Place In-Between: Q&A with Anka Dabrowska and Lo Lo No
Q&A with Lolo Monday 7/6/21
1a. Your drawings and sculptures seem to emerge and form different worlds, which for me enhances them as a response and an activation from a queer place?
1b. Is there a displacement and polarity between them?
1c. What is the space between your drawings and the assemblage works?
1a. My works are born out of extensive research that I undertake in a given city, town, place, space…The makeshift structures hovering between public and private, between interior and exterior space, can be seen as a metaphor for my own conflicting sense of belonging and nationhood. As a Polish born person who spent her teenage years in the Middle East, and much my adulthood in London, I draw from my identity as both insider and outsider. This for me is a positive experience, something I’m very familiar with, the place in between… I have a constant feeling of being inside and outside, a native and a foreigner. It is this sense of in-between-ness, more than the experience of living on the estates that shapes my art practice. The distance allows me to think dialectically about the beauty and tragedy of my surroundings. How and where I grew up has an enormous influence on the way that I make art now.
The queer is not necessarily deriving from my sexual orientation; the work is different, alternative, therefore, it’s queer, which translates to the embodiment of the alternative way of making and because I am queer -a lesbian woman-, I combine my upbringing, my experiences and the spaces in between… But ultimately the queerness begin from my love of form, structure, material and non traditional art materials for the manifestation.
1b. I guess there is a displacement in the sense of removing/ placing the works from where they could originally belong to, their actual reality, as in a building, where people can live in, and with that the polarity manifests in the way I divorce these works from their original function, meaning that I reconstruct a micro world made with drawings and sculptures about spaces and spaces in between and placing them in the elsewhere; ie a gallery space.
1c. Drawing is the foundation of my practice. I see all of my work as drawing or as an extension of drawing- whether it is drawing on paper, 3-D object or installation. Drawing can manifest itself in so many different forms… installation, sculpture, sound…
I use drawing for its subjective and narrative qualities, its connection to mass culture, and its ability to express emotions, create symbols and explore questions of identity and selfhood. There is a beautiful dialogue between my delicate drawings and the 3-D pieces fabricated from cheap, trashy materials… the stuff of the street, often overlooked and thrown away… Both media are characterised by an extreme fragility.
The installation crudely crafted from cardboard, wood, photographs, plaster and concrete reference Margate’s architecture; fragments of Arlington house, the lido, beach kiosks, slot machines, cafes and bars. I carefully balance the aesthetics of recuperated packaging and the grittiness of urban decay. Through my practice I am to reflect my passion for the built environment as well as the life that pulses within the town’s beach and the street.
My work is about my personal experience of a specific place but it’s not exclusive, it lends itself to collective memory of a given place.
2a. I’d like to know, in response to your world building, how you feel about the terms dismantling and reconstructing?
2b. As there is at once a Utopianism and a degradation to the structures as they are intuitive responses that echo favelas and shanty towns of collective urbanism.
2c. Where do your structures and worlds fit in terms of utopian and dystopian discourse?
2a. Dismantling and reconstructing wasted, discarded and debris I find, either by accident, or by conscious searching are very central to my work and thinking. Hidden tales, the lives of others and objects that belonged to people and overlooked. My work explores how the public negotiates its own landscape by transforming the everyday and the mundane into magical sculptures or ‘anti-structures’.
I like to recycle, to reconstruct… I like to build from the disregarded wreckage of everyday life.
As an example to demonstrate this, I recently made an installation and a video piece for an exhibition I curated called CITYISLAND in London in 2019. I created a site specific installation focusing on the concept of shelter as a fortress of our bodies; an extension of ourselves. That temporary, fragile structure, made out of old sculptures and objects, I smashed up and rebuilt was based on recycling and regeneration.
2b and c. Yes, to my own utopia, as I collect, construct and create my own humanless microcosm and although I reflect and wrestle with the concept and reality of urbanism, my works think about an imaginary, even dystopian world based on a realistic representation but with dreams, hopes and imagination rather emulating poverty and dispossess.
3a. You have an Interest in graffiti and the role of words and slogans in your responses to space and your art production?
3b. Can you talk about the Importance of this, as texts, protests, mark making and human intervention into urban spaces?
3a. Going back to the queer way of making, leaving a mark, combining my own ethnography and social experience, graffiti becomes another way of validation and manifestation and expression, given its double edged socio-political construct (being illegal/ vandalism, an art form). I break the rules, I embody graffiti as a beautiful mark-making tool and I also relate it to the urban environment of the city. There is a wonderful relationship between the fine and very controlled line of graphite pencil and almost ‘hard to control’ mark made using spray paint. Graffiti tags are signatures that re-stain the territories and add new/ alternative meanings to the city…
3b. Slogans, banners, political messages, a riotous expression even on a placard, are very crucial elements, not only in my creative practice, but also to me as a socio-political human being (protesting since my teens).
Human intervention into urban spaces is something I started playing around with during my solo show in Warsaw in 2013 when I took the fragments of the gallery exhibition onto the street.
Use the Margate example.
Q 4a. As a self declared ‘other’ and ‘stranger’ in your process, how has Margate spoken to you?
4b. In your understanding of this space and place and all between it?
4c. What have been your key moments so far?
4a. As Margate started as a visiting/ mini holiday escapade destination…
Margate, with its strange and diverse history, its architecture and its seaside setting was a delightful challenge for me…a space in-between an unfamiliar territory ready to be explored like a blanc canvas and deciphered with my aesthetic and studio practice.
4b. Engaging with this new environment, elucidating issues of memory and archive, the familiar and foreign, the imagined and the observed… critical to the experience of contemporary urban life. I am very interested in how our experiences of the same place change within time. Places change constantly and so do our memories.
4c. I’ve been very conscious for my project not to alienate, to honour and to respect all the mixed and varied communities of Margate. With this approach, coming from working class background, growing up on the estates I’ve been welcomed with curiosity, warmth, engagement and support.
I mostly drawn to the opposites that somehow sit in harmony with one another… the poetics of concrete alongside the sea…
Other key moments so far have been the conversations, story sharing with the locals, especially the older generation from The Margate Rotary Club.
You can still see Anka's exhibition until 26 July at the Old Primark Building in Margate.