Sharon Lockhart and Milena: The Art in Friendship
Hannah Lea delves into the friendship between Sharon Lockhart and Polish teenager Milena and their collaborations over the years
14 July 2014
Sharon Lockhart first met Milena in 2009 in Łódź, Poland, while filming Podwórka. At just 9 years old at the time, Lockhart gravitated towards Milena's strong personality, and the two soon developed a friendship through the act of play, which would become central to Lockhart’s future work.
Lockhart was later invited to be part of an exhibition in Warsaw where she rekindled her friendship with Milena. After spending more quality time with Milena, Lockhart found that Milena had a strong desire to share her life story, by writing an autobiography. This marked the beginning of an on-going collaboration between Lockhart and Milena, with the imagined autobiography, as the never dwindling motivation through which the two have explored artistic expression together.
Lockhart has visited Milena several times since their first meeting in 2009, taking her on holidays to Jarosław, Kraków and the beaches of Dębki. The artist’s time in Poland has also led to extensive research on the history of children’s rights and on the influential pedagogue Janusz Korczak.
As Lockhart and Milena’s friendship grew deeper, Lockhart presented Milena, Milena as the second exhibition in a trilogy based on her portrait of Milena – a photographic story about the difficulty of leaving childhood behind and facing adulthood.
Milena, Milena was partly created as a result of a stained glass workshop in rural Poland that Lockhart and Milena participated in together. Through this, Lockhart connected a cherished shared moment to Poland’s rich cultural tradition of stained glass in tribute to Milena in an iconic art form that is both personally and deeply rooted in Polish history and tradition.
For her new film, commissioned by Liverpool Biennial and FACT, Lockhart returned to Poland to work with Milena and a group of 12 girls from the Youth Centre for Sociotherapy, an orphanage in the town of Rudzienko. On a nearby farm, educator and philosopher Bartosz Przybył-Orłowski led a series of workshops and activities in which the group took part in, designed to empower the authority of their own voice and perspective on the world.
The new film will premiere at FACT in October with more details to be announced soon.
Two of Lockhart’s pieces based on Milena, are being shown at FACT as part of Liverpool Biennial. Milena, Jarosław is in FACT Connects Space and Milena, Dębki is upstairs in Gallery 2. These will be shown alongside Podwórka (2009), the film that began Lockhart and Milena’s journey and a newly commissioned film based on The Little Review, a newspaper founded by Janusz Korczak in 1926 that was written and edited solely by children.
FACT is home to Sharon Lockhart’s first solo UK exhibition as part of Liverpool Biennial 2014. The exhibition brings together ideas about childhood and the agency of the voice, rooted by the friendship of Sharon and Milena.
Visit the exhibition project page for more information on Sharon Lockhart.