Above: Trailer for 'Rudzienko.'
Artist Sharon Lockhart, a faculty member of the School of Art’s Program in Photography and Media, was recently featured in The New York Times. The article is an in-depth exploration of Lockhart’s work and career, focusing on her most recent film, Rudzienko, which investigates how girls who have been labeled difficult or unmanageable express their thoughts and feelings.
Lockhart combines documentary and staged elements in her ethnographic approach to her photography and films. Though she has said that she is an artist and not a politician, Lockhart’s work is concerned with social subjects and working class people. For her work, she has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, a Rockefeller fellowship, and a Radcliffe-Harvard Film Study Center Fellowship, during which she completed her film, Lunch Break (2008).
In 2009, Lockhart went to Poland to gather ideas for her next film when she happened upon a courtyard where children were playing. She was drawn to the imagination and inventiveness of the children's play, but she was especially drawn to a young girl, Milena Slowinska, who was undoubtedly the leader of the group. She continued to work with the kids and film them while they played, and from this collaboration came Lockhart's 2009 film, Pódworka, which means "courtyard" in Polish.
In the seven years following that encounter, Lockhart has gone back to Poland more than 15 times, developing a friendship with Slowinska, who was living at the Youth Center for Socio-Therapy in Rudzienko, Poland, before recently going to live with her grandmother. It was through Slowinska that Lockhart was able to meet the group of girls, also from the the youth center, who would be the focus of Rudzienko.
During the filming process, Lockhart hosted a retreat for the girls for the last two summers. The retreat was on a farm, and Lockhart brought in a movement therapist, a theater director, a philosopher and curator to hold creative workshops to help Slowinska and her friends find their voices to share their stories. Over the course of their time together, the girls and Lockhart have formed strong friendships, despite the language barrier.
One of the girls, Paulina Mroczek, told The Times, “We could say just about anything to her.” Another one of the girls, Natalia Skoroch, explained the process of filming with Lockhart. “When she wanted us to talk, Sharonka would just throw out a subject, like friendship, God or family, and then leave us alone while she was filming it,” she said.
Lockhart plans to get the same group of girls back together this summer for another workshop. “It’s like running a camp in another country where you don’t speak the language, and it’s all because of this kid you met that you really like,” said Lockhart the interview.
Rudzienko is currently playing at the Arts Club of Chicago through Aug. 13, along with an exhibition of Lockhart's photographs.