Galeria AT


Alicja Kępińska

About taking the weight off celestial bodies


"Most often my writing endeavours consisted in taking off the weight. I was trying to take the weight off human characters, celestial bodies, cities... "This is how in his essay "The Lightness" Italo Calvino defines the nature of his literary output, his search for "antibodies", which would restore the closeness of literature and the world's phenomena to us, allowing us to overcome its inertia. Calvino recalls the myth of Perseus - the ethereal figure in winged sandals, floating on clouds and breaths of the wind: it was he who conquered Medusa's "stony" nature and freed the world from the unbearable weight.

The writer looks for images of lightness, which "subvert any weight". This aspect of subversion, this altered optic of perceiving the world, situates itself very close to the intention of art nowadays. Through the filter of such an optic things of the world become free from the frame of their substantiality and changed into phenomena. Built from "light", boundary qualities, processes of transgression, a sense of worlds not similar to each other (stone and feather) and from allusions to things rather than things themselves, art works disrupt our usual sense of knowing. We do not (and we should not) recognise all their semantic layers, especially as their tissue is constituted of elusive states - e.g. provoked by light, transparency, reflection - matter inclined to appear and vanish. The life of plots is unstable; their occurrences are accompanied by annihilating activities, constantly multiplied discordant signals, so that threads of scarcely started stories. split and evanesce to flare up unexpectedly in another space.

All this makes the ontology of the perceptible unclear. It is made up of assumptions, suppositions, presentiments, rising and fading away expectations, of dreams about the proximity of things but also the agreement for their absence. In terms of English grammar it would be an ontology founded in "subjunctive" mode with its "as though", the ontology which, based on moving territories with their slits and gaps, stays elusive, indecisive, unattainable.

The unattainability is a subtle form of absence, which, in some acute way, lurks in the heart of every presence. What "is not" exists even more intensely than what "is". That means, our attention and desire is directed not towards accomplished beings but towards the lightness of intangible territories. Within the area of absence the resonance of what is present can sound.

Artists conscious of the ontological metamorphosis of the world - the one which happens inside our sensitivities - move about on such territories; in-between spaces where the principle of gravitation abates and where the entrances for unexpected entities multiply.

Jacek Jagielski's works evoke such entities; they transform the nature of places and things. The artist constructs his pieces from materials simple in their obviousness - stones, planks, feathers, paper - but he introduces these elements into "ethereal" situations. Objects remain in tension, ready to move, strung up on the edge of physical laws, in not quite recognisable situations. Precisely in these situations the methamorpfosis of a stone into the phenomenon of lightness happens e. g. when a stone puts into motion a propeller made of feathers. In this way the essence of a piece is no more constituted by its physical appearance than by a transmutation of qualities, a surprising process concerning their differentiation (heaviness - lightness).

At another time a stone is suspended inside a metal spiral "the Bell" (despite the rule that "a stone must lie"). Striking against the spring the stone heart releases a chain of unpredictable, uncontrollable reactions, chaotic movements of whole objects and insuppressible sounds. "I do not understand it" says the artist, and it is this sentence which should not escape our attention. "Not-understanding" is not a lack of knowledge but a form of a different understanding of things and phenomena: consent for the area of mystery to be admitted. It opens the much-desired territory of cognitive silence, where our aggressive rationalism is subdued. In this silence we can hear another melody of the world.

The area of unpredictability filled with questions, doubts, trails of dreams and longings, opens to us in many of Jacek Jagielski's works. Is the piece with an enormous silver arrow a question about the direction of movement, about its correctness, about the speed in which the space is conquered, about time? We can only multiply questions expecting no answers except in the "subjunctive" mode.

These evocative works also generate the inexhaustible question about the domain of art. It is formulated discretely by "chess" figures, devised by the artist and set on the keyboard of a piano. They can be take off and put back; each reversion reopens and modifies the contours of art. A specific example took place in the room of a closed down cinema. In his installation the artist filled the space with previously thrown away seats and cast a sharp, sweeping light on them, which was emitted by moving mirrors of a strongly lit object. The maddening radiance coming from the object and darkness of the room made the situation impossible to "be seen", while the area of the work was activated by its anattainability.

This syndrome of unattainability is also the gound for Andrzej Syska's works such as "Lumenophobias" "Lightspheres", "Aberrations". Light is the energy of these installations. Its flashes originate from complicated electric combinations, which make the source of light not quite identifable. Instead a hypothetical atmosphere arises which blurs borders between qualities. In "Aberrations" an object - a sculpted head hung upside-down and circulating slowly inside a box with holes and lenses installed in it - is transferred as an image onto the gallery walls. This gives a compelling impression of a face as if emerging from the wall; but it does not belong to the wall as it does not quite belong to the sculpture inside the box. It is neither a quality of projection nor a quality of a material object. But it is not an automatic phantom either; rather an ephemeral entity drifting between qualities.

