No 1 (81) 2010
January - March

A Reality Laboratory

Following the period of photography, characterized by such significant works as The Project of Catholic Church Techno-Sacralization, Mateusz Pęk has turned to the Internet, particularly to computer games.

Krzysztof Jurecki

B. in 1960. Art historian, AICA member. Lecturer at the Łódź Academy of Arts and Design.

Krzysztof Jurecki

He has never been a photographer, but a modern artist making use of a digital picture, so it has been really just a matter of time when he determines to expand the spectrum of his search.

In his interview he told me: "I have been fascinated with the concept of the reality simulation present on such platforms as Sims, IMVU, or Second Life. They lack a metaphor that would give a meaning to individual actions or tasks, i.e., a shot at goal, victory over an enemy. There is no transparent system of gratification. I dare say, as such, they are a hyper metaphor of reality. A player has a chance to create his complete virtual character, as well as his space. My trip over the virtual world involves collecting the most interesting cases of other players creativity. My practice has proved that - in spite of great margin of freedom to develop a virtual image - most players focus on the European canons of beauty going back as much to the Italian Renaissance, as to modern fashion designers".

The most recent pieces by the artist have been presented at the Life as a Problem exhibition. This show has been yet another attempt to penetrate, reveal and get inside the picture virtual space. Nevertheless, Pęk has not been merely the artist of the virtual world. Based on his own experience with digital platforms, he wishes to explore and develop a new structure. The exhibition by Pęk has consisted of three parts; surprising and quite difficult to interpret. The first room presented a video, based on the sequence of images downloaded from the Sims 3 game. Office desks have been important props here. One could not take a seat since they have been anthropomorphic like deformed. This has been a metaphor of a vaguely defined danger. It is likely that we have been faced with the reactivation of the pop-art strategy. Let us, however, come back to the video that has been simultaneously illustrating the real and imagined lives of the author. The borders between reality and fiction have faded away. Mateusz Pęk is conducting his everyday activities in the computer game that simulates real life. Filming the picture directly from a monitor, the author has referred to the 70's structural cinema, where the reality of a medium was revealed; showing its transparency or - less frequently - lack of transparency when confronted with reality. Pęk shows pixels, graphic textures movement contour breaks, with the stress on presenting the face; out of focus and traditional in form. He is developing a dematerialized painting world which was also interesting for Gerhard Richter. Thus, the Gdańsk artist has been a rational explorer who has been testing the real structure of the imagined world through the search for the form organizing foundations.

The next room of the Contemporary Art Center has offered a new quality of the No One /Nowhere installation picture; the latter has been paradoxically flat. Extraordinary in respect to the new form search; exceeding the experience by Dan Flavin, a minimalist; James Turell, a mystic explorer of the light essence; or Maurits Escher, an illusion constructor. The piece by Pęk made use of the fluorescent and stroboscope lamps, hidden on the other side of the wall which where programmed to show the changing in time picture, aspiring to 3D. Its area of 24 m2, broken at a certain angle, represented a home interior of the type that can be seen in numerous digital simulations. The picture has been made of contrasting textures which were changing their spectrum over time. The result has been truly surprising since our perception has not adopted the kind of picture having its roots in the painting tradition, but also in the digital image changing structure. Could it be that we are close to the search for its ontology?

In the last room, the artist has come back to the digital image probe. This time in drawing aspect; making his pieces synthetic and classical in character. The 2.5D series portraits feature avatars. The author has made an effort to grasp the construction of these entities. The form oscillates between the two elements determining a digital presentation; namely between a vector and texture.

Mateusz Pęk has been looking for, and he believes that he will come across a new aspect of the three dimensional. For many theoreticians this is the future of visual arts, including the foundations of three dimensional picture in all its artistic manifestations.

Mateuwsz Pęk, "Life as a Problem", the Bath Contemporary Art Center, October - December 2009.