Wojciech Bąkowski, Hours and Places, Pencil on board, 2017
Artists: Wojciech Bąkowski, Erica Baum, Constance DeJong
Hours and Places brings together works by three of the gallery’s artists, Wojciech Bąkowski, Erica Baum and Constance DeJong. Bąkowski’s drawings behind tinted glass, DeJong’s works on paper and re-engineered radios all weave fictions alongside the adolescent graffiti captured in Baum’s photographs. Baum’s gelatin silver prints reveal poetic patterns or accidental happenings where the idea of the “found” always remains in tension with the idea of the artist “trying to find”. Whether folding over the corners of book pages or photographing collisions in card catalogues, the poetics of the accidental are always aligned with the intentional.
The philosopher Søren Kierkegaard – known for a variety of devices which distance his writing from his presented text – asked how we distinguish the voice of God from a delusional hallucination. In the introduction to his first major work, Either/Or, (two volumes comparing an esthetic existence to a critically ethical one) he begins by explaining that he has found his text in the drawer of a desk:
”I do not know, but this I do know – a secret door that I had never noticed before sprung open… Here, to my great amazement, I found a mass of papers, the papers that constitute the contents of the present publication.”
Baum’s photographic archeology of school desks are one of the artist’s first explorations into the confluences of text and image. Photographed in classrooms while the artist was in graduate school at Yale in the 1990s, Baum’s photographs are captures of day-dreams: students memorializing the liminal state of inattention as they etch their wandering thoughts into wood. Mushrooms and Greek letters appear in fields of slogans such as “Lego my Plato” or “Jen is a bitch”. Text and mark-making are not attributed to the artist, just as with Kirkegaard’s playful use of pseudonyms.
Kierkegaard’s dissertation was on the subject of irony. His first book, Either/Or, has four attributed authors. When the manuscript_ was delivered to the printers the various sections of the book featured different penmanship, just as though they had been found in a desk. Repetition, Kierkegaard’s autobiographical musing on love and time, was published under the pseudonym Constantin Constantius who relates his own thoughts alongside the story of a patient:
“Repetition’s love is in truth the only happy love. Like recollection, it is not disturbed by hope nor by the marvelous anxiety of discovery, neither, however, doesn’t have the sorrow of recollection. It instead has the blissful security of the moment.”
A recent work of DeJong’s fiction opens with a line about recollection –“My sleep, always so lively with visits from former boyfriends…”– voiced by an insomniac staring up at the night sky through a skylight. The sleepless narrator of DeJong’s radio works goes walking, frequency-hopping the night’s bandwidths. She begins forming patterns in the stars she sees. In the delirium of this action, the character finds herself writing without knowing what she is writing as the narrator’s hand scrawls “Oh Be A Fine Girl Kiss Me” (the words of a mnemonic authored by astronomer Annie Jump Cannon). Her asterisms and spirit writing gives birth to DeJong’s drawings: works on grounds of light and shadow with mark-making that explore and reference her narrative fictions. These works – which transcribe the imagined notes of female astronomers alongside the nonsensical musing of an insomniac diarist – propose the hand/writer as a kind of medium, or as a receiver of transmissions from the heavens, from history, from dreams. In the dissociative space between waking and dreaming, we are left seeking bits of recognizable writing or searching for coded signifiers, but are ultimately left with aesthetic conveyances. What sometimes looks like language in the drawings is only a ghost of meaning.
“At one moment it is the obscure emotion of the wish within him which awakens recollections, at another moment he awakens them himself; for he is too proud to be willing that what was the whole content of his life should be the thing of a fleeting moment.” –Fear and Trembling
The exhibition’s titular work, Hours and Places, is a drawing of a housing block by Bąkowski. We see it simultaneously from top, edge, and on angle. Framed in an isometric rectangle surrounded by a black scratchy void, the block is orbited by clouds and more than one moon, as though this block were the entirety of a world, and this drawing the totality of time. Much of Bąkowski’s animation, performance, video and sculptural work has a direct relationship to the Soviet housing blocks of Poznań, and his drawings are vignettes set in this landscape. Drawn with pencil on card, and set in frames with tinted glass (similar to the amber tint of the city’s tram windows) Bąkowski’s drawings are almost memories of things heard through window-frames, or perhaps sketches of teenage dreams. The tinted glass separates us from the drawing. This barrier asks us to read the works differently than how we would normally approach a framed drawing, seeing it here through darkened glass.
Kierkegaard used numerous tactics to undermine his authority as an author, and so – rather than simply contemplate what is said in each work – we can also discuss a methodology that ultimately places responsibility for finding meaning onto the reader. Though the works in this show document daydreams, or spaces of isolated reverie and recollection, they ask us to look for signifiers and establish meaning. We enter between the world of the author and the text, in a space that allows for a subjective freedom of interpretation and response, yet asks us to assume responsibility for seeing the multiplicity of angles that exist.
”I do not know, but this I do know–”
Press text: Andrea Merkx