“Conversio” is a multi-lingual & visual narration based on the stories of migrant women by London based Polish artist Malgorzata Dawidek.
The project consisted of an artists residency during which artist produced series of interviews and video-animations based on these, as well as art design objects, publications and series of literary and artistic workshops.
The main idea behind the project was to investigate the processes of adoption and redefinition of the woman’s past life experience in the context of dramatic changes in life conditions.
Another aim was the analysis of the phenomenon of female emotionality and women’s bodies understood as a feature of memory, a medium of history, alongside changes and reevaluations dependent on external circumstances. “Conversio” refers to the female body, understood as a process-narrative, a developing text. It analyses the phenomenon of the body, which on the one hand is subjected to language, and on the other hand refuses articulation and immunizes itself against words. The body becomes a part of a wider plot, but also as a condition its leading. Artist run workshop with migrant women from Central and Eastern Europe as well as other parts of the world. As a result of workshop artists co produced series of graphics with project participant. Graphics are available in our shop.
The residency culminated in Exhibition at Centrala.
In her text ‘Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism’, the philosopher Elizabeth Grosz noted that the body is a Möbius curve on which culture is tattooed. The lines of the hand, the veins of the eyes, the hairs on the back of the neck contain within them the habitats called ‘home’: a translation of autobiographical experience upon both the interior and exterior of the body. It is in this intertwining of language, place and the body that the ideas at the core of Małgorzata Dawidek Gryglicka’s practice are located. She describes herself as a nomad. Born in Parczew, Poland, Dawidek Gryglicka has lived in the Polish cities of Poznań and Wrocław, and in New York, Bratislava and Berlin. Based currently in London, the artisthas been in residence at Centrala for four weeks working alongside specific groups of female migrants living in Birmingham. The result of her research is ‘Conversio’, a politicised project rooted in dialogical exchange between individuals with differing ages and social and cultural backgrounds. The complexities of uprooting and relocating theirlives mean that the thoughts and minds of many of these women remain ‘elsewhere’. During the residency the artist has facilitated embroidery and writing workshops that have been means to beginconversationswith these women, allowing each participant to visually depict, write or speak their unique personal storiesof migration. This output hasbeen developed into a new body of work by Dawidek Gryglickaandincludesa series of text-based prints taken directly from the stories of workshop attendees. Language is vital to the understanding of the artist’s practice. For her, language is not only a communication tool but a cultural signifier, a reminder of home and a game with which to play. The series of photographs titled ‘Habitats’, for instance, depict the temporary construction of single letters of the alphabet in a number of Dawidek Gryglicka’s former homes and chart something of her own of international migration. This winding journey, peppered with pauses of variable lengths, has been mapped and demarcated by averyfragile kind of language. Her coding system is highly idiosyncratic and confers another layer of meaning upon these significant places. The body isour most direct interface with the world. Dawidek Gryglicka’s newly developed animations feature mouths, eyes, hands and other isolated parts of the body. These motifs multiply and grow, organically forming intricate patterns, circling back on themselves and obscuringwhat isbeneath. Accompanied by the multiple and multi-lingual voices of the women she has been working with, these animated films form visual and auditory layers of narrative, kaleidoscopically moving and endlessly looping. The value of theindividual within ‘Conversio’ is set in stark contrast to the presentportrayal of migrant communities who are describedwith increasing hatred in the media as ‘dangerous’ to ‘native’ populations. The voices of migrants and the voices of women are too often silenced. The artist’s aim has been to uncover aspects of social integration and exclusion from both home and host countries through this new body of work, returning a voice to a small section of the migrant population of this city. The potential for mutual dialogue, cultural education and collaborationthat this work offersin these most difficult of political conditions is enormous.
Anneka French, August 2015