Magdalena Franczak, Underlife, 2023, installation, sculpture


Look under the surface to see the underlife, a parallel world structured in reverse to the sun-filled, illuminated one. In the underlife, what is human intertwines with what is non-human. Corridors of pushed away memories, supported by the bones of the earth, migrate together with roots and become displaced. Their cramped spaces absorb snippets of stories about women from Orunia’s Magdalenenheim. The main occupation of residents of this “asylum for fallen girls” was work in the laundry. Fragments of stories permeate the structure of the ground, nestling into it with the particles of poured out lather and water. This water remembers using colours. White dress – grey water. Red blouse – pink water. Blue trousers – blue water. What about tears? Tears have their separate arteries in the underlife: evaporating from time to time, marking their presence, squeezing through grass and earth.

Today, the area of the former Evangelical cemetery is covered by a park, railway tracks, a clinic and a block of flats. This is where I place my story. This is where I place vessels filled with coloured liquid, joining them in a line that arcs a spectral map of this place. Imagine: women standing in a semi-circle, crying, their tears falling into ceramic vessels placed at their feet. Warmth and pain trickle down into corridors of the underlife. Water exists in different states, but when it evaporates, it connects with our breaths and forgotten stories. You will hear one of them when you put on the headphones – an attempt at giving the voice to the forgotten protagonists of this place. When you take a stroll through the park, listen carefully to the words. When you go off the paths, feel the breaths. When you look at the ground beneath your feet, look for what’s deeper inside – the signs of the underlife.

Written by Magdalena Franczak

I would like to thank Aleksandra Abakanowicz, Anna Sadowska and Anna Zielińska for their help in combining Orunia herstories.

NOTE: the audio part of the installation will be available to listen to in the ECHOES application using your own set of headphones. We encourage you to install it before the festival.


MAGDALENA FRANCZAK (she/her) is a visual artist and author of drawings, photographs and narrative sculptural forms that enter into a dialogue with pre-existing environments in the public space. She is the founder of the Nomadic Workshop, author of artistic publications, and co-curator of the Manifestos for the Future project. Franczak is currently doing her PhD at the Doctoral School of the University of Rzeszów under the supervision of Jadwiga Sawicka. In her artistic practice, she attempts to redefine the existing order and give forms new meanings. By juxtaposing shapes taken from reality, she creates a narrative about a utopian world, where each voice may resound with equal strength, without drowning out the other.

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Narracje #14