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Karol Radziszewski

private flat, Włościańska Street, Warsaw
21.06.2005 - 05.07.2005

curator: Marcin Różyc
cooperation: Sarmen Belgarian

Marcin Różyc.: Why do you use a contour while painting pornographic scenes?
Karol Radziszewski.: This results from my previous works. I haven't employed this technique especially for this mural. A contour forms an arabesque. Motives merge. Vision of a particular thing is lost and the composition becomes a background, has neither an end no beginning. What is also important, the works are black and white, a bit unpainterly. They resemble a colourbook only to be filled in. For me, a mural will always be a wall, a background, not working until it is in a particular context.
M.R.: Yet I see in this mural a human figure, painted with a contour, empty and devoid of identity.
K.R.: This is not my principle. Painting with a contour is a question of form.
M.R.: Showing male group sex has an extraordinary force of meaning, even more showing it on a big wall in form of a mural. This will not be a background.
K.R.: This is not a particular picture. It's a wallpaper. In a sense, I receive the power of pornography by the fact that it becomes an ornament, a decoration, something neutral and safe. Here appears a certain conflict of decorativeness and obscenity. Safe becomes unsafe.
M.R.: The composition may, however, lose the meaning of an arabesque and become a fresco, a monumental, supreme form of painting, something sacred. In other words, for you this painting has no monumental dimension?
K.R.: I treat figures as objects. They don't form a group. I paint what arouses me and treat it as a form, a decoration.
M.R.: What I see here is a human being and its emptiness. Well, a human object, human form. Is it some tragic in your works?
K.R.: What was important for me, was Warhol's words: "If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, there I am. There's nothing behind it". Of course he said this perversely. It's similar with me. I want to stress how much people turn to appearance. Most motives come from recycling, from visual culture surrounding us, which it is superficial and the effect of emptiness is natural. I remain in the area which is visible. I'm interested in the reception and media character of my works. They are formal, and what is formal is always empty in a way.
M.R.: Why do you want to expose pornography? In what way is this related to your private queer obsession? I have spoken with you many times and I know you have a strong belief in love and "true" feelings.
K.R.: I never reveal myself completely. I exclude completely what is very private.
M.R.: You will never exclude this.
K.R.: Sometimes I think that to make good art I cannot open myself.
M.R.: But painting such a porn mural does make you bare. It reveals your obsessions
K.R.: I don't know where this comes from.
M.R.: In my opinion there is an enormous metaphysical force in a sexual intercourse. I wonder if I can seek this force in your works..
K.R.: It isn't my point of departure. Perhaps I'm reaching this and you can see it.
M.R.: That is what? This is jus scribbling guys on the wall? Perhaps it is?
K.R.: Might be. I'd be afraid of profound ideology.
M.R.: According to Georges Bataille "What is interesting for the eroticism is solely the present. In this sense, we can speak about an entirely exceptional experience." An erotic experience is a moment when we're interested only in here and now. What is exceptional in erotic ecstasy is that you can access the present. I refer this to an orgasm. A man in the moment of an orgasm is devoid of any cultural influences. A "truth" is revealed, in a sense.
K.R.: Hahaha.
M.R.: For me the mural has an immense force. I watch it like a fresco. What is this mural for you, after all?
K.R.: First, I worked long with the arabesque motive with linearity. I chose motives which become insignificant because they are clustered together. Once I found what excites me and made a decorative composition out of this. What I am interested in the most is the tension which resulted from the clash of the form and the content.
M.R. Have you made any queer works like this before?
K.R.: My first porno book is a project which I showed in the Netherlands. It wasn't a homosexual work, though everyone interpreted it this way. I made a porn colourbook with straight and gay motives which I sold in a set with toys and condoms. I meant to stress that pornography is everywhere and it might appear in children books soon. Now I show only men. I show what turns me on.
M.R.: Are you inspired by "queer culture", there is a lot of porn there?
K.R.: I am. Pornography on one hand is something that turns me on, and on the other is very attractive visually, formal, devoid of sexual aspect. First something turns me on, then it assumes a very concrete visual form.
M.R.: What is the role of photography in your work?
K.R.: I have an obsession of taking photos of blokes. I don't need a contact with my model. A camera is a strong intermediation for me. Picture taking alone turns me on. When I see a bloke I like, I don't think of going to bed but to take his picture. For me, photo sessions are the most exciting.
M.R. Unfulfilled desire is kept in photography. Your art is strongly erotic then.
M.R.: My art is not erotic.
M.R.: But it is, isn't it?! Art is a substitute. Some form of being with another man.
