We received the art monthly Arteon 2013 Award for this painting.
However it provoked big controversy and protest from the All-Poland Committee Against Sects And Violence. Now the case is in Polish court.
Questions and Answers:
1. How do you respond to the criticisms that have come your way regarding the painting?
We are very happy about voices of criticism, the art exists to provoke, to make people think. Everyone has the right to criticize, to like something or not like it. It is hard for us to refer to merits of different criticisms, as the artists we also act intuitively and we don’t want work of art to be unambiguous. Whereas clear reception , especially by different political options, indicates only their inability to perceive art, inability to reflect. This kind of reception expose hypocrisy and superficiality of those, who see themselves as intellectualists and those, who claim to be influential.The painting unites all Poles, because everybody can find on it somebody that he hates. It is clearly seen in comments on different forums in internet. We are shocked! If we listen to all the voices and notices, we would have to cover with the curtain all the painting. Doesn’t it say enough about the situation…?
2. What was your intention/message for including the part with John Paul II and Father Tadeusz Rydzyk?
Every now and then we are under influence of different events that attack us from the media. The base of our Polish society is strange – our poor country tottes itself between two fanatical options – borderline left-wing (post-communist) and borderline right-wing (connected to the Church). We have illustrated both of those poles with pigs located in opