Polish designers and artists are trained by public institutions in such a way that they find it difficult to collaborate and to take many perspectives into consideration. There is a lot to do about it on this market. Someone has to finally take care of it! – a conversation with Roma Gąsiorowska about her W-arte project and life philosophy.
Justyna Smolarczyk: W-arte Open Art Space is your original project. How did this initiative come about?
Roma Gąsiorowska: W-arte is the very essence of me, and the idea was born back when I was just a teenager. I never thought I would become an actress. I always considered myself an artist. I was fascinated with the model of combined arts, the interdisciplinary model. Jan Lenica, Tadeusz Kantor, Andy Warhol, Pipilotti Rist, Björk – those were my role models.
I wanted to combine art education with production and art-branding, and to create growth opportunities for young talented artists from the fields of fashion, design, and new media. I want to integrate that with cultural events and, on top of that, I want to introduce the philosophy of living in a big city and being true to yourself.
It is happening! W-arte has been here for 3 years but I have been working on this project for 7 years. I am a kind of a captain of a ship that has already sailed a part of its route. The condition under which the crossing can continue is having appropriate people on board. It is a great undertaking which is created on many levels. My goal is to make this project a global platform. The complexity of my vision results from its numerous pillars and from the fact that the viewer cannot compare it to anything that is already out there.
ph: Hanna Kantor & Malwina Sulima
J.S: Was being interested in different forms of art your way of standing out?
R.G: No, it was my way of expressing myself, a natural way to live. I had endless supplies of creativity that manifested themselves in many ways, which is why I treated everything as art. Art was expressed through my clothes, my hairstyles, and poetry, which I wrote at the time. I spend a lot of time in the art theater which I attended in high school. I would build stage design and sew costumes – this was the place where I belonged. I was fascinated by fashion history and I would design my own clothes. Piercings, tattoos, a shaved head – that’s how I was looking for my true self. During a trip to Germany I got hold of a green hair dye, which was not at all available here, and I was the happiest human alive! No one had the same hairstyle as I did! I did not consider other people’s opinions, I did not care about that.
It was the end of the 1990’s. Nowadays, it is natural for teenagers to experiment with their looks but back then it was shocking! The times have changed.
J.S. Your interest and fascination by, for instance, Andy Warhol and the idea of interdisciplinarity was transferred into founding Stowarzyszenie Twórców Sztuk Wszelkich (Eng. The Society of Creators of All Arts).
R.G: Around 12 years ago we got some space on Praga in Warsaw and we founded Stowarzyszenie Twórców Sztuk Wszelkich (STSW). The inspiration came from The Factory of Andy Warhol. STSW was formed by painters, musicians, actors, poets, directors, stylists, and photographers. These people were, among others, Dorota Masłowska, Magda Popławska, Krzysztof Skonieczny, Jan Komasa, Piotr Głowacki, Marcin Cecko, and Dawid Żakowski. We became trendsetters, an artistic boheme. We exchanged experiences and skills, we created a space where we could realize our visions in many fields and mark out new directions for art. I did the styling for photo shoots for magazines such as Machina and Existence, which do not exist anymore. The next step was to create theater costumes when I finally set up my own clothing brand “Stara Bardzo.”
That’s not all of it! On the side of these projects, I created Video art, I organized events and performances… I even had an exhibition of my works in a gallery in Poznań.
I never committed myself to any of these forms of art on such a scale that it would outshine my acting career, which, at the time, was skyrocketing. The Society could not last for long because we did not have any sources of income. Hence, we could not invest in our development. Each of us had to take care of their own art and be successful in the mainstream. We did it!
Now, I am coming back to the idea of W-arte, in a different form and on a bigger scale.
ph: Hanna Kantor & Malwina Sulima
J.S. In your opinion, what is it in interdisciplinary actions that is attractive for the audience?
R.G.: Breaking stereotypes and going outside the box. It is a difficult topic because interdisciplinary actions are still rarely understood in Poland… People seek lowbrow entertainment, they do not like things that are new, that they are not familiar with, and things that they have trouble classifying as belonging to a defined category.
