spaces of (dis)connection: migrant essential workers

spaces of (dis)connection follows a pioneering project conducted by researchers across the UK to investigate how the pandemic has affected the everyday lives and settlement plans of Polish workers in the UK. This exhibition combines newly commissioned photographic work by Małgorzata Dawidek, Paulina Korobkiewicz, and Sylwia Kowalczyk alongside anonymous testimonies given by Polish essential workers across the UK. The respective works speak to the changing public and private landscapes that resulted from the various lockdowns implemented by the English and Scottish governments. In exploring how spaces have transformed, through depopulation or increased habitation, the artists have produced uniquely insightful and intimate works. Be they spaces of connection or disconnection, these photographs evidence an environment affected by uncertainty and isolation.

Paulina Korobkiewicz is a photographer and visual artist currently residing in London, England, where she gained her Fine Art Photography BA at Camberwell College of Arts. Her work explores public space. She engages with the trauma experienced by post-communist states, alongside the politics of identity, home and belonging. Born in Suwałki, Poland, Korobkiewicz is interested in transitional aesthetics across Eastern European landscapes. In addition to her 2020 solo exhibition at Centrala, Birmingham, where she is currently artist-in-residence, she has exhibited her work internationally and created (as well as featured in) numerous publications.

Sylwia Kowalczyk is a photographer currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she completed her Photography MFA at Edinburgh College of Art in 2010. Her work takes inspiration from ancient mythology and Surrealism, sometimes referencing classical painting to draw parallels between spectacle and the mundane. After suffering a detached retina in 2006, Kowalczyk’s work has taken on a somewhat autobiographical approach, concerned with notions of identity, fear, and grief. Alongside multiple commissions, publications, and solo exhibitions, Kowalczyk’s work can be found in collections across England, France, Poland, North America, and South Korea.

Małgorzata Dawidek is a visual artist, writer and art historian. Currently, she has been completing her second, practice-led PhD research at the Slade/UCL. Her work is focused on the relation between the condition of the human body and discursive language, illness narratives, politics and the imagination of the body, and representations of bodily diversity in the history of art and literature. In her research she develops the original concepts of bodygraphy - various forms of expression through corporeal experience (speaking, writing, activities, gestures) and affective art practice - a non-exploitative, caring method of creative work regulated by the body’s rhythms. Dawidek has been awarded numerous awards, grants, and scholarships, most recently being the Signature Art Prize (2020), as well as multiple residences across the UK and beyond. 


The Migrant Essential Workers project has been developed by Prof. Sharon Wright, Dr Anna Gawlewicz, Dr Kasia Narkowicz, Dr Aneta Piekut and Dr Paulina Trevena, advised by Prof. Robert Gawłowski, Alicja Kaczmarek, Prof. Rebecca Kay, Prof. Majella Kilkey, and Dr Sarah Kyambi, with support from the Polish Social and Cultural Association, Polish Expats Association, Fife Migrants Forum, and PKAVS Minority Communities Hub, and funding from the UK Research and Innovation via the Economic and Social Research Council. spaces of (dis)connection has been curated by Centrala Director Alicja Kaczmarek and Arts Programme Coordinator Alice Reed.

spaces of (dis)connection: migrant essential workers will tour between Centrala, Birmingham, Clapham Library, London, and a Scottish location TBC. The exhibition will be available online at where you can find more information about the project and researchers involved.

This exhibition is touring between

Centrala, Birmingham [02-24.09.2022]

Clapham Library, London [30.09.-14.10.2022]

Art27, Edinburgh [Dates TBC]

Image by Paulina Korobkiewicz.