THE ROAD UP AND THE ROAD DOWN ARE THE SAME THING
- I etch a pattern of geometric shapes onto a stone. To the uninitiated, the shapes look mysterious and complex, but I know that when arranged correctly they will give the stone a special power, enabling it to respond to incantations in a language no human being has ever spoken. I will ask the stone questions in this language, and it will answer by showing me a vision: a world created by my spell, a world imagined within the pattern on the stone.
- Hillis, W. Daniel. The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters) Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- This is a poetic way how scientist Hillis initially describes how a computer chip (the Stone) works.
- The road up and the road down are the same thing. Quantitative changes will be transformed into qualitative.
- (Hippolytus, Refutations 9.10.3)
- “Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, or motion without matter, nor can there be.”
- “Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition).
- “Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics (dialectical thought), is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature.”
- Fredrick Engels
- Dialectics of Nature: “… nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher.”
- Fredrick Engels
- Cold things grow hot, a hot thing cold, a moist thing withers, a parched thing is wetted.
In his actions aimed at obtaining insight into a specific location, a place at which he is present, Matej Vakula is not satisfied with reconstructing history, and its visual interpretation. Delving into the context and unique nature of local events, he uses them as pretext for commenting on topics which seem totally divorced from the space of his practice. Seeing time as something that has more than one dimension is part of the strategy leading to general questions about the nature of things. Operating the past and the future in relation to examined space offers a different perspective on it. When it comes to Nowa Huta-related activities, the set of archive photographs dating from the 1950s and 60s encourages reflection towards the relations between human body and information, matter and digital calculations. This orientation is a result of what Matej Vakula’s work is about, as the artist sees the greatest creative potential in spheres which are not necessarily categorised as art. Laboratories, information centres, etcetera. One of the key concepts for the practitioners of post-art, the notion is implemented in Vakula’s work through a wide-ranging search conducted in exact sciences, reflection on developing scientific paradigms, residencies at research units. Fascination with the way science is shaped, the process of visualising information, the way we generate language to describe what escapes the human tongue, is a set of questions that can be applied to the archive pictures of a workers’ town.
A visual essay created by the artist combines elements of digital renders with the course of black-and-white images unfolding to the rhythm set by the accompanying monologue. Verbal narration is not commenting on the visual materials, it much more uses them as the departure point for a trip around Nowa Huta. The town is interesting here as one responding to labourers’ needs, created and programmed centrally by a system which chose labour and productivity as the leading values. It acts as a background for the out-dated paradigm of heavy industry whose story is not so much over, but ceased to matter. From today’s perspective, it is regarded a bygone thing. An outmoded power yielding to other forms of production, more dispersed, and based on a better understanding of matter. The necessity to be active in the post-industrial world is also the present day of Nowa Huta, a place in search of its identity after a grace period for model workers in the old style.
The first sequence related to the stone incantation is a poetic description of how the computer works. The stone covered with carved signs is here the processor speaking an inhuman language, a poem of numbers and calculations arranging themselves to form a new vision – a world created by a language not spoken by people. In a sense, this programming process, represented in a mystical way, may be analogous to experiments conducted by an alchemist transforming one matter into another, a more perfect one. Also, the boundary between the inanimate and what is active in whatever fashion, capable of acting, is crossed in this dialectic vision. Everything is in a transitory state, undergoing a change, an alteration, and the basic law is changeability, the ongoing process of transformation.
Vakula’s approach to archive materials is not less significant.
He does more than just put together a visually attractive set of pictures, he makes modifications and looks for those places where the border between documentation and interference into photography gets blurry. Particular photos form a frame for the related story about the laws of nature and conditions of progress. Specific compositions turn into peculiar microcosms entering into dialogue with each other. This method of employing photography brings to mind Chris Marker’s experimental film La Jette. Like the movie, Vakula’s essay is a mixture of temporalities, past years leave a soft imprint of nostalgia in the pictures, controlled by the reflection on the changeable and dialectic nature of the world’s evolution. It is not clear whether this world is also heading towards an apocalypse. Yet Vakula leaves traces here and there, details in presented photographs, mildly suggesting this is not a peaceful and ordered material.