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Mikołaj Sobczak

PL, 1989
  • resident
    • 2021 – 2023

Sobczak’s practice combines painting, video and performance art. In his performative work – frequently in collaboration with Germany based artist Nicholas Grafia whose work is informed by his Filipino and African-American background – Sobczak employs avant-garde concepts of postwar Polish theatre (such as Tadeusz Kantor) for his contemporary concerns about queerness in a time of political radicalisation.

His paintings are equally invested with theatricality, complex figuration staged in dense tableaux, often based on the compositions of 19th century paintings, juxtaposed with popular culture subjects. Sobczak’s central project is to create contemporary history paintings by populating his paintings with representations of outstanding protagonist of LGBTQ activism, queer and emancipatory countercultural milieus and resistance movements, in imaginative company with provocatively phantasmic characters and creatures representing Sobczak’s genuine vision of transgressive utopia. Simultaneously, these new visionary communities are mirrored in the distorted images of an underworld of regressive and ambiguous political narrative depicted in mannerist and infernal mise-en-scenes. 

Text of an audio-visual drama for Rijksakademie Open Studios 2023

I dreamt of the fire that would finally be able to dry those canals until there is no drop left. Ships thrown ashore, boats stuck in barren estuaries. No more spices! No more pepper and cinnamon! We shall scatter all our turmeric until the winds sail it to its rightful home! It is not water that flows under our bridges but the capital, merchants, representatives, attachés, traders, slaves and masters, thousands and thousands of bodies at work. I dream of them floating outside my window. Bodies at work… Oh, and the vast desire that this flow makes possible. Latitudes and longitudes of passion spread across the globe, the whole divine geography of sex! Not limited to any town or village anymore but dissolved in this endless grid of squares and rectangles of lust projected on our daft maps. Oh, how can one not see that trade routes are in fact veins pumping up with blood? Holy, Holy, Holy corpus cavernosum – I salute thee!

My hometown is a hole. A hole, an opening, a crevice, a cavity. You see, in olden days, there were castles and moats around them. My hometown is a moat without a castle to encircle. A drilled canal of still standing waters protecting our most cherished secret – that there is no secret to guard. Where there’s a hole, there must be something to be inserted. We looked and looked until we found it. Endless supplies of goods coming in. Flows of plants and foods that the metabolism of our city digested into generational wealth. Oh, how I love you, my Amsterdam, my city with open pores and ports, my city that doesn’t exist anywhere outside its ships and planes and cars and trains, that is always in motion possible only because it is hollow. Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb! Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities! Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen!

And yet, the flames… How many times, by God, have I not longed to be able to assail the sun, snatch it out of the universe, make it general darkness, or use that star to burn the world? Oh, I would wish that my aberrations lead me like the lowest of creatures to the fate which befits their wantonness: for me the scaffold would be a throne of exquisite bliss! Flames, flames, flames…

The definite embargo. The embargo to end all embargos. The closure of all roads, the blockade of all transitions. Stop printing machines at once! Turn away from your lover! What a spectacle… And there he is. After the last bank has admitted it’s broke, and after the last government has resigned, and after the last container ship has sailed to its harbour only to turn out to have arrived completely empty handed, we hear the voice of the last narrator of our very own armageddon, our dear storyteller who we call affectionately Johannes of Patmos with the vocal range of a castrato, whose cold, reporterlike, matter-of-fact crowings stand in horrible contrast to the contents of his catastrophic message. There he is presenting our doom. „In pain you shall bring forth monthly mortgages, upon your belly you shall go turning poorer than your parents and grandparents. Cursed is the ground you will never afford, in toil you shall earn your pitiful wages. By the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread until your return to the circulation of capital, for out of it you were taken. You are a commodity and to commodity you shall return”.

– written by Aleksander Kmak –

Quotes:

Book of Genesis 3: 14–19
Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty
Allen Ginsberg, The Howl
Thomas Mann, Doctor Faustus

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