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not exactly alive but not quite dead

October 2021

‘not exactly alive but not quite dead’

Solo performance and installation by Nina Oltarzewska


Nina Oltarzewska is a French artist, based in Belfast. She graduated in 2021 with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Belfast School of Art, receiving five Graduate Awards for the work presented at her Degree Show. Her cross-discipline practice includes sound, video, performance, sculpture and installation. Within the next few years she intends to pursue a Fine Art Master’s degree. 

Artist statement:

I am a multimedia artist whose work largely focuses on the constrained nature of the embodied state and its effects on the psyche. From the variety of visceral reactions to stress to the more mundane slow-burning bodily sensations that arise from anxious states, my work aims to normalise dialogue around these subjects. In my performance work, I write fragments of inner monologue on my face, neck and arms. I find that a ritualistic externalisation of thought makes others around me confront their own thought processes. I make sculptures that I tailor to human proportions, enabling the spectator to connect to the subject matter and project themselves into the work. When working in 3D, I use space to create an intimate, confined environment in which I play sound and/or video work, to involve both visual and auditory senses. I create an immersive experience for the viewer, where emotions can be felt without fear, in a setting that promotes healing. The notion of shedding is central to my practice. My use of latex to create life-like skins, my use of hair and plaster casts of my teeth all point towards a profound interest in representing the body in its entirety - unmoved by social expectations.
I enjoy studying the emotional responses to my work, how certain words, sounds and abstract shapes can elicit different feelings in my audience. In a society that creates the illusion of happiness via social media platforms, I want to bring attention back to how we really feel, in the hope of creating a more supportive environment. The goal is to build up momentum, until the work speaks to that glimmer of hope that we all somehow sense. I am fascinated by the concept of healing. We can, to a certain extent, choose to rewrite our pasts by speaking of them in a different light. There is a possibility of emotional growth, acceptance and even a certain kind of freedom that arise from the ability to talk about past experiences. I want to contribute to that process by making work that accurately represents feelings of despair that intertwine with inner peace.

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