Happy Family, a home counselling centre

Curatio: Zofia nierodzińska
Location: Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań

Fragment of the curatorial text:

The photograph shows a family, from the left: Karolina, her two years older brother Filip, grandfather, father Sławomir, and mother Aleksandra. They are sitting around a white tablecloth-covered table eating a meal. In the background, on the wall, there’s a monidło, i.e., a coloured wedding photograph, depicting the grandparents at, probably, the best time of their lives. Everything appears to be exemplary, festive, even – no Polish politician would hesitate to show off such a family on their election posters. This photograph opens the "Happy Family Project" website, set up by the artist Karolina Balcer for research purposes. The focus of her investigation are her loved ones, and the starting point – a desire to comprehend what her family has endured over the last several years – ever since Filip sought help for addiction, received a double diagnosis (substance use disorder + schizophrenia) and periodically battled homelessness; ever since her parents became experts in the field of co-addiction, and she herself experienced depressive episodes.

This typical Polish family is fighting addiction, co-dependency, homelessness, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder – and none of this is visible in the photograph. What often escapes the frame is indeed the subject of Balcer’s work. The artist reveals family secrets that are often swept under the carpet. In order to do that, she employs knitting and tufting, turning family traumas into shapes: pillows with destigmatizing slogans, sweaters with practical answers to the most frequently asked questions, doormats displaying a cry for help, a carpet showing severed family ties, happy pills for everyday day, or a portrait of her father covered with a protective duvet-armour.


Challenging taboos associated with the subject of psychological conditions means that they can be discussed more often and gradually normalized, meaning that, eventually, there’d be less stigma attached to those living with them. The exhibition aims to produce and disseminate knowledge, as well as to encourage viewers to destabilize the existing, oppressive societal patterns. Its goal is to co-create a space in which living with trauma, co-addiction and illness doesn’t lead to marginalization, but adds an indispensable element of realism to the collective experience, also related to our functioning within the art world.

More on: https://arsenal.art.pl/en/exhibition/23640/

Translation: Joanna Figiel
Photos: Michał Adamski

The first of six photos documenting the exhibit of Karolina Balcer “Happy Family, a home counselling centre” at the Municipal Gallery Arsenal in Poznan. It shows four crocheted lampshades in orange, pink, yellow and red. Behind them on the wall is an entry with the exhibition title in Polish and English. The second photograph is a view of the exhibition, with a large orange lampshade made by the artist in the foreground. Its tassels hang down to the blue-painted floor. Behind it on the left are wooden chairs arranged in a circle and two carpet paintings made by Karolina Balcer. To the right is another carpet painting depicting a black, crying sheep. Below it, hand-made colourful pills lie on the floor. This is the view of the exhibition as seen from the entrance. On the left is a collection of jumpers knitted by the artist, on the right is a yellow carpet painting depicting a brain, behind it a speaker with an artificial plant and a bookcase with a TV. Opposite is a green sofa upholstered by the artist. It stands on a blue-painted floor. Further on is an orange lampshade, and at the end are chairs in a circle and a large carpet painting falling on an orange-painted part of the floor. This view of the exhibition shows the gallery space from a different perspective. On the right is a couch and behind it an image of a carpet with the word panic. On the left is a yellow-pink image of a brain and a section of the space with the floor painted green. The walls are covered with brown cork. On them are leaflets with information about counselling and advice centres in Poznań and the region. Above them is an oblong image depicting an overcast and serene sky. In the middle is an emoticon symbolising the sun. This image depicts wooden chairs with cushions on them. On the cushions are words in Polish embroidered by the artist that describe people in crisis in a negative, derogatory way: mad, crazy, hysteric, junky, psycho, etc. Behind the chairs is a carpet painting depicting joined bright pink hands and arms against a green background. The title of this work is 'Codependency'. The photograph shows a textile workshop led by Monika Winczyk and the Analog Group in the exhibition space. The people in the photograph are busy weaving. They are sitting on wooden chairs, a table with yarn and other materials stands in the middle. Behind them are two carpet paintings by Karolina Balcer.