How a Polish artist makes room for queer love – celebrating heartbreak – the Calvert Journal


“I feel like the topics of love and heartbreak are very universal, but there is always an Eastern European and queer perspective in the work. I speak a lot, and even though I use a karaoke microphone with voice modifier, you can definitely hear an Eastern European accent in this very English space, which creates a feeling of juxtaposition.

Kat Perlak has been based in London for 16 years, but hails from a small mining town in Poland. Much of his work explores Polish folk culture as a means of expressing queer identity, challenging the idea that traditional Polish culture and queerness are mutually exclusive. Handicrafts constitute a large part of Perlak’s research, and figures dressed in traditional Polish costumes are predominant in both his video work and his collages. On his studio table is a stack of vintage handkerchiefs that the artist has hand-embroidered with political proverbs and slogans. One has the red lightning emblem of Poland’s pro-choice women’s marches embroidered in red beads on a delicate white fabric. The project, Craftsmanship methodologies for tendering, which will be on display at Jerwood as part of Inquiry II, explores craftsmanship from a migrant, feminist and queer perspective.

Questions of belonging and national identity are complex for any immigrant artist – and even more so if he is queer. While love can be a universal subject, queer love is only allowed a very separate existence in much of the world.

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