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More aware of his own choices: Piotr Saul, Erasmus Generation

fot. Krzysztof Kuczyk
“Erasmus has turned out to be a great success and an opportunity for artistic, spiritual and personal development. It has helped me open up and gain experience, from which I draw in my everyday life. Thanks to it my works are simply better”

Piotr Saul, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław and a versatile artist who uses sound, image and movement. A former member of a popular Me Myself And I band. Street art is his favourite form of arts. He has staged his own exhibitions, vernissages and murals. A laureate of Grand Prix of the Biennial Exhibition of Young Arts in Wrocław.


Sending institution: The Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. Host institution:  Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig in Berlin (Germany). Academic year: 2008/2009.


You could be described as a one man band – you do painting, music and street art – and yet you decided to carry out an Erasmus mobility. What motivated you to go abroad?


Above all – the curiosity of the world. I was keen to know how people create in different countries and how they manage. As soon as I heard that there was a chance of carrying out a mobility with a grant on top of that, I decided I could not fail to grab this opportunity. Organising something like that on my own would have been costly and time-consuming. The Erasmus programme office and the main office of my HEI settled the bulk of things, there were not many formalities and all issues relating to the mobility were discussed one by one – in order to avoid stress abroad. Everything was very well organised. In Germany we had an on-site tutor. He did not have to do much work on me as I coped very well with everything but it was good to know that a person like that was there for me at all.


Looking back from the perspective of time and artistic as well as professional experiences, what did you gain through Erasmus?


I am sure it opened my mind to a lot of ideas, but also to people and their culture. That was an experience that developed me artistically, spiritually and simply made me more experienced in life. I think that this mobility was a bull’s eye. It was there that I encountered conceptual art in a completely different form than in Poland, which in itself was very enriching.


Is there anything that surprised you about the Polish and German education system being different?


I was struck by the easiness of access to teaching aids there. You don’t waste energy on getting yourself equipment and whatever else is needed to create a work. You spend your energy on creating. Everything is within reach – I go, I borrow, I act. That is something often missing in Poland. I was also able to get all sorts of equipment at the media library: film cameras, video equipment and if necessary – even as many as ten TV sets, allowing me to create something that I would stand no chance of making in Poland – our country has no funds for that. Another thing that surprised me was the approach to students during classes. There is no problem with one-to-one tutorials, group meetings are also organised, and during them everybody delves into an issue. I found this helpful, so much more effective than solitary experiments. On top of that conceptualism was a very strong domain there. Every morning I was happy to be going to university and to be making the most of it. And I was, from morning till night. I spent that time in a really active way. In Poland I needed two years to do what I did there within half a year, my effectiveness was simply much higher. Thanks to that you can learn a lot more and you assimilate knowledge much faster.


You dealt with students from different countries and continents; did you manage to learn anything new from them?


I learned through contact with their works. I had friends there, as well as people with similar interests, with whom I spent a lot of time. This is enormously enriching: it lets you understand how others see the world, it teaches you openness and helps you open yourself up. I also started paying attention to the quality of products being created.


What is most worthy of recommending to young people only now taking up their Erasmus challenge? What would you advise them?


Above all – they should not fear as they have tremendous support there – Erasmus will help them if there are any problems. During mobilities you can see and visit a lot. The stay-at-home kind of people are missing a lot. If young people want to raise their awareness and be more open, or to learn something new, they should embark on that adventure. For all of them this will be a great thing, one of those you remember for the rest of your life.


Does Erasmus have any influence on what you are doing now?


Yes, it was in the course of my Erasmus mobility that I was confirmed in my decision to become an artist; that doing what I am doing is worth it as my work attracts people’s attention, they accept and feel it. I decided to become who I started becoming there.


Are you in touch with those you met during your Erasmus mobility?


My Erasmus contacts go on, once a year we meet in Germany or Poland and share our interests and observations.


Are you planning any forms of artistic professional mobility? Exhibitions abroad?


Yes, I have such plans.


Now, however, you are transferring your foreign experience onto your artistic activities in the country.


After my return, the quality of my works has improved as it is there that I understood to what extent the quality of work is indicative of the author’s professionalism. Erasmus helped me open myself upand gain experiences of which I make use every day.


Interviewer: Łukasz Smogorowski, Foundation for the Developmnent of the Education System, Erasmus+ Eurodesk Poland