C/O Berlin presents the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2022 exhibition “Abzgram” by Karolina Wojtas from January 28 to May 4, 2023.
“Play marks a fundamental component of diverse photographic practices.” - Matthias Gründig, winner of the C/O Berlin Talent Award 2022 – Theorist
C/O Berlin will host Karolina Wojtas’ first institutional solo exhibition and publish her first monograph complete with an art theory essay about “Abzgram” written by Matthias Gründig. For her exhibition, the artist has rearranged videos and photographs with the help of found footage and expanded the work into walk-in installations in the space. Wojtas invites visitors to experience a carefree childlike mindset, as her series considers the strict schooling system in Poland, where she grew up. “Abzgram” drips with irony and highlights the military, almost fascist-like rules that Polish children have to abide by. One of the points in the "Classroom Entry Procedure" is that the students have to stand still and not touch each other, the backpacks on the floor next to the right leg, hands stretched along the body, looking straight ahead, silently and without moving. Does the current political shift towards the right find its beginnings in childhood? In a surreal way and through the perspective of adolescents, Wojtas employs kitsch, play, eccentricity, and nonsense staged in bright colors. Through tension fed by personal resistance to one’s upbringing, Wojtas’ project fits perfectly into the theme; “New Documentary Strategies” of the C/O Berlin Talent Awards 2022. If one drops silence and obedience as a means of respect, does creativity and experimentation become possible?
Karolina Wojtas (*1996, PL) draws on children's imaginations and transforms them into walk-in installations. She graduated from the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava, Czech Republic, and from the Film School Łódź in Poland. She was nominated for the reGeneration Prize of the Musée d'Elysée and the Plat(t)form of the Fotomuseum Winterthur and received the ING Unseen Talent Award 2019 in Amsterdam. Her work has been shown at the Łódź Photo Festival (2021), the Krakow Photomonth (2020), and the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival (2020).
The artistic practice of shortlisted artist Lisandro E. Suriel (b. 1990, St. Martin) is exquisitely ephemeral while remaining true to a deep-rooted process of research and critical fiction. His work on the Ghost Island projectform a conscious fabric of stories, oral history, and the gaps that allow a glimpse of identities fractured by well-known colonial events. Embracing the fundamental production of knowledge beyond Western and anthropocentric notions, Suriel celebrates the unbroken history of rich culture, resistance and interdependence, and defies common expectations of Caribbean identities. With the means of magical realism, his work aims to document the subconscious and the collective in order to recapture one's own agency and historical memory.
Shortlisted artist Lucas Leffler (b. 1993, Belgium) impressed the jury with his project Silver Creek. In it, he deals with the history of the Belgian photo company Gevaert, which unintentionally disposed of tons of silver during the production of photo film in the 1920s, and in this way questions the ecological footprint of the medium of photography. Based on archive research, photographic legacies and experimental image design with the silver-contaminated mud of a once-contaminated stream, the project impressively revives history and questions processes of industrialization and mass production.
In Home-goings, shortlisted contemporary artist and visual activist Irene Antonia Diane Reece (b. 1993, USA) draws on the role of the Black Church as a haven for Black people. It pays homage to Black Liberation Theology by using the Church as an instrument to celebrate, protect and preserve Black lives. In addition to original photographic images, Home-goings also includes family archives, iconic church objects, gestures and performative performances. The jury was particularly impressed by the complexity of the project, which takes on the politically subversive character of Black funeral traditions to celebrate the lives of Black people, in a clever combination of text and image.
The shortlisted project Amphibious Paths by Alina Schmuch (b. 1987, Germany) and the scenographer Maria Ebbinghaus (b. 1986, Germany) deals with forms of adaptation to sea level rise due to climate change. The mixed media project, which was created in collaboration with various scientists, impressed the jury both with its well-founded artistic research methodology and with the proposal to enliven the exhibition space through simulation exercises, which are implemented by the scientists in the course of the exhibition.