J.S. Have you ever had a moment in your life when you wanted to give up acting for a wider interdisciplinary activity like that of Warhol’s?
R.G.: The Society was formed when I was still at university. During the first six years after I had graduated, I was playing in 5-6 films a year, and at the age of 30 I had starred in over 30 films.
In addition, I played in theater and TV shows, which was intense. I did not have time for anything else. I love this profession, even though it is not easy and is filled with sacrifices. Acting really fulfills me but it was never enough for me. Despite the very intense time in my job, I did not stop working on my passions and making them come to fruition.
When I started my own clothing brand and created a few collections eight years ago, I got to know the instruments of the fashion industry. I must emphasize that a few years ago, the fashion coming from independent designers was not popular in Poland. People’s demand and interest was significantly smaller.
Recently, people in Poland have become braver and tend to express themselves through their outfits. Observing this phenomenon, a seed started growing in my mind, an idea of creating a platform supporting young talents. Slowly, I started working on W-arte, and I divided the project into stages. Then, I got pregnant and, as a natural result, I stopped acting for a while. I used this time consciously and, six years ago, I opened an acting school, AktoRstudio. Then, I got pregnant again, and during my break I started preparing the W-arte project. Two years ago, we began with the first interdisciplinary production Płyń (Eng. Swim). It is a highly intense time, and it’s just the beginning!
ph: Hanna Kantor & Malwina Sulima
J.S: So you decided to educate the young ones.
R.G: Yes. When I was opening the school, despite my young age, I had acting experience which numerous actors had not obtained throughout their entire professional careers. There is nothing that teaches you more about being in front of the camera than experience. I took part in demanding projects, I got to know myself, and I created my own way of working that I decided to share with people. I convinced my colleagues, as young and experienced as me, to create an alternative to public schools. In our program, we focus on individuality and feeling safe. The students show amazing results and are accomplishing more and more spectacular achievements.
J.S: What artists do you collaborate with in W-arte Space? What traits does an artist have to possess in order to come onto the board of your ship?
R.G: It is difficult to specify the type of an artist. It is highly individual. The crucial thing is for this artist to be ready to collaborate, to be communicative and, most of all, to be open to implement projects with a commercial potential. Art does not exist without business partners. Fashion, design, new media – these are the domains that interest me. We run projects related to education and art branding. We work as a production house and a media agency. We co-operate with business in a very broad sense – from limited series dedicated to a specific brand, through happenings and cultural events, to campaigns and re-branding. We also organize international festivals.
W-arte is an incubator which supports young brands, shows them the know-how, and helps them take their first steps.
Polish designers and artists are trained by public institutions in such a way that they find it difficult to collaborate and to take many perspectives into consideration. Being able to connect the artist and the creative teams is the very base! There is a lot to do about it on this market. Someone has to finally take care of it, so I decided to be this person ;).
ph: Hanna Kantor & Malwina Sulima
J.S: W-arte is not only a space for creators. I heard about a philosophy of living in a city mindfully. What is it about?
R.G: Slow Fast Life is a personal philosophy on life that I have and that I want to share with people. This is why W-arte, apart from everything that we have talked about, is also a place which focuses on growth in many aspects: the body, the mind, and the soul. We want to bring people the tools of self-development, which enable them to become fulfilled and live in harmony with themselves and the world. Slow Fast Life means being able to mindfully combine living in a fast-paced world demanding a sense of responsibility, coping well with stress, being creative, facing challenges – combining all of that with inner balance and fulfillment, and the elements of slow life philosophy: being mindful, celebrating important values and priorities, maintaining a balance between taking responsibility and inner peace and strength. This is a philosophy which is needed to listen to yourself and be happily fulfilled in many aspects of life. Slow life – the ability to quiet your mind before making an important decision. I favor meditation in movement, getting quiet in doing. It is very difficult. Are you looking for peace and quiet in the chaos of a big city? Find it within yourself.
Translated by Laura Maliszewska
Photography: Hanna Kantor, Malwina Sulima
Creative concept: Malwina Sulima
Mua: Klaudia Jozwiak
Styl: Mateusz Koltunowicz