The Walls Have Ears at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art

Artists: Inside Job (Ula Lucińska, Michał Knychaus), Nomadic State (Karolina Mełnicka, Stachu Szumski)

Exhibition title: The Walls Have Ears

Curated by: Daria Grabowska

Venue: TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin, Poland

Date: September 26 – November 15, 2019

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art

As creators of exhibition content – artists, coordinators and curators – we repeatedly face various installation botch-ups. Our minimalist works wobble on the carelessly put together cubes, they get damaged in last-minute shipments and fall off gallery walls, along with crooked nails. Even though we quietly curse at the improperly used bubble wrap, we know we are not allowed to shout. The institutional criticism to date is taking its toll – you are not supposed to get pissed off, loudly and rudely. Hence, we decided to follow the beaten path and create the exhibition that would provide a polite commentary on the situation.

The artistic duos that were invited to collaborate on the show worked in the basement corridor, one of the most installation-unfriendly spaces in the TRAFO building. The result is the space resem-bling a storage room, with seemingly forgotten works that appear to be waiting for someone to in-stall them properly.

The storage nature of the exhibition is further emphasized by the intervention of Nomadic State. The aquariums with water animals, entered in the CITES register, pose a charming question about the level of empathy in the employees. The glass houses for smuggled animals feature somewhat peculiar creatures, including a white axolotl, whose colour is the result of a mutated male of the species that was trafficked to Paris in 1863, or an eartheater that is the first generation of wild pa-rents.

The objects created by Inside Job, including crawling cockroaches, a portal and claws sticking out of the walls, are a visualization of a local horror story. The spirit of Henry haunting the employees, the security personnel in particular, is a remnant of an alleged corpse excavated during the works carried out while converting the building from the former transformer facility into a modern art cen-ter. The poltergeist apparently travels alone in the elevator. He is also an excuse for all missing pen-drives, damaged paintings and irregular holes in the walls.

It would seem a job with a cultural institution is a dream come true for graduates of an art academy. Dreams of non-hierarchical nature and lack of corporate style of work evaporate with the first self-written complaint.

No wall suffered during the installation.

Inside Job (Ula Lucińska and Michał Knychaus) work together as an Inside Job duo. Their artistic practice is based on interdisciplinary projects using various mediums and materials. They focus on the processes of how identities are being constructed, including the identities of places and the rela-tionship between humans, nature and technology. Many of their realizations take form of immersi-ve, multilayered environments referring to futuristic and post-catastrophic scenarios.

Nomadic State (Karolina Mełnicka and Stach Szumski) is an open, mobile project based on the cre-ation of a nomadic micro-state that, in a mimicking way, fits into the existing geographical and so-cial space. The artists refer to the genesis of “non-places” understood as spaces devoid of identity due to unification of reality caused by globalization, as well as to the non-geographic nature of the

Internet. Reality understood as such provides a field for reflection on the position of the people in the political system of the state in which they function.