NAPIĘCIA I DŹWIĘKI - ĮTAMPOS IR GARSAI
1. Tricher un peu (Cheat A LITTLE) Il faut tricher un peu (one needs to cheat a little). This is one of the few sentences that Antanas Moncys spoke to me when I was working in his studio, and I remembered it the best. Antanas never influenced his students with the phrases like that or similar ones, it was simply his presence that made the impression. His sparing phrases were precisely addressed and often equivocal, but sometimes also mocking and unambiguous. Just like then, when I was looking with fascination at his elaborate carving tools: flex shaft motors for mechanical treatment. His mockery was mild, as he knew that I came from an ordinary country, just like his countrymen Lithuanians.
Antanas impressed us with his posture, his collections of works, a table which, during meals was covered with food and the usual carafe of wine… I was eating and looking at the sculpture of “Remaining Alive in Afghanistan”. Just like today: the war is the same, just the invaders have changed. A horse skull was one of the elements of his composition. Antanas enjoyed using bones as carving material: even if they were just horse or cow bones, they contained the power of our ancestors. Antanas made ocarinas and played them; Lithuanians came and sang in their unique style. I was watching and listening enchanted with the otherness, which was somewhat close. It was the otherness I associate with today’s border between Poland and Lithuania. That border seems to be gone, but it still exists. Since if there was no border, there would be no otherness either. There are crossings, but most of the roads end abruptly and disappear in the forest. I sometimes blasphemously thank the Soviet Empire for preserving that border, as, thanks to it, the roads end up together with their noise, which may just concentrate on the crossings. But one just needs to go a few steps aside to contemplate the silence. Why does one need “to cheat a little”? Is it because work needs finishing, and everyone who works honestly knows that perfection is impossible? Or is it because “one needs to drill deep for the truth, and all you can see on the surface is a drilling hole”? [Antoine de Saint-Exupéry]. Is it because the truth sometimes hurts and deception soothes and comforts? Am I not cheating for my benefit today, creating “Wspaks”, which make only a fragment of the Strip utopia? Am I not cheating for my benefit today, creating “Wspaks”, which make only a fragment of the Strip utopia? I created this analogy of the human condition to find a place in its image for a greater whole in times when greater wholes fall apart. The human condition is a constant duality, which creates the illusion only at the moment of breakthrough, the deception presenting the unity of the opposites. For words cannot rise higher than opposites.
Embrace it with sight and mind. 2. the strip Utopia Words cannot rise higher than opposites let them. We know that we live, as we have called death the opposite of life. And vice versa: death is obvious only because we define life as something happening from birth to death. The reality of the body itself, its material status, results from the excluding action of the spiritual principle of separation of the body from the mind. Symbolic is what puts an end to the disconnection and separation of terms, it is a utopia that reveals the topics of soul and body.
(...) In the course of a symbolic operation, both opposing terms lose their principle of reality. Symbolic (...) is an act of exchange (...) removing the opposition of the knowledge of the real and the imaginary [Jean Baudrillard]. The act of exchange takes place in the Möbius strip modified by me. My modification has changed its one-sided surface into two-sided for the major part. The exchange of one surface side with another takes place in a separate breakthrough zone. This turning and twisting point accumulates the tension that I transmit to eight strings. The strip now conceals the potentiality of sound which is both real and symbolic. The Strip Utopia now has its acoustic counterpart.
The ritual of initiation lies in the trial of death. Whoever passes this trial, can keep his soul in a totem, where it is safe and fearless. He can even wander the Strip road, meeting the souls of those who have passed away: Antanas Moncys, Jean Weinfeld, and even Jean Baudrillard whose concept of “symbolic” I used to present a model of a musical instrument, this analogy of the human condition. 3. The archaic Antanas’s works of art, both pictures, and small or large sculptures beam the archaic power. When I went to Lithuania, I was struck by the same archaic power radiating from every roadside sculpture, which in Lithuania sometimes acquire the form of very simple totems.
Most often, these are simple constructions made of logs, entire trunks, barely carved, just to give out what is inside. It is a double organic way of carving, including the organic material – the wood, and its organic usage. It is like magnifying the existing by adding something new. The fractal algorithm, commonly present in nature, excellently summarises the force that not only shapes the leaf and the crown of the tree, but also the coastline of the continents. Lithuania has a beautiful and scarcely inhabited nature, which is the source of the power of Lithuanians. There are so few of them that almost everyone has an opportunity to be exceptional.
