal Hussain recently presented his first solo exhibition Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects at Centrala. Bettina Fischer talked to him about motivators behind his work and the need to face hatred with humour.

Photograph by Barbara Mihályi

Barbara Mihályi is an emerging Hungarian artist, filmmaker and photographer who has explored life around Birmingham’s canals during her four-week residency at Centrala.

Bettina Fischer sat down with her on the opening evening of her new exhibition Terra Firma to find out more.

Photograph by Barbara Mihályi

Amongst other works, your exhibition exploring the canals features a series of portraits of people living on narrowboats. How did this idea come about?

During the first weekend of my residency I had a bit of a mini depression. It is quite an emotional experience working away from home and being submerged in a new environment. A lot of things happen in a short period of time and you miss your usual surroundings.  Everything becomes really unbalanced. At this point I was a little bit lost. So, I thought I have to find a way of getting out of this emotional state and go out, do something. I went for a walk and found this beautiful oak tree in Cannon Hill Park which calmed me down. As I was cycling back along the canal in Balsall Heath I spotted a mosque and a church in the background. This image struck me visually with the graffiti and the river in the foreground so I started taking pictures. That’s when Jill appeared and asked me what I was doing. This was the start of a long conversation about her experience of living around the area over the past two decades and a source of inspiration for me. Jill became the first subject of the photo portraits in the exhibition.

How did you find the subjects comprising the series?

These encounters happened differently every time. Usually I would try to stay by the canals, sometimes I would meet someone and start a conversation and eventually make a photograph. But mostly these encounters generate each other – one person leads you to another, but there were some random ones as well.

Photograph by Barbara Mihályi

What else can we expect to see in your exhibition?

As well as the photograph series of people living and working on the canals there is a series of video blogs which document the artist residency itself. It tells the story of how the photograph series came together. The third part of the exhibition is a projection of other photographs I took during the residency. They are also connected to the canals, but they are more personal, amongst other things picturing my time on the narrowboat I lived on.

The title of your exhibition is Terra Firma. What does the phrase mean to you and how does it relate your project?

‘Terra Firma’ means ‘solid earth’ in Latin and we chose it as a title because it hints at the relationship we have to our home wherever it may be. For me it encapsulates a sense of longing and a search for the stories and personalities that make a place. So it made sense to use the phrase to describe this new body of work I created for the exhibition. Even if you live on water, your sense of belonging will be connected to a kind of stability that is rooted in the people who live around you.

Photograph by Barbara Mihályi

Is there anything particular you will take with you from your residency in Birmingham? How did the experience influence your work?

This was my first residency experience after graduating from my MA earlier this year and as such it was a huge challenge. I was here for a month which sometimes felt like a long time but actually was a very short amount of time to get to know a place and create new works at the same time. I have definitely learnt a lot from the experience and I documented ups and downs in the video blogs featured in the exhibition. For me as a documentary photographer the residency format was an interesting way of working and I hope to do more of it in the future.

Are you working on anything else at the moment? Do you have any other projects coming up in the near future?

At the moment my MA degree show work is featured in the Best of Diploma exhibition at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. It’s been well received in the local press and I have a few interviews coming up when I return home. I was also approached by a couple of galleries to do shows with them. One of these exhibitions are going to be photograph based but I still haven’t decided how to approach the other one. I just know it’s going to be about body-consciousness, focusing on the female body which is also the theme of my degree show exhibition. I also have some projects in Italy and other ongoing projects in Hungary. One of them involves drawing animations for a documentary about veteran pilots from World War II which will be quite different from my usual work but I enjoy taking my work in new directions.


Barbara Mihályi’s exhibition Terra Firma is open until 16 September 2017 at Centrala Gallery.


Bettina Fischer speaks to Barbara Mihályi about her residency and exhibition at Centrala exploring Birmingham’s canals.