In Conversation with Rafal Zajko

You’ve just completed your MA show at Goldsmiths. How did you find the process and what was the response?

I did my degree part-time - so it was quite a long process (four years). I came in with a performative practice - but having access to such fantastic facilities with amazing sculpture tutors meant my work inevitably became more object based. Our degree show was the only one that happened this year - in a physical guise. We only heard about it happening 8 weeks before the “opening” - so it was a very mad time of working especially with Covid restrictions. I made the show in 6 weeks of non-stop grafting and felt absolutely exhausted by the end, but also very lucky to be able to share the works with people “in the flesh”.



How are you feeling now that it’s over? How are you adjusting as you leave the educational setting during a global pandemic?

I’m really happy to leave. I’m curious how the work will change and transform with current limitations. I think we need to be a bit kinder on ourselves with expectations of what we are supposed to be doing right now. There is a lot that is out of our hands – so perhaps this is a great opportunity for us to slow down a bit and adapt to a new rhythm.



In your conversation with Mikolaj you discussed your leaving Poland for London. How has this affected and/or feature in your practice?

My “moving away” from Poland has given away for a strange longing for it. Not the Poland of now with all its current political issues, but a Poland of the past that I have mythologised from childhood memories. As I mentioned in the chat with Mikolaj - I feel that our national identity is as much a building block to our practice as the sexual identity. Neither are at the forefront of my work, but they do resurface here and there naturally.



In the past few months, the rise of the far right in Poland has resulted in the creation LGBTQ+ free zones. Do you feel a responsibility as an artist to be vocal about this? And if so, how does this feature in your work? Are you working or in contact with LGBTQ+ artists in Poland?

Yes, of course I feel a responsibility. I am continually thinking about ways in which I can be vocal about these issues and be active in the fight against it. From my current position I try to share and inform people about the current situation there , but of course it’s frustrating that I am not there to have a more physical presence and to speak up about these issues. I’m in touch with some artists and curators in Poland - but as I haven’t gone through the education system there my immediate network is mostly in the UK. I would love to be able work more there – and have a few projects in the pipeline that will hopefully come into fruition soon.



Much of your work to date deals with processes - whether human, mechanical, scientific -what is your process as an artist? Do you work with lots of research? Collaborators?

I developed a practice that allows me to merge all my interests into one. From research that looks at technology, architecture and bodily functions – to the technical aspects of the work that relish the craftsmanship and learning new techniques and materials. I am creating a world to share with the viewer that is an equal mix of scientific parables and personal stories. In regards to collaborators - I’m starting work on a project with my partner Jonathan Baldock that will be shown in Exile Gallery in Vienna in 2022.



Often these processes are juxtaposed with elements of folklore and conspiracies. Could you tell us more about that?

We live in the times where science is the new religion - I’m curious and I follow that world closely. I had quite a religious upbringing - I remember being a kid and going to church with my grandmother - the whole performative elements of the mass, the language - wine turning into blood, bread into flesh - it definitely had a massive impact on me. I feel like conspiracies and fake news are modern manifestation of the myth - people want to believe in more fantastical realities - some others like to be story tellers (bending the truth for certain tangible or intangible profit).