Between 2013 and 2016, Sharon Lockhart created a body of work revolving around conditions of childhood, a thematic that has appeared throughout her practice since the early 1990s. Inspired in part by the life and work of Polish-Jewish pedagogue Janus Korczak — whose radical philosophies were among the first to empower the often-disregarded voice of the child — Lockhart conducted extensive research into various analyses and representations of children. At the heart of her research was her collaboration and friendship with a young Polish woman named Milena, whom she first befriended in 2009 during the production of her film Podwórka in Łódź, Poland. Lockhart’s longterm work with Milena, who has lived in various state residences, has mapped the trajectory of a small girl’s maturation into an adolescent and young adult, serving as a site of mutual discovery and revelation. Their collaboration has been the subject of a dedicated exhibition that traveled from the Center of Contemporary Art, Warsaw, to Bonniers, Konsthall, Stockholm and Kunstmuseum Luzern (2013 – 2015), as well as a solo exhibition at The Arts Club of Chicago (2016).
As Lockhart’s collaboration with Milena evolved, it grew to include Milena’s peers at The Youth Centre for Sociotherapy, a state residence for girls in Rudzienko, Poland. The tour-de-force of Lockhart’s work in Poland, the film Rudzienko grew out of a series of workshops the artist devised for the young women over the course of two consecutive summers. Bringing in specialists to develop targeted exercises, Lockhart sought to empower the girls’ individual voices and explore the specific choices they make in articulating their perspectives about the world. In the film, framed by the surrounding landscape, the young women’s philosophical conversations and actions address topics of children’s agency and subjectivity, underscoring Lockhart’s aim to foster self-reflection, expression and, above all, for the voice of the child to be heard.