No 1 (65) 2006
January - March

The Work Not Only Human

The sculpture is exposed on a transparent hardly visible plinth. A shaft of light, illuminating the darkness, emphasizes its shape. The figure suspended in a streak of light represents Saint Francis.

Jarosław Lubiak

Art historian. He works for the Łódź Art. M.

Jarosław Lubiak

According to a traditional reasoning, this sculpture dates back to 1680, it had been supposed to be a splendid example of a veristic style illustrating the figure of “the poor man from Assisi”. It had been supposed to… At present, one can hardly decipher its original form. This piece of art has been seriously damaged. It seems to be just a wreck. This sculpture is an element of the project prepared by Tatiana Czekalska and Leszek Golec for the Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery in Słupsk. To be more exact, for the staging to be presented at the Witches’ Tower. The authors, however, have not intended to show damages the works of art are prone to. On the contrary, the project title contains the statement: “St. Francis, 100% Sculpture”. Thus, according to Czekalska + Golec this is not a damaged wreck; they do not intend to show us a piece of destruction. On the contrary, they wish to convince us that we can still watch this worthy piece. What is more, they suggest that a creative process had took much longer than indicated by the date of its origin. According to their dating, the work had been conducted over the period from 1680 to 1985. How this has been possible? It is possible, when one changes a customary approach not so much concerning the sculpture or its condition but rather the very process of creation, and what is more important, the approach towards the humanity as such. Czekalska + Golec believe that HOMO ANOBIUM has been an artist involved in this multi century endeavor, while they are merely the curators of an exhibition project. HOMO ANOBIUM. Who is this? A WOODWARM MAN. A human hand had sculpted in a block of wood, in a piece of a dead tree, a figure of the saint. A woodwarm larva, lets say a bark beetle (Anobium punctatum De Geer) had been cutting the tunnels of its feeding grounds for the next centuries. Both, a man and a woodwarm are destructive during their respective creative processes. In 1985, when the last generation of insects left the inside of the wooden saint figure, the creative process outcomes were preserved by a conservator who hardened and petrified the sculpture. It seems that the curators of the work created by Homo Anobium do not encourage one to contemplate aesthetic qualities of this piece. It rather appears that Czekalska+ Golec wish to undermine a self –definition of a human as opposed to an animal. This would coincide with some contemporary philosophy efforts aimed at questioning the tradition (both Biblical and metaphysical) of a human self-definition by means of contrast with an animal , as an inferior creature. This concept has been followed, among others, by Jacques Derrida in his text L’Animal que donc je suis (à suivre) [when translated: the animal that therefore I am (more to follow]¹. The issue is not attributing human traits to animals or approaching them as human creatures. On the contrary, this is about exceeding primitive anthropocentric attitude allowing to treat other beings (non-human) as the inferior. The sculpture of Saint Francis is the figure of equal rights symbol. The second part of the performance prepared by Czekalska+ Golec, located on the Witches’ Tower upper floor, shows the installation by Avatar® II Bio/logical, a specially designed instrument for insects protection and its operating simulation projected on the ceiling. Transforming an iconographic motive of manus Dei into the hand caring for other (non-human) creatures, the artists have created yet another mark of crossing over the anthropocentric mentality. ¹ J. Derrida, The Animal that therefore I Am (More to Follow, in: Critical Inquiry” no. 28 winter 2002. Tatiana Czekalska&Leszek Golec, “Homo Anobium. St. Francis 100% Sculpture”, the Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Słupsk, November – December 2005.