ULA LUCIŃSKA AND MICHAŁ KNYCHAUS (INSIDE JOB DUO)
AT THE FUTURA IN PRAGUE
Ula Lucińska (b.1992) and Michał Knychaus (b.1987) work together as the Inside Job duo. Their common practice set out in 2016 while they were both staying at the Kulturfabrik Burgdorf residency in Switzerland. In their works they use different media and materials, which often leads to creation of multi-layered, objects-based environments. They focus on the processes through which identities are constructed, including the identities of places, within the context of dynamic changes such as the climate crisis, technological acceleration, political shifts and growing anxiety about the unknown future. Many of their projects refer to futuristic and post-catastrophic scenarios.
During the summer months of 2020 they were working within the frame of the FUTURA Centre for Contemporary Art residency programme, supported by the Visegrad Fund.
FUTURA is a private non-profit institution that operates two large exhibition spaces and a residency program in Prague.
Sylwia Krasoń: How did you find out about the residency programme? How did you apply?
Ula Lucińska and Michał Knychaus: Last autumn, we received an invitation from FUTURA director and main curator Caroline Krzyszton. We were very happy to get this opportunity because FUTURA, with its exhibition programme and residencies, was well known to us for a long time. Later, together with the gallery team, we applied for the Visegrad Fund, which additionally supported our stay. The application process was simple, and at the end of December 2019, we received the final confirmation. Originally, our stay was about to happen between April and June, but due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic, it had to be postponed until summer months.
SK: What does your regular art residency day look like?
UL and MK: Our 3-months stay was somehow divided into two parts because of an unusual situation with the studios’ availability. Until the end of July, we were using one of FUTURA’s exhibition spaces as our atelier. While staying there we had a spacious, bright and empty space at our disposal. It was very convenient because of its location at the same street as our apartment. We were working there mostly on the initial concept, doing material research, sketches and models for our new works that will be exhibited at FUTURA in December 2020.
From August till mid-September we had a studio at Karlin which is the second venue of FUTURA. It is located in a different part of the town, close to Prague’s old city centre, so besides working we spent a lot of time outside – walking around the city, meeting with friends and discovering medieval and art-nouveau architecture with its decorative motifs that also inspired our new series.
Usually we had no strict working routine besides the fact that we tried to be at the studio almost every day for at least a couple of hours. We liked to treat it as a working place, where it’s easier to focus and to test different solutions (having all the tools and gathered materials in hand).
SK: Tell us about the project that you are working on right now?
UL and MK: We are currently working on a series that relates to transition moments of time. The initial inspiration came from the collapse of certain industries in East-Central Europe, which had resulted from transformational changes. We are therefore interested in the phenomena of politically driven manipulations over the past and the future with all its speculative and fictional aspects. It is in our case mainly the exploration of a visual language connected with the notion of a “threshold” or the permanent state of suspension – being neither there nor here, before or behind something.
Our works will create a kind of an environment that evokes the architectural effect of a passage.
SK: Does the change of context help you in the creation process?
UL and MK: Probably this is one of the main goals of residencies in general – to think about certain assumptions from a distance and confront some of them with new, unusual starting conditions. Our practice is also greatly influenced by the experience of meeting and dealing with other people: artists, craftsmen, curators, researchers, or simply people with passion. We feel like staying in one place for too long may result in a kind of creative stagnation.
SK: Do you place an emphasis on your work or rather on meeting people and exploring the city?
UL and MK: Both. It really depends on the day. We like working a lot – sometimes from morning to late night – but we also value time for exploring, meeting with people, going to openings or tasting local food and drinks. Without this social aspect, without learning the new place, the residency would not be too different from the way we work and live in Poland.
The time we spent in Prague was also marked by various restrictions related to the pandemic. There were not that many openings as usual and the city was not that crowded. Prague without tourists is something really rare. A lot of local friends we met told us that before the pandemic they had been trying not to visit the old town at all.
SK: What challenges and opportunities did the residency involve?
UL and MK: We often support our projects with external studios, like for example metal workshops, and it’s obviously harder to find infrastructure that you need in a place that is completely new. When working in Poland, we very often use our network of contacts for getting friendly offers for processing certain materials like milling, laser cutting, casting or 3D printing. This is a challenge, but also an opportunity to think about the project for a longer time, to experiment, not to be quick about the results. Especially when, as in our case, the exhibition does not take place directly at the end of the residency.
SK: Name three objects which are the most important to you during the residency.
UL and MK: Our laptops, angle grinder, and the sewing machine.
SK: What is the role of institution in your residency? What does it provide you with?
UL and MK: FUTURA gave us a lot of freedom and at the same time put trust in our individual project work. We were very happy with this because we enjoyed working on our own and appreciated the very individual schedule. We were provided with all the most important residency facilities: an apartment, studio, access to an impressive variety of tools and a satisfying budget. This allowed us to focus on work and at the same time to freely immerse with the city and its art scene. Caroline Krzyszton also introduced us to curators and other artists, though the networking aspect never turned out to be too official.
SK: What would you recommend to artists going abroad for an art residency?
UL and MK: It is important not to work under self-imposed pressure. While at the residency, some things might not go directly the way we would like them to develop and it’s sometimes good just to come to terms with it.
Edited by Franciszek Bryk