?Some Beacons?, shown at Slingshot Project in NY, NY, 2004.
The invention of the airplane was the greatest step forward man had made in a hundred years. The airplane would cut down the distance between nations and peoples. The airplane would be a great instrument in making people understand one another in making people love one another. The airplane was ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity and mutual understanding. Everyone would be friends when the airplane knitted the world together so that the people of the world understood each other. --Johnny Got his Gun, Dalton Trumbo
No matter how jaded culture seems to get the human species persists with a propensity for optimism, based on fantasy, that condemns us to our fatechnology. Looking on the bright side of capitalism has led to a crisis in the biosphere. Amidst the apocalypse that has already happened, because every civilization is doomed to fail, Radek Szczesny has chosen to manage decay and decadence with his first solo exhibition in New York City. The narrative of the show is dynamic in its vision, while coherent in its content. It is an existential slap against the heartless mindless drollness of rational systems that govern us.
The first wall of prominence is a series of 29 drawings, paintings, and pin holes alluding to the illusion of tranquility that enables every great artist to calmly have a blue period. Subtle as the ocean drifts everything dangerously interesting is unseen and unappreciated. Here are empty beds, satellite dishes, and sea vegetables that with self imposed interest and imagination sway off the medium and into our unconscious. The motive is good.
Radek?s work is that of a concise, gifted, or obsessed, craftsman who is virtually stoic in his commitment to progress: for he is, tragically, at heart a technologist. He believes at least tangentially in the perfectibility of man through work and its accidentscience. This classically modern ethic is implicit in his style and our civilization. Utopias have always served as conceptual beacons for optimists uninterested in the nihilism of bare reality. Maritime explorers built lighthouses and conjured romantic tales of mermaids to avoid the cynical perils of rocky shores and sirens that would sink their ships. Mermaids may have quelled the destructive manifestations of the libido, but it was the technology of the lighthouse that kept sailors alive and gave them perseverance through the fog of a storm.
The illusion of serenity constructed in this series of paintings contain all the elements of hope and disaster that culture has exposed and repressed while emphasizing the state of suspended adolescence necessary to perpetuate. Radek does not succumb to the childish temptation to reify the subject for political posture. Zen like in his innocence it is as if the chaos of manipulation doesn?t even exist, or more properly, is simply uninteresting.
The next dividend is a series of drawings of the challenger disaster. This is at once a memory from our childhood and a premonition of catastrophe. After a year of careful deliberation the U.S.A has decided democratically to phase out support for the International Space Station and build an office for the Dept. of Defense on the Moon.
As we are turned around by psychedelic planes and unexploded ordinance (golf cubes) some of Radek?s political ideas mature. Enlightenment is the hallucination. It never happened. Even though it surrounds us like ether. The Battle of Algiers has been poignantly re-released and I can not help, but paraphrase the intellectual of the Algerian resistance movement when he responds to a French journalist who said, ?Don?t you think it is cowardly to use baskets to bomb innocent civilians?? He responds directly, ?If you would be willing to trade us your airplanes we would gladly give you our baskets.? A basket is an indifferent technological artifact, just like an airplane. It is the motive.
Technology is the cause and the possible solution to all our problems. Planes may fly to Mexico, or they may spray Roundup? on grapefruits and butterflies, or bomb Baghdad. It seems almost childish and absurd, but essential to repeat this as many times as possible, nothing in our world is a priori good or bad for us and nothing is entirely good or bad. The beacons are innocent bystanders: simultaneously informing and being punished at random ad naueseum until the fight for public truth is lost forever despite the resistance.
The cynic may say do not interfere, the Bhuddha may say do not inter-fear because with eloquence of thought, trueness of virtue, and soundness of spirit we can somehow save the world. How much energy should we expend in a political debate with a psychopath? Time will pass, the apocalypse has already happened, so we can begin to paint and sing.
The unexplored ironies of political geography are essential to the fight against paradox. National boundaries are negotiated through force and the privileges of discourse. The artist articulates the denial of nomadism as an imperative and alludes to its affects on history. Lines are treated as immovable until they have been re-negotiated. These are the unmeasured consequences of idealism. Migration is necessary because occupied space will be destroyed by the unintended forces of progress. Drawing political lines drenched with horror and blood assorting them into an epiphany, Radek plays with the imposed boundaries of the conquerors and the helpless nation projects of Iraq and Afghanistan.
After unbinding the nonsense of terror, Radek went through all the trouble of building his guests a picnic table with two arbitrary holes in it. They may make the structure of the table vulnerable or they may serve to let a flower grow uninhibited from beneath. This is the indifference of organized matter served with a book of poetry. The constructive properties of failure that distribute culture is difficult to digest at an art opening. I can?t remember what came after, probably a conversation about the mile high club, or a book about the best airport to be stuck; while Ariel Sharon quietly builds a wall around Israel.
-brad lauretti: january, 2004
ED Note: You can see the work of Radek Szczesny here: Radek Szczesny