The Economy of Art. Compression / Museum der Fotografie, Goerlitz, 2011
The work realized in a framework of the “Hallo Wrocław 2016. Meeting. Movement” Festival
Artists long and critics dream to objectify art, to give to onlookers a tool that would allow them to assess the meaning and value of art clearly and fairly – in particular, the value of contemporary art, in which the criterion of the relation to reality has lost its meaning.
Such an attempt to objectify post-conceptual art was made in the seventies by the Polish artist Zdzislaw Jurkiewicz in The Counted Images cycle. Not having a separate measurement system that would be appropriate only for the art, he used related spatial measure – a metre.
Similarly, the natural means of measurement for the sculpture seems to be weight, whereas for the video art – time. The Economy of Art is an attempt to analyse the matter of painting by using common scales, such as time, space and capacity. 40 grams of white, one litre of red, 15 minutes of gray. Looking at the picture in such a mathematical way has purifying power of abstraction, but it can also demystify its mysterious anti-utilitarianism.
So my suggestion goes further – I propose the creation of a new system for assessing the strength of the image expression. In this painting measuring system, represented in Duchamps, 1 Dmp is equal to 10 Cézannes and 1 Ce to 10 Monets. According to the specific characteristics of art works, the international committee should grant to all images the proper number of Duchamps. Is it possible to create a measuring apparatus that would serve these purposes, like a ruler or scales? The best seems to be a human, but this – of course – would exclude objectivity.
The Counted Images by Z. Jurkiewicz, so to speak, examine qualitative change in the absence of quantitative changes. The same amount of paint/a component constitutes a distinct visual impression. Using the same material in the same amount Jurkiewicz obtains various effects. This raises the question of the work identity and the legitimacy of disciplinary divisions. One metre of a scraped picture – shown as a pile of coloured pigments – is on the one hand still the same, but on the other hand it is something completely different. The rationally confirmed identity of flesh is defied by various senses. Visual experience speaks of the nonidentity of expression. The work has also a vanitas theme.
The problem of “counting” – the image compression – has gained a new context in the era of digitalisation. In computing, compression is important – large files are packed for storage and transmission. Inspired by Eugeniusz Smolinski's expression – “two images are twice as beautiful as one” – I yielded to the temptation of packing several images into one frame, by kneading, scraping and compressing them, so as to fit as many as possible. What matters is the concentration.