WOJCIECH BĄKOWSKI'S WORK «WATCHING AN IMAGE WITH THE AID OF SOUND»
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On Sunday 3 February 2013, at 3 p.m., a preview was held at the Fryderyk Chopin Museum of Wojciech Bąkowski's work Watching an Image with the Aid of Sound, part of the cycle Six-Line Stave. Audio-Visual Interventions, launched in the autumn of 2012. Thus far, the cycle has also brought to the Fryderyk Chopin Museum works by Konrad Smoleński (Mold), Leszek Knaflewski (Sit down and fight) and Daniel Koniusz (Works).


The cycle Six-Line Stave features works by six young artists referring directly or indirectly to the person of Chopin, issues relating to museology, our watching and listening habits, the problems of contemporary life and the interpenetration of art and life. The installations are placed in "marginal" (non-display) spaces in the Museum, such as stairs, footbridges, recesses and corridors.

The managing curator of the project is Maciej Janicki, curator of the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, and the artistic curators are Leszek Knaflewski and Daniel Koniusz.

Two more previews in the cycle will take place on 10 and 24 February 2013 (Sundays) at 3 p.m. We hope to see you there!"

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Using sound to help us look at a picture is nothing new. We always draw on other arts to help us understand a particular work. We also use science to help us understand art – and vice versa. In the preface to his book The Lightness of Being, the title of which was inspired by Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the world-famous physicist and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek writes:

 

Of course Kundera’s approach to […] problems, through story and art, looks very different from the one I’ve taken in this book, through science and (light) philosophy. For me at least, coming to understand the deep structure of reality has helped to make Being seem not merely bearable, but enchanted – and enchanting. By drawing on other fields of knowledge, we understand better – more fully.


Syncretism has been present in art forever. Music in ballet helps us understand the dance; music in opera helps us understand the text and the emotions it contains. Film music helps us immerse ourselves in the action, and was particularly crucial to viewing silent films. Similarly, words can help us listen to music.

For centuries, Western European music valued works with a text more highly than purely instrumental music. There was a time when music wanted to be as vivid as a picture, hence the ‘tonal painting’ that imitated reality, the musical battle scenes, the storms in sound, the theory of rhetorical figures, and the theory of the affects, employing a catalogue of emotional states which music was supposed to arouse almost scientifically… and the nineteenth century produced hundreds of pages of literary programmes appended to works – al. just to help us to ‘see’.

 

But with Bąkowski, there is no picture. Just white.

[Agata Mierzejewska]

 

The work Looking at a Picture with the Aid of Sound is a kinetic object. It consists of a framed roll of paper, a contact microphone, a loudspeaker and an electric motor. A broad paper panorama, forming a sort of conveyor belt, moves slowly along on a horizontal plane, and the miniature microphone affixed to the framework remains in contact with the paper and amplifies the delicate sound of its rubbing.
The object is a model of a sensory situation. The movement of the paper expresses the action of sweeping a space with one’s gaze. The sound from the speaker helps to fill the void, the sense of which is heightened by the lack of any content on the moving paper.


In the metaphorical sense, my work refers to the question of influencing the reception of events by means of music. This concerns al. music that is able to attach itself, in our associations, to some image, event or inner experience. In Polish awareness, a special place in this respect is occupied by the works of Fryderyk Chopin. Those works, often performed and played back in public, fill the space within which we sense solemn, sad or dull moments. They can be heard on state occasions, at funerals and on answerphones. The last example best corresponds to the thrust of my work. Filling those places of the soul which, left vacant, might carry a person in the wrong direction is one of the tasks of an artwork. Music often shows us how we are supposed to feel. In my object, the unadorned sound reinforces the grey homogeneity and monotony of the landscape.

[Wojciech Bąkowski]

 

In the work presented at the Chopin Museum, the author of Spoken Films utters not a word. In this artist’s output, the word is usually cast forth spasmodically from the depths of a faulty (sub)consciousness. A word uncouth and veracious. Not deformed by convention.

In Looking at a Picture with the Aid of Sound, he has proposed a radical reduction. His work suggests a picture on a wall. A white framed picture depicting nothing but itself and referring to nothing other than itself, evoking the modernists’ considerations of the limitations and specificities of depiction – of ascetic abstraction, which declares that it is nothing besides the materiality of canvas and paint. The speaker attached to the frame is a delicately ironic reminder of the topos of painting, which lacks just a voice to be the ideal imitation of nature.

Bąkowski’s intervention suggests a kinetic object-image. In op art, however, artists have turned to visual appeal, treating sound as a side-effect and focussing on the distinctness of geometrical forms and on optical illusions obtained through their movement. Bąkowski’s work is dominated by uniform movement, but it does not trigger an optical illusion, bidding us look at the margins or at what is not there. And having us listen to the marginal.

The sound in Looking at a Picture is, like the rolled white sheet of paper, radically reduced. It would be difficult to find a more primitive sound than rubbing. The rubbing of the microphone on the moving, visually ‘zeroed’ paper resembles the sound carried by a record-player needle before or after the music. Perhaps it is a seismograph or a drawing machine, in the spirit of zen? Or perhaps
a gramophone for listening to the texture of paper? No line appears, though the sound of abrasion is present – an instantly vanishing acoustic trace against the intentionally recorded – though in this case absent – visual trace.

In Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961), Robert Morris placed a speaker inside a minimalistic cube-shaped object, playing back the sounds that were produced as the box was being made. Bąkowski’s work speaks in sound of its continuous becoming in the eyes/ears of the viewer/listener. It becomes a catharsis of the eyes and the ears.

[Maciej Janicki]