The undefinable territory "in-between" is also an area where the artist situates his other works. In the installation meaningfully tided "Neither more nor less or more-or-less" the essence of tension is contained in what is absent. In this case it is the lack of some numbers within a given sequence. They pop up in another place and form (as a countable quantity of apples). The presence and lack of presence become the same, what "is not" is, but in a different way and place, and what "is" (the record of Roman ciphers) appears as a phantom caused by the projection.

The transformation of reality into a phantom constitutes also the base of "Chronologies". Here; in the form of slides, objects return mysteriously to their former positions, where they were photographed. Their projections are simultaneous. The chronology of objects is unsettled; each time the "history" has different beginning or it has neither beginning nor end. The presence of absent objects, their incomplete meanings, their ephemeral appearances and vanishings - all these generates an area evasive in its borders and qualities.

A particular disturbance of qualities manifests itself in the colony of flowers with petals made of aluminium spoons - a sort of self-steered laboratory where organic processes also have their part. It is made in order to grow a "Four o'clock" flower which Syska had heard about but never seen. "I saw this flower later" - he says. Before this, the artist composed a poetic anticipation of something he was not quite sure about.

Undefinable territories "in-between" are also the area where Zbigniew Taszycki situates his realisations. The artist is fascinated by interim conditions, fluctuation, ephemerality and light. His earlier works - textual games - were aiming to disclose the reflected reality (e. g. impressions on carbon paper). The motif of reflection penetrates his later installations, to which the artist introduces mirrors, light and reflections. Their intensive presence destroys the material aspect of objects and changes them into phenomena with a variable range of influence.

A particular kind of luminosity is expressed in works where a container with a layer of car oil occurs. Oil here represents fluctuation, ephemerality, but at the same time it is a sheet reflecting light - a liquid version of a mirror. In this way its heavy matter is brought to lightness, transformed into its opposite. The opposite is also a form of reflection. Besides, the shimmering light makes the position of the liquid surface unclear, unsettled. As a result we become unsure what sort of substance we are dealing with.

Equally intriguing is the matter of an earth mound covered with mirrors. The heavy mass of the earth dematerialises, converting itself into glitters of reflected light. The transformation of objects also changes the places in which they are installed: their measurements, shape, capacity, atmosphere, visibility. This happened at AT Gallery in Poznan, when the artist draw a black line along all its edges, except one corner where the disturbance took place - a shift of line from the quoin onto the wall. Light was further changed by painting fluorescent lights with black paint. It turned unexpectedly into a mist, an atmospheric phenomenon. The precision of black lines became diffused; light merged them into the sphere of vagueness.

Zbigniew Taszycki's objects and installations remain untitled. The artist does not want to fix the situations he creates. He prefers their nature to stay inexplicable.

"Art is a magic phenomenon, though nothing can be taken for granted" - says Tomasz Wilmanski, who perceives art as a "journey to the essence of matter". The artist installs objects, activities, sounds, voices and books within the space. He creates places of a discreet dialogue with the nature and the cultural context of pre-signs (e. g. "folk" decorative paper cut-outs with the motif based on the myth of Nymph and Narcissus) and also with form of our civilisation (architectural silhouettes, noise of the city). One of the paper cut-outs was made by pouring a pigment through a templet. Doomed to prompt destruction it became a sign of transitoriness. The whole work was additionally transgressed by recorded sound (croaking frogs, night birds hooting). This sound was also transformed into another quality (a frog made of pigment on the floor, a butterfly emerging from a French song).

These unexpected appearances, the alteration of qualities and plots give many of Wilmanski's works a character of surprise. The artist introduces things from different worlds, different layers of experience, into one space. These disjunctions and inconveregences become a source of sudden tension especially when elements of speech occur. Uttered phrases, the voice of a speaking person, a way of intonation, all compose an important part of these realisations. They function in different forms, they can express a snatch of emotion whose source remains unrevealed for us but which gives us a feeling of something familiar, something that happens also to us. It can be a phonic layer of language as in the installation where recorded words, the most rustling ones in the Polish language, composed almost exclusively of consonants, were confined inside quasi-architectonic objects. Words superimpose on each other creating a sound which is more than a language performance alone. Diffusion of this sound generates a condensed space, which is equally sensitive to touch as an architectonic container.

The element of the architecture appears in many of Wilmanski's works, often in the form of drawings on roof paper - monumental silhouettes of hybrid buildings (castles? sheds? tenement houses? factories?). These dark, flat silhouettes usually shine with a single window, sometimes they are extended by the "shadow" made of pigment poured on the floor. The artist does not conceal his fascination in a city at night with its gloomy contours. In the dark, the architecture loses its cubic character and is unexpectedly revealed by its flat surfaces. The condensed silence is its real space; it also constitutes the texture of the artist's drawings. "The essence of matter" which he tries to reach in his journey, turns out not to be contained within objects themselves but in the radiation of their ephemerality, in what has no name. There lies the source of magic which we sometimes call art.

text from catalogue “In-Between” Tallinn Art Hall, Estonia 1996
translantion: Joanna Hoffmann