The exhibition ‘Breathing in the Shallows’ at Milano-based gallery eastcontemporary features a new body of work by Inside Job, the working pseudonym for artistic duo and Poznań-based media artists Ula Lucińska and Michał Knychaus. The duo’s practice is driven by experimentation with different mediums and materials to create spatial installations and multi-layered environments exploring futuristic and post-apocalyptic scenarios. “Our main source of inspiration for the show was our interest in the metaphysical occurrences resulting from the acceleration of technology, including the growing spiritual fundamentalisms, post-religious forms of worship, and conspiracy theories,” Ula and Michał tell us about the exhibition oscillating around the subject of transformation and the possibilities of afterlife.
“The exhibition is shaped by symmetrical, almost religious forms contrasting with chaotic, mutating, organic elements, like the rubber cables winding along the ground. The ‘Purgatories’ on the walls might be associated with a ritual ceremony, with the two illuminated twin portals leading to an unknown reality,” they explain. “The tables are overgrown with metal, seemingly organic casts. A gray, dusty fabric hangs from the swing. All of these objects have no function—but are rather mutations existing in an alternate reality, forming a place of unknown cult and transformation that breaks with temporal, linear orders.” Researching science fiction, futurology, and post-humanist theory, ‘Breathing in the Shallows’ is an eclectic mixture between ancient aesthetics and contemporary art while marrying the spiritual with the industrial. “We played with the collusion of motifs from different eras and locations, hinting at the hybrid nature of history and the connection of all living creatures.”
Before entering the field of contemporary art, Ula and Michał have always been interested in visual culture and experimented with different mediums, like music videos, graffiti, or fashion. “This—combined with our ongoing research on design, art history, cultural science, and new media, led— us to develop our personal style which brings together inspirations from the past, pop culture, occultism, and sci-fi,” Inside Job tells us. While both studied at the University of the Arts in Poznań and have worked on many collaborations before, they officially formed a duo during an art residency in Switzerland. “At some point, we understood that our works are mainly shaped by our collaborative process. We share a lot of interests and have a similar taste in aesthetics.” Besides their co-authorship, each of their projects is also linked to each of them separately, as a form of personal expression. “Every artistic activity is collective in some ways, as everyone borrows from and gets inspired by the work of other people. The image of the single-player is way too popular within the art world, so we see our collective practice as the perfect alternative to challenge our egos.”
In their work, the duo utilizes a broad spectrum of materials and techniques interweaving both industrial and organic elements, including metal, natural and synthetic textiles, wood, and cold casts from resin. “Experimenting with different materials allows us to set our work into a particular context. We often choose a material for a certain reason, but sometimes, this decision also happens very intuitively,” Ula and Michał explain. “Lately, we have been using long black, rubber cables winding along the ground. It was a very subconscious choice, but they fit really well in the bigger picture because of their untamed, wild appearance, like black tentacles or roots.”
Next to ‘Breathing in the Shallows’, their work ‘And the door was kicked open again’ was presented as part of the exhibition ‘Listening to Voices’ at FUTURA Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague in 2021. It examines the history of the collapse of the sugar industry in Central and Eastern Europe and its impact on the environment and society. “We are closer to understanding time as a complex phenomenon, as one in which the past, for instance, is never fully over, but rather constantly transformed and reconstructed,” Inside Job explains. “In our work, we bring such futuristic scenarios to life, playing with the concept of timelessness.” In the exhibition, the duo built an environment inspired by industrial machinery, interwoven with organic elements, like vegetal sculptures made from recycled leather.
The duo is currently spending time in Ljubljana to work on their new video installation ‘Possibility we are poisoned’ about the biological phenomena of seed dormancy for the 34th Biennale of Graphic Arts. “We are super excited to be here among all the other artists representing a kind of aesthetic manifesto of a generation,” Ula and Michał tell us. Next to a pop-up show at Biel/Bienne-based Lokal-int, they are currently setting up two solo shows. One of them, titled ‘Symmetrical Floundering’ will take place in the newly established art space ‘Cantina’ in Aarhus, while the other opens at Paris-based gallery LilyRobert in November.