During a 2009 research trip, Lockhart met a nine-year-old, Milena Slowinska, who became something of a muse for the artist. “When she was 12, Milena was moved into different homes, and she ended up in Rudzienko in 2013,” said Lockhart. “I developed workshops for her and her friends at the center because she told me she wanted to write a book about her life.” Those workshops led to “Milena Milena,” a 2015–16 exhibition at Gladstone Gallery, and Lockhart’s 2016 film Rudzienko, which was exhibited at The Arts Club of Chicago.
The ongoing relationship continues inside the white-stone Polish Pavilion in Venice, where Lockhart has on view a stack of translated Little Review papers and photographic and filmic portraits of the Rudzienko girls. In addition to making periodic visits to see the girls in Poland, and organizing regular workshops for them, Lockhart also involved them deeply in her research of the groundbreaking kids’ paper. (They helped her select specific issues for the pavilion.)
Four large-scale photos in the pavilion show two of the girls reading original copies of the paper. An accompanying film features eight of them in a black proscenium space. In one scene, five girls, dressed in casual clothing (a Justin Bieber t-shirt, a sweatshirt with “Brooklyn” emblazoned across it), act out gestures and repeat words—“Love,” “Hate,” “Hope,” and “Cry”—that they selected from letters they wrote to Lockhart.
In another scene, a girl plays the piano while staring confrontationally into the camera. And in a third vignette, three girls dance ecstatically, the footage slowed down to capture in more detail their expression of empowerment and joy.