K.R.: Well, yes it might be a substitute.
M.R.: What is a transfer of photography onto canvass then? Is it only about formal issues?
K.R.: It is. I play with the definition of a picture. I want it to be a painting not a photograph. I wouldn't analyse it lightwise or compositionwise.
M.R.: Creating works we are displaying, have you been inspired by other artists' works? I have seen a very similar drawing of dick by Arnoud Holleman. Just like your dick on pink background. Even disproportion of the scrotum is the same.
K.R.: I guess he was portraying a whole family.
M.R.: "Family and Friends".
K.R.: There are old ones, young ones, everyone's dicks, bent ones, all sorts. As if he did portraits. A fucking great idea. But my picture hasn't got anything to do with this. Painting arabesques, I found inspiration in Keith Haring. For me he's the most important mural painter. He's neither a graffiti nor a classic painter. He does contemporary mural inspired by urban aesthetics. His homosexual works I find least interesting. What turns me in his works is the form rather. Besides all, I somehow refer to Warhol. Homosexual plot hasn't interested me in his works. The content of my works comes from what is in me. I just have a need to do something.
M.R.: Tell me something about Bóg nienawidzi (God Hates)
K.R.: This is something I made still at the Academy. Professor Grzegorz Kowalski suggested a task which would, more or less, consist in creating a work about what is the most difficult to talk about in art. I had to cross my limits, do something I'd never do. At this stage the problem of homosexuality and religion was the most important element to me. For me it was the most difficult to cope with the clash of these two worlds. It's a very personal piece of work.
M.R.: On the face of a fag there appeared a slogan: "God hates fags" used by the right wing circles during manifestations against gay people. Below, on another face, you placed a slogan: "God loves everyone, even niggers". Do you oppose excluding queers from Christian community in this way?
K.R.: Perhaps indirectly. I rather meant to show the language of hypocrisy and hatred.
M.R.: Is it an opposition against the Catholic Church condemning gay people and discrimination in the name of religious principles?
K.R.: Yes, I oppose this discrimination, contrary to teaching of Jesus after all.
M.R.: Would you like, being an openly sexually active queer to be a part of the Church?
K.R.: I am a part of the Church by the fact of baptism.
M.R.: But would you like to be an equally treated member of the Roman Catholic Church?
K.R.: Yes.
M.R: I think that the queer are attempted to be taken God away. You see, in the sense of opposing them against the pope, family, etc. in advance... Do you, by stating that God loves everyone, want to bring the queer back to God?
K.R.: It wasn't my intention. I used authentic quotes but what you are talking about somehow results from this. What I was most interested in was that those supposed believers, by using such slogans, seemingly admitting that God loves everyone, by the very language cause an exclusion of "he loves but..."
M.R.: Why DIK was created?
K.R.: Why? You see, I always wanted to publish a magazine, I even started up and published a newsletter in secondary school. Hahaha. Besides, most of the things that interest me in the art the most are directly related to people, action, so called social art. Publishing a magazine is a kind of artistic strategy. For me, a zine is a medium equal to painting or drawing. In some moment I discovered that in a country like Poland it is not only working with prisoners, writers, block-of-flats dwellers, or kids (my previous projects) is a social action but what is also important is actions related to gay culture. It's definitely not about some minority rights fight. No. This I leave to others. What was interesting for me was the problem of otherness of homosexual culture. You read an interview of two gays in a different way, and the same questions will sound differently in the mouth of a politically correct female journalist. This was interesting to me. Additionally, there is a question of taboo, which male erotism is burdened with. And I don't even men homoerotism but the sense that in our country a man is not perceived as a desirable object. Polish blokes do not care for themselves a lot, this is why you can straight away recognise a faggot in the street. Hahaha
M.R.: And what do you expect from DIK?
K.R.: Well just this other approach. Gay culture in Poland has only started to develop, or to be accurate, there is no gay culture. In places, there appear some signs (like Lubiewo ), but this is still a completely virgin territory. A desert. For me, as an editor of DIK such situation is of an extreme interest and paradoxically of comfort, because I can keep a current registry of what happens in this area. This is an unusual feeling. To be a bit of a live chronicler. Hahaha. Yes, because in fact what I expect from DIK is that if you, in a few year's, finger through next issues, you'll have a history of "homo culture" in Poland.
M.R. Do you treat DIK as a contribution to Polish culture in general?