Antanas, a tall burly man, moved slowly but deftly. His work in the studio located in Paris student campus consisted of activities that acquired the power of ritual when performed by him. The way to the studio led through the basement window. In the centre of a large space there stood a very long table covered with paper during ordinary meals and treats. Guests and students were sitting on long benches. The meals were ordinary, and, like in France, washed down with red wine, which loosened tongues and hands ready for drawing and sculpting.
When meals were over, the paper disappeared, the table was covered with clay, plaster, stone, wood, bones, and amber. Empty wine bags were also used as an art material. I enriched this austere but benevolent atmosphere with my topic, which was the leitmotif of my sculpture – the tension. I was working with ash wood, known for its flexibility. The archaic and the organic were also parts of my universe. I was creating constructions, in which the tension kept parts in elastic unity, similarly to live bodies, whose rigid elements are articulated and move thanks to the tension of elastic elements. Sometimes I took the tension literally, and sometimes as a sign of the change made by it. Sometimes I combined the literal and the signs of tension into entities, the parts of which mutually increased the credibility of their expression.
At the same time, I was working on musical instruments called FONICS, created by Jean Weinfeld, I was adding certain things to his ideas to improve their construction, concerning the knowledge of wood. Mine was better, as he was an architect, building with the hands of people who perfectly knew the materials they used. FONICS had strings, which were tense and produced sounds. Antanas and Jean met each other thanks to me. They liked each other, admiring each other’s achievements, with no signs of rivalry. Therefore, my entities, kept as such by tension, once received a new function: string tension resonance. Then I transformed my sculptures into musical instruments and named them Wspaks. It is an archaic and sonorous word for reversal. 4. The genesis Why archaic? The limits of growth, the limits of progress... Their existence got shape back then.
I came to Antanas's studio in 1983, after the report of the Club of Rome had been published in 1975. The art with its antennae had felt the existence of these limits long before. The secularization of Europe has strengthened the belief in science, which has that in common with archaic magic, that both are based on the belief in order as the main rule of everything (James George Frazer). Science discovers this order through the use of reason, and magic establishes it by sanctifying the components of its natural environment. The order determines the peace of mind, serénité. Science is more and more limited to hypotheses, the proof of which demands more and more institutions and means, therefore, science sells its freedom to technologies that give unlimited access to the means. Whereas technology reverses their order: it is not the aim that determines the means of reaching it, but technologies and their means determine the aims of science (Zygmunt Bauman). The order of intellect is destroyed by the limitlessly growing capital cancer, which is excellently camouflaged as a new technological revolution aimed to save the Earth that it had destroyed.
Sanctified by archaic magic, the natural order turns into a concrete desert. Forests are cut and cleared to make way for GMO plantations. Animals, instead of keeping our souls, give us their viruses. We destroy our and our biosphere’s DNA in the name of the false promises to feed billions of people. Therefore, we again turn to archaic rituals and totems in search of salvation. This inversion of everything was going parallel to my obsession with inverting concepts. Front and back, top and bottom, inside and outside, left and right…
This is how my totems, sculptures, and further musical instruments were born. Bowed string instruments for the quartet have undergone standardisation since Paganini times and the only minor changes were made to increase their volume as concert halls expanded. The former rich folk and manor culture started to fade away, and only the 1980s witnessed the victorious parade of gamba, hurdy-gurdy, and other ethnic and historical forms. That was the time when Jean Weinfeld presented his FONICS at the annual music fair Musicora in Paris. They were the triumph of beautiful forms over the loudness of sound supported by microphones. The acoustic principle says that the tension of strings and tense elements of the soundboard space can enhance each other. It also says that sound propagates symmetrically in all directions.
Therefore, I turned the upper plate of the instrument towards the lower one by 180° creating tension and an additional inverted symmetry. This method of creating instruments, the method of stretching their elements, certainly has its reference in traditional violin craftsmanship; I only treated it as a principle of creating a form and put it at the forefront, before ergonomics. So in what sense are Wspaks archaic? I think they are my totems to which I entrusted a part of my life, not the whole life (even so-called “primitive savages” placed their souls in different totems, like eggs that you shall never put in one basket). Wspaks sound wildly compared to a sweet cello; they speak in falsetto before undergoing the ritual of transition from childhood to adulthood. Andrzej Tadeusz Król, The author of Wspaks “Project Palanga” Warsaw, 09 03 2021