Hannah Polak

Interview by Mirthe van Popering

This Saturday our resident artist Hannah Polak will take the initial leap into an artistic exploration that is torn between the vulgar and the mythical, between surface, depth, and everything in between. From 14:00 on she invites you to join a film screening of Disney classics, including Peter Pan and Pinocchio. To give you a first impression of the project, we spoke to Hannah about her fascination with human psychology and the greater questions of life.


Who are you?

I am Hannah Polak and I live in Amsterdam with my super hot boyfriend Kevin and our rabbit Brixton Oats Ichiroh. Ichiroh means firstborn son in Japanese.

Can you briefly tell us about the project that you will be working on during your residency?

I’m planning to build a holy statue that stands for tranquility and softness in a fabricated pop cult driven world where we have to deal with dishonesty and fakeness.

You seem to be very interested in unconvering the mysteries of human psychology and the essence of our behavior. Can you explain what draws you to these themes?

Well, first of all it’s just something that stands out to me. Once I’ve noticed an action that potentially clarifies human behavior, my mind just starts unraveling it, whether it’s complex in form or a small gesture. It’s the critic in me.

Also, I like to learn about myself in that way, because I seriously believe that self-reflection is the key to salvation. I’m starting a new psychotherapy session soon for instance, and I’m totally looking forward to it. I feel super blessed to be able to grow and learn as a human being.

How do such existential themes and questions translate into your artistic process?

I like to keep the vibe light, so it’s not per se something I want people to be confronted with. That’s just not how I roll. But I do see it return in my work when it takes on its own life and identity. It’s super nice when that happens.

First I just flow on intuition and then suddenly in the process, the work can provide a mirror and make visible why I made certain decisions. It can help to get a better understanding of the existential stuff I’m working with in life.

For this project you concentrate on spirituality and popular culture, intersections of the holy and the vulgar, what makes these dichotomies so interesting for you?

I think the holy and the vulgar are very much intertwined, yes. Vulgar holiness and holy vulgarity. But I’m not so sure if that counts for spirituality and pop culture. I find it interesting how pop culture has caused an immense need for spirituality in the West. The fact that we yearn to get closer to our cores and our real selves illustrates the gap between our instinctiveness and our concept driven world. It’s fucked up, but also fascinating to see how it tears us apart.

You work intuitively and seem to embrace ideas that cross your mind along the way, gathering all these different impressions. Is it like that, or is there also a clear direction that you are heading to?

There is this atmosphere that drives me that is most clearly explained as colors, vibes, attitudes and sounds together. They are super abstract concepts but just as clear to me as concrete shapes, and they are everywhere. Human beings can carry them, but also objects like bikes, food or shoes. To answer your question, I do have a clear direction that I work towards in an abstract sense but it’s never a solid shape.

What other media are you planning to explore during your residency?

I’ve been working on a solo music project for a while now, which would be really nice to incorporate into the process, as it deals with the same topics as the theme of the residency. Other than that, I’m just going to embrace everything that comes to me and be open to what the project asks of me.

Visitors are welcome to drop by the project space during the entire running time of the project, Wednesday through Saturday, from 12:00 to 17:00.

The residency program of The Art Department is supported by the AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts).

The Art Department Residency: Hannah Polak
1 April 2015 – 31 May 2015
Wednesday till Saturday from 12.00 to 18.00
Da Costakade 150, Amsterdam
Free entrance forever