Sharon Lockhart at FACT, Liverpool

When a nine-year-old girl’s strong character began to shape a work in progress by artist and filmmaker Sharon Lockhart, it was the unlikely beginning of an ongoing creative collaboration – whose latest results can be seen in a new commission for the Liverpool Biennial.

In 2009, when Lockhart was filming Pódworka, focusing on the lives of a group of children in Poland and how their imaginations transformed the urban courtyards in which they played, a child named Milena became a strong influence on the film’s making, Lockhart describing her as “a sort of impromptu assistant director, instructing the other children where to stand, what to do, and where to move within the frame.”

Known for creating film and photography portraying often overlooked subjects in everyday life, Lockhart’s practice is underpinned by a commitment to immersing herself in new environments and building intimate relationships with people and places. Perhaps the most significant of these is her continuing friendship with Milena, who is now 15 and living in a Polish orphanage. Three separate aspects of their collaboration are now featured at FACT, in Lockhart’s first UK solo show. Two separate photographic projects are being presented as well as text-based work and a new film which has been commissioned by FACT, Liverpool Biennial and Kadist, San Francisco. It is currently in production and will premiere at FACT on October 17.

“During the course of the Liverpool Biennial, my intention is to create a manifesto for children that demands their voices be heard,” explains Lockhart.

For this latest project, the filmmaker lived on a farm close to Milena’s orphanage with a small production crew and a group led by philosopher and education expert Bartosz Przybyl. A group of 12 teenage girls from the orphanage attended philosophy lessons, discussions and dinner at the farm, to encourage thinking around life’s big questions and celebrate the often-disregarded voice of the child.

Lockhart will use this process as the material for the new film. She said: “Through this film as well as the events that it documents, I hope to encourage a world for children that emphasises ownership, openness, and freedom in speaking.”

Running alongside is a series of films selected by the artist which explore themes of children’s agency and selfhood, as well a programme of events, talks and workshops.

The 8th Liverpool Biennial Exhibition, A Needle Walks into a Haystack, is curated by Mai Abu ElDahab and Anthony Huberman. It is taking place across the city at venues including public spaces and galleries such as The Old Blind School, the Bluecoat, FACT and Tate Liverpool. Also featured are the Bloomberg New Contemporaries, the John Moores Painting Prize and shows at the Open Eye Gallery and Liverpool John Moores University’s Exhibition Research Centre.

Sharon Lockhart, 5 July to 26 October, FACT, 88 Wood Street, Liverpool, L1 4DQ,

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1. Still from Podwórka (2009). Courtesy of FACT