Regardless of whether it is of visual or semantic character, the language of our communication is characterised by the possibility of translation. A message translated into another language extends the boundaries of its influence, persuasion and anxiety caused by a lack of response. Speaking of the language of visual arts, we are aware of the constant creation of new rules of communication and new norms of visual grammar. There is a problem of language located beyond the communicative functions in their traditional sense. Shaping the field of communication, contemporary art sets requirements that challenge stereotypes by replacing them with a chance for understanding on the terms created by the sender. One of his/her tasks is to pose a question to which answers are sought by recipients, who find a new role for their presence in the space of art.
The memory of substances
Komasa’s bipolar object makes it possible to observe the relationship between material reality and its reflection or an afterimage based on the fleeting, often illusory and ambiguous memory of the matter. The artist confronts the formable, submissive matter of white quartz sand with a significantly larger water surface, which invariably returns to its basic state in response to an external gesture. The materials on which the meaning of this work is based differ by what I would call the memory of substances: sand records the trace of our gesture and water forgets about it after a while. We find these differences in everyday life in a shadow of a figure on the water surface, a stone thrown into the water or a footprint left on wet sand. The difference between a message and its translation can be the source of a new reality like a shouted word translated into the silence of sign language. What I mean is the communicative and translational aura, which requires a description of the transmission mechanism and, going further, a space shaped by a double object, which fantastically uses the phenomenon of asymmetry that connects energies resulting from differences, similarities and analogies.
Describing Komasa’s work…
When describing Komasa’s work displayed in the Art Gallery in Mosina, I pay attention to the profile of the monumental, geometric form, sharply outlined in the twilight, which forms the basis of a water-filled reservoir placed at a height of 110 cm. Its surface forms a 320 cm x 220 cm water surface dominating in the gallery space. The other, smaller form is topped with a 60 cm x 40 cm tank attached at a similar height and filled with white quartz sand. The rectangular surfaces of sand and water, placed nearby but beyond the strict geometric order, are connected by a huge steel pantograph placed under the ceiling, which enables transmission of a message from one area to another. A steel pin fixed on its arm enters the quartz matter like a graver. This participatory tool has been prepared by the author for a viewer who, according to the concept of this work, has a chance to abandon the safe and recognised function of an observer to take up the mission of a drawing person and, consequently, initiate the process of sending messages into a different material, ideological and semantic reality – each of them.
Translating words and signs into the language of close presence
What is this third element? It can be called a lever that connects variability and allows the contemplation of difference and the flow of energy from one sphere to another. The task of the lever treated as a simple machine is to obtain greater force by applying less force. Komasa’s pantograph monumentalises the sign, despite the small scale of its original image drawn by the viewer. The leverage effect has been artistically reinterpreted. The lever is only part of a much more complex organism. The pantograph, as a precise drawing device, transfers the sign to the scale of another reality, enabling the reception of multiplied information. The pantograph also has another meaning, which is not explicitly applicable in Komasa’s work. In my opinion, however, the reference to the pantograph as a current receiver in electrically powered vehicles makes a lot of sense. Thinking about the reception of energy and not a graphic sign is fully justified. I would say that the message drawn on the sand is transferred to the water surface in energetic and not only graphic terms. Accepting the energy of the sign, the water distances it from material reality in favour of the energy of momentary reflection and rubbing against its surface. The function of material recording is only a moment because the water surface marked with the brass graver returns to the form of a still, blank card. The popular saying ‘written on water’ is fulfilled in a wise and profound discourse on the basic meanings shaped in the space of interpersonal contacts. It is created by the need for understanding and the related ability to translate words and signs into the language of close presence. The transmitted message touches the intimate sphere, resembling whispering and touching rather than screaming and striking. I recall Canetti’s statement: ‘Due to photography, a reflection has lost its meaning’.
It can be said that Komasa’s work revitalises a reflection and an ephemeral sign as a sequence of current thoughts. There is no time set aside for the future and the communicative effectiveness is determined by the current moment, a fraction of a second, after which the recalled image is blurred.