K.R.: You know, it might sound pompously awful but I think you can say so. We even let ourselves to paraphrase the slogan of one of my favourite organizations: "DIK - A Hope for Poland" . Hahaha.M.R.: And what will you say about the very context of the place, about the fact that we decided to do this exhibition in a private flat, not in a gallery?
K.R.: Context is always very important to me. Both in actions with "szu szu", and in my own ones. I often show my works in a particular context. I often leave the safe space, "white cube". My diploma was about this running away and examining new areas for art outside the gallery.
M.R.: And in this case? Queer is so clandestine, embarrassing, not public. Do you think this has a significance?
K.R.: You see, sure it has. You watch such works (particularly those engaged ones) differently in the raw space of a gallery and differently when you're at someone's sitting on a comfy sofa and look at the telly on the cupboard. With the awareness that above you, below you and everywhere behind the walls there live people who perhaps don't go to galleries but they also don't know that art has blown in to them as well. And on the top uninvited, so queer. Hahaha. This is a bit perverse. I like it!
M.R.: Change of male image, eg. in commercials and pop culture is discussed more and more often. Is it also discussed by the installation Mężczyzna - przedmiot pożądania (A man - object of desire)?
K.R.: It is about a protest against sham non-erotic approach to men in Poland. A man is an erotic object everywhere, but it is not spoken about. Perceiving sexuality of a bloke is usually associated with homoerotism. The work is also connected with a protest against the fact that in the Academy there are practically only female models. This pertains to the tradition of painting and history of art. Male body is simply not penetrated.
M.R. Hahaha
K.R.: There is a lot of reference to advertisements and twentieth century ideal male body image jest in my work. Some of the pictures I painted from pics, ads and colour magazines, but not only - from works of art as well. This is also a project about the form and mediality. A man is treated like an object once again. It is a something, not a somebody, that turns on. The video depicts a bloke I don't know. I'm not trying to get to know him or to find out anything about him. It's just a chunk of flesh.
M.R.: How did this video come into being?
K.R.: Once I saw in the window of the opposite block of flats such a scally hulk, without a top. He was flexing unceremoniously, without self-consciousness, with the feeling of being on the top of the world. Like they do. I liked that. I took out a camera, put it on a stand and started taping this. It was quite a turn-on. There is something perverse in this.
M.R.: Is there in this work a criticism of male body image formed by culture? Of a body of a scally - by scally culture, Brad Pitt's by pop culture, body of a nazi - by nazi ideology, etc. K.R.: What I'm interested more in is making the body erotic.
M.R.: Well, so this is a body of a scally who denies being homosexual with every step he takes, he becomes a queer object of desire. However, his body is subject to some cultural oppression.
K.R.: For me, and I guess for him, such oppressiveness is not a problem. I try not to say too much in a project. My works are never completely obvious. I don't exclude various interpretations.
M.R Are your works political?
K.R.: Positively no. Some girl said that I fight with every breath and I am like Ghandi. Haha. Just like DIK, which assumes no politics, but publishing it is deemed to be a political act. M.R.: Many think that doing our exhibition is a political act. And we do not want this so much. It seems that the very fact of being queer is political! I think that a part of our project is to make the gay issue apolitical.
K.R.: All what is political results from the context.
M.R.: Why are we using the word "fag"?
K.R.: It is a conscious provocation for sure, but I am not completely accustomed to this word. It is assuming certain stigma. Taking the wind out of sails.
M.R.: I think that use of the word "fag" is an attempt to make the recipient of art accustomed with the notion and to appropriate the word by the one against whom it is directed. Polish "pedał" may lose - like English queer - its pejorative notion. I will read some Sartre to you, after all I'm a philosopher and it has to be wise! The excluded "instead of bearing the sign of their disgrace with shame, they adorn with it with pride. Abominable nigger - says a black poet. - Yes, I am an abominable nigger and prefer my niggerness to the whiteness of your skin" . Writing a slogan: "God hates fags" is such prideful adorning with something filthy?
K.R.: Yes. Like a pink triangle. Symbol of homosexual prisoners in concentration camps. I think that our beloved Witkowska did the same.
M.R.: There emerges such a gay power. Huh huh. Perhaps we'll have some anti straight groups. Like the black who hate the white. I recall the title of an interview Spadaj, ohydny heteryku! (Get lost, you abominable hetero!) with Witkowski in Duży Format . Huhuh. Do we need to make a reference to Michaśka?
K.R.: Perhaps this is the right moment? Everyone will say - Oh Jesus, he's referring to Witkowski - huh huh.
M.R.: You somehow have to get into the current. We need to create a current of queer non-fighting art. Just queer art.
K.R. Yeah!