Your Interview Karolina Halatek
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
My name is Karolina Halatek, I come from Poland and my journey into lighting started at the rather early age. If I would have to spot the period of my life that impacted me and later directed to be involved in the field of lighting I would say childhood. My father is a photographer and since I remember he was a member of the Polish National Photographic Association, generally as a child I didn’t like black and white photography but I was very excited by the frequent sideshows showed by the analogue projectors during the meetings of Photographic Association. Also, my grandfather used to makes films on super 8 film, that has been screened within my family circle. I loved all kinds of projected images, stories and even projected fairy tales. Meanwhile, still as a child I used to attend painting classes and got exposed to the history of art, which convinced me to choose creative industry as my future path. One day my father brought home a booklet from a Pink Floyd album called Pulse. The album itself had a pulsing diode and fabulous photographs of stage lighting, back then I was 14 and I was mesmerized. Poland was still in the early phase of democracy and visually quite greyish, so that kind of entertainment was absolutely unreachable and could only be imported. Since then I start wishing the impossible, but a few years after when I had to choose my higher education I decided to study at the department of Design for Performance where was a class of lighting design. The course was at Wimbledon College of Art, University of the Arts London. It came out that the tutor of Lighting Design workshop used to work with Pink Floyd. After my BA in London, I decided to continue my studies at the Media Art Department at the Academy of Fine Arts Warsaw which enabled me to travel for an exchange semester to study at the University of the Arts Berlin. Since I got to know that Olafur Eliasson started teaching at the Berlin University, it was the only destination where I wanted to educate myself. I participated in the workshops at the Eliasson’s institute called "Raumfurexperimente". My graduation piece was called "Enter Me" and it was a light, kinetic immersive installation. Two weeks after my graduation show the work was presented at the festival of light and design in Poland, since then step by step I started to design and exhibit more works.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
I’m most interested in works that are human-centric, hold a notion of open-interaction and are immersive. I like to create and luminous environment that invites viewers and shifts their perception. I put the emphasis to work in the context of a particular location and design the installations that are site-specific, linked to the architecture of the exhibition space. The reason why I’m into such aspects is that I want to gain the strongest impact on a viewer via most minimal means. Light is minimal in its form while providing a maximal impact and change. I want my works to reflect the nature of the light that is omnipresent, ephemeral, elusive, uncanny yet simple.
What project are you most proud of and why?
Each project had its own challenges and overcoming them was a great joy and relief. I can definitely say that I’m proud of all the amazing professionals who engaged in my projects and helped me the impossible turn to possible. One of those projects was Terminal, which was an outdoor large scale light sculpture commissioned for public space by the city of Gerlingen by Stuttgart, Germany. The work was a part of "Ascents" Light Art Festival by Kulturregion Stuttgart curated by Joachim Fleischer. The Terminal installation was inspired by the near-death experiences of people, who returned from unconsciousness, reported their experiences at the threshold of death. Based on the database available via Near-Death Research Foundation in Louisiana, USA, I was able to learn about the phenomena which is characterized by the vision of light. I treated Terminal as a contemporary monument of the medieval Memento Mori expression. The local viewers response was astonishing. The exhibition period was prolonged twice from 3 weeks to three months, with a constant queue of people waiting to get and stay inside the piece. I know that the project could only be accomplished by the collective and served the collective, seeing the beauty of unity and strength of collaboration was really empowering.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
Usually, the biggest challenges are technical and logistical. Creating large scale electric objects that need to sustain in particular conditions and be safe for people to engage with, is often a big venture. Frequently I feel like production is on the edge of a miracle or actually finalizes miraculously.
How does light inspire you?
Light inspires me each time I see it. I’m intrigued by the atmosphere it creates in my home, how the rays operate on the walls, in the garden on the plants and mostly in the sky, in the open air. I’m fascinated by the sky, by the airy colors that the light produces, by the glimmering shines on the water, inspirations are endless. In also into mystical visions of light reported by the saints, Biblical descriptions and the testimonies of ordinary. I do believe that the light is embedded not only within the natural world but also reflects the depth of human identity. Light is a phenomenal multi-dimensional mystery and working with such beautiful material I consider as a true honor.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Follow what excites you most.
Fine Arts, University of the Arts Berlin,
Media Art, Academy of Fine Arts Warsaw
“Light is minimal in its form while it’s creating an absolute impact on the atmosphere and the mood. In my works, I want to reflect the nature of the light that is transformative, phenomenal, elusive, uncanny and yet simple.”