The assumption of this work verifies the subtle message perceived as subliminal information, an afterimage confirming the unexpected, even temporary memory of the matter. This is precisely the reflection that Canetti speaks of. In addition to its strong structure, Komasa’s pantograph also has a significant aesthetic value and plays a fundamental role in defining differences between the two areas. The key to understanding the meaning of the difference is the apparent analogy of two vertical elements placed on the opposite vertices of the pantograph. Here I mean the steel graver – a guide installed on a rigid arm above the surface of the sand and the analogous one located at the opposite end of the lever above the water surface, except that the latter is suspended on a rope that reacts to every movement of the arm according to the laws of physics. Thus, this swinging pendulum takes time to set in a position showing a specific point. The ambiguity of the indicated and not determined place is another feature of the message that differs from the meanings formulated by the sender. We can talk about an unrecognised message which, on the one hand, hinders communication and, on the other hand, enriches its ambiguous meanings.
Viewers participating in the marking process.
I want to draw attention to yet another element of this work – an active viewer or viewers participating in the marking process. Their presence determines the specificity of using the active space of the Messenger. Let us treat Komasa’s work hypothetically as an object for one recipient, the one who, as the creator of the quartz relief, changes the place allowing him- or herself to receive the information sent earlier. It is a contemplative reception, focused on the analysis of differences arising in the process of translation. Another situation is related to the participation of several dozen people and a clear division of the space into the creator’s own space and the common reception space used by a group closing the access to the ephemeral message temporarily written on the water surface in a tight circle.
The Platonic idea
The reality created in the solid matter and its reflection in another space bring to mind the Platonic idea of reflected reality which is only a shadow of reality. Komasa’s Messenger is set in two realities, whose relations show a critical distance to orders governed by symmetry, balance or the resulting agreement. The causally coherent signs find themselves in a creative conflict of time and memory, because the identity of this sculpture is as liquid and changeable as the concept of the present time, which becomes the past as soon as it is recognised.
Searching for the ideological context of Komasa’s Messenger, I refer to her reflection contained in the question about the possibility of reflecting the subtlest, even inexpressible layers of a language. Perhaps poetry? Or perhaps releasing a language from its communicative obligations will prevent the modern Tower of Babel from collapsing? Perhaps it is a language that allows us to perceive meanings thanks to our sensitivity and tender observation, about which Olga Tokarczuk writes so beautifully. Perhaps positive intentions are an impulse to take the trouble of reading an unfamiliar language? Let us leave grammar norms and their correctness beyond the considerations about the search for a new space for communication.
Italo Calvino’s stories
In my opinion, an interesting and important context of this work at the level of ideas is the sequence of Italo Calvino’s stories contained in his ‘Invisible Cities’:
‘Thus the traveller, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other reflected, upside down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that the other Valdrada does not repeat, because the city was so constructed that its every point would be reflected in its mirror … The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Valdrada is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point. The two Valdradas live for each other, their eyes interlocked, but there is no love between them.’
I deliberately recall the Italian writer and thinker in the context of Komasa’s work. Her earlier works, such as Objects for Entering, undertake a fantastic dialogue with the philosophy and aspirations of the protagonist of Calvino’s short novel entitled ‘The Baron in the Trees’.
Bipolar nature of communication
The invisible signs are based on the variability of disappearing points, undergoing a constant process of revitalisation and the recurrent blurring of meanings. In Komasa’s work, the process of constant dematerialisation of a message has a fundamental reference to the bipolar nature of communication stretched between the power of whispering and the illusory power of shouting. An intimate message subjected to the mechanisms of modern social engineering can be found on the other extreme of interpersonal contacts as information or, colloquially speaking, news available to everyone, multiplied, enhanced by the force of uncontrolled multiplication, and soon forgotten by those waiting for a new message.
We are all responsible for the marking gesture
Komasa’s Messenger is precise information and, at the same time, an indication of a tool that makes everyone aware that we are all responsible for the marking gesture. Unaware of the power of the ‘unknown pantograph’, we can find the result of its operation in the form of the sign we create in surprising, often unfamiliar, undesirable contexts. This harmonious object contains a whisper of encouragement and a cry of warning against the chaos of uncontrolled meanings lost in the noise of a civilisation looking for its cultural identity.
Janusz Bałdyga 2021