Introducing…Alex Zawadzki

12th May 2020

Creative Producer and Curator Alex Zawadzki talks about Flashback, her inspiration and some of her favourite artists and projects

We’ve been working with Alex Zawadzki and Jamie Holman on Flashback over the last 8 months following British Textile Biennial. Successfully launched on April 24, Flashback is a new archive that has captured the oral histories of the individuals who attended the Acid House parties in Blackburn between 1988 and 1991.

Here, Alex, Creative Producer and Curator talks more about the project, her inspiration and some of her favourite artists and projects… 

What is it about working in East Lancashire that particularly informs the way you work?

I feel a real sense of drive in people to make new and experimental things happen, to try, and to fail without concern; that’s something you don’t see everywhere. There is something unique in the area’s makeup. Prism Contemporary is on a 3 way junction; when you leave the gallery after a exhibition opening, the street corner is  a mix of dubious illegal activity going on outside the building across the street, bright new cars parked on the double yellow lines at night as groups of young Asian friends head to Dahna’s for shisha and dessert, and then the last few people coming out of the gallery; people who are working to put their creative stamp on the town. That corner, at nighttime is a slice of the real Blackburn – entrepreneurialism, creativity, diversity and sadly; poverty and dissolution too. You can see all of Blackburn at once through our work at Prism.

Tell us about an artist you admire?

Recently I’ve been talking with an artist in Zimbabwe,  Masimba Mhwati, originally I was drawn to his sculptures;  repurposed boxing bags, hunting spears, cymbals, cricket or wheelbarrows components to form contemporary art works, but then I discovered his breadth of work across performance and his brilliant sound experiments.  His work reflects on post-colonisation, objects imbued with sacral qualities, tribalism and the residues left behind both physically and epistemologically by our histories.

My admiration comes from his intelligent reference points and the interconnectivity he creates between them, encompassing Zimbabwean politics, colonisation, found objects, localised dance, folklore, or sound residues. The ideology behind his work is really beautiful and emits this in his persona.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

I’m a creative producer and curator, I work closely with artist Jamie Holman and we recently formalised our shared work practice as Uncultured Creatives to deliver complex cultural commissions and art works. This derived from an expression Jamie used to describe cultural and creative occurrences that bubble up from unlikely places but didn’t set out to be art forms. Our work has explored lots of themes within that from illegal Congolese Block parties to Football Casuals to Morris Men.

I’m also a curator and Director at Prism Contemporary Gallery in Blackburn where we profile the work of emerging contemporary artists in a small industrial town.

Could you tell us what influences/inspires/drives you?

I’m influenced by people and happenings that deviate from the norm.

I’m inspired my conversation and connection.

I’m driven by a genetic workaholism passed down from my unique and lovable dad.

Is there a piece of work you’re particularly proud of and why?

We just finished the creation of a digital archive of Acid House in Blackburn for the British Textile Biennial.

It’s a social history piece called Flashback and saw us connect with people from that era over an 8 months period and record interviews of their personal stories. Jamie and I visited the BFI and watched short films by Blackburn’s first filmmakers; Mitchell and Kenyon last year; and have used them as a reference for the methodology we use for gathering archives, a reminder of the importance of uncultured creativity being documented. It could have been a difficult piece to pull off. Telling the stories of a closed community,  a scene you weren’t a part of; and also capturing a section of voices that represented over 10,000 people who attended these parties had to be done sensitively. Trying to make audio clips engaging presented another challenge – we feel like we’ve produced an archive that did the material justice and is much more than just a website sprinkled with audio clips.

What is your dream project?

Bringing an exhibition of the Wilder Mann by photographer Charles Freger to the UK. It’s a study of characters that still exist in wild ceremonies, from the Krampus In Austria to the Babugeri in Bulgaria. We travelled together last year to add English subjects to the series; including Jack in the Green and the Garland King ( a man on horseback disguised by a giant structure of elaborate flowers, who parades the village of Castleton once a year.) Gaining the trust of those involved in the Garland King and being granted access to take the image took over a year and a still and posed photograph of the subject is a rarity. Charles drove for 15 hours, for exactly 15 rainy minutes in a paddock, with a sugary mouthed horse and a rider who couldn’t see where he was going. The images have still not been exhibited or published but they are gorgeous.