Adam Szymczyk and Andrzej Przywara talk to Zofia Kulik.
Fragments of the interview edited after: Niech archeolog nie odkłada łopaty.
Originally published in Materiał, 1/1998
Don't Let the Archaeologist Put His Shovel Away
Andrzej Przywara, Adam Szymczyk: What is behind the juxtapositions you make on the micro-scale? They seem to me very strong and simple, for instance, the juxtaposition of the skull and the head of Mickey Mouse, or the pincers and human beings. It is a rather simple juxtaposition in terms of meanings.
Zofia Kulik: It is purely a pictorial poetry.
A.P., A.S.: "A coincidental meeting of a sewing machine with an umbrella on the dissection table?"
Z.K.: No, this is not coincidental. Then it would be pure surrealism. These are not surrealistic things from a dreamlike set, they are poetic juxtapositions.
A.P., A.S.: What kind of poetics is it?
Z.K.: In a sense it is simple, banal and trashy. The subtlety of this work is based on its multiplicity. I feel it is the great value of my work - that I am a talented organiser of very complex visual structures, while all the details are as simple as in a mere song about love, death, etc.
My whole work is based on the fact that I am permanently collecting and archiving the images of this world. The complexity of my work comes from the richness of my archive. This archive is visual information accumulated in large quantities, a kind of storehouse.
A.P., A.S.: Has this archive of photography been consistently accumulated since the beginning of the 1970s?
Z.K.: It is linked with a stance urging to document and archive everything, all manifestations of life and creation and my own, individual contexts. [...]
A.P., A.S.: It is linked with a stance urging to document and archive everything, all manifestations of life and creation and my own, individual contexts. [...]
Z.K.: I don't know. However, the archive is definitely linked to computer technology. The archive both facilitates and necessitates the introduction of order in various disciplines. The introducing of order into a certain set is a prerequisite, indispensable, of the entering of any set of data into a computer. The computer, or the Internet, requires the utilisation of a certain scheme of facts which we create or in which we participate and which can sometimes be unclear and complex. Please, note this contradiction. On the one hand we have being an individual, unique, irresponsible and a little crazy artist, and, on the other, the requirement of being communicative and the will to share information on often intricate activities and contexts.
I would find it very interesting when art historians, who feel the spirit of our times, tried to analyse the difference in technological, social and civilisation-related conditions between the contemporary world and the 19th century, which, actually, still influenced artists in the first half of the 20th century. The 19th-century myth of the artist, which is still valid for so many people, fits poorly into our contemporary world. The role and status of the artist in the situation of "artistic production", "production of images" and "exhibition industry" has changed. He is accompanied by mechanical recording and a certain surplus of information, now popularised as the so called "infotainment", accompanied by mass, media culture based on an accelerated change and novelty. It is said in the music industry that "the new sounding becomes the basis for a commercial success". We have not had things like that before.
A.P., A.S.: [...] What problems or doubts did you face when you started this entire archiving machine? Are you not horrified by the fact that everything else, everything outside the archive escapes you anyway?
Z.K.: I was archiving in the '70s because everything was temporary, ephemeral. At that moment this mania began: to document a thing and salvage it in this way. However today, my aims are slightly different - I do not document things which escape us because I realise that it is impossible to achieve a suitably good documentation of them. Even if I sometimes manage to make a document, I remain with the question "For whom?", "What for?" and "Who will later find it useful?"
A.P., A.S.: The question of the value of a document.
Z.K.: I can say that for me this document is very important; however, I can see that others have their own very important documents. Who is to judge whose document is more important. [...]
A.P., A.S.: At the moment, after you have decided to "make works of art" you do not use the existing archive only.
Z.K.: I started to create a new archive very intensely. I have arranged situations which I recorded. [...] My archive contains various categories of documented reality (as black-and-white photographs). There is a category of things already present: landscapes, architecture and ceremonies. There are also compositions which I have built before the camera myself. [...] There are also various real world events "borrowed" from the TV screen. Finally, there is also my work - perhaps the most important - with models of whom Gadamer says that they are "like performers of gestures, like dressed (undressed) dolls". I think a model with personality is more than a doll.
A.P., A.S.: And what part of it do you use in your large-scale compositions?
Z.K.: In categories of quantity it makes, I believe, one tenth, maybe a little more. This is only a fraction of the archive. [...] I think that when I use these images en masse, I weaken their impact. I act against the power of particular picture. However, this is not the point. I deal with visual epic. It is a wide stream of narrating, but not linear narration when one sequence precedes another. What I build is rather reminiscent of a map on which I provoke clashes of various visual facts.
Adam Szymczyk, Andrzej Przywara; may 1997