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Give color to circumstances.

  • Jun 09 2022
  • Matylda Krzykowski
    is a designer, curator and artist focusing on collaborative and performative projects in physical and digital space. Krzykowski’s work is introspective, as it explores and experiments with the inner mechanisms of design, art and architecture. As such, her projects dissect the design process to its different stages – from material and personal origins, to methodologies and education; from networks to social projections, and the spectrum in between.

My family is from Świebodzice, from Polish Lower Silesia. We fled to Germany shortly after the state of war in Poland, shortly before reunification, in a borrowed Polonez specially designed by Fiat for the Polish market. The car was bordeaux, a color that my parents still describe as exceptional. Because in the isolation and weak economy of the communist era, there were only monotonous, natural colors like beige, grey, dark blue and brown. My parents say a common saying in Poland was: "Color costs!"

A common saying in Poland was: "Color costs!"

After the first few years in Germany were characterized by the challenges of being migrants and being overwhelmed by everyday capitalist life, my parents bought a used Atari computer. The device was a small beige box that connected to an external twelve-channel keyboard. It turned the Atari into a TV. This opened up an expressive, expanded world for me that I had never known. In American series like The Bill Cosby Show, I discovered how an extended family in New York lived in a house that seemed the hugest domestic place in the world to me. Each of the inhabitants had their own extraordinary room (while I shared a room with my older brother until I was 12). Everyone wore eccentric clothes that I had no words for yet. When the seven-year-old daughter Rudy Huxtable showed up in a bold colored shirt, I was speechless with excitement. My mother explained that it was the color pink. Never in my life have I seen something as saturated. Shortly thereafter, my mother wore lipstick in a cross between the bordeaux I knew and the new pink. I recall that our neighbor Tanja sometimes wore bold lipstick too. She was also my piano teacher, a Volga German who came to Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia from the Ukraine with her Kazakh husband Abraham. The musician couple lived on the first floor of our Plattenbau, a prefabricated building. Once my parents decided that my brother and I should learn to play the piano, Tanja came to the 4th floor once a week. Tanja, Abraham, and their two sons became part of our new extended family. 

Almost 30 years later, through the frequent reports from Ukraine today, it becomes clear to me again how much the image of today's Eastern Europe is colored by the West. The West is always intensely saturated, full and alive. The East is often depicted as pale or grey. Does color depend on economic possibilities?

The Lipstick Effect comes to mind, an effect that operates largely below conscious awareness, a term used to describe the sudden increase in demand for lipsticks triggered by crises, often of an economic nature, and always of individual demand. The lipstick is accessible. The lipstick aims to distract from difficult circumstances. Only now it occurs to me that the peculiar shade of Tanja's lipstick is called Malve. It was a reddish dark purple tone. It was very particular, gentle and welcoming. And also soft but convincing.


Things Might is a column about the designed environment and how it sometimes becomes, often hurts, occasionally explodes and usually takes by Matylda Krzykowski. She thinks war changes color, too. It changes people, cities, goods and habits.


    Matylda Krzykowski with her mother Hala Krzykowski at the initial reception facility in Unna-Massen,
    Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and Central Immigration Authority in Nordrhein Westfalia, Germany, 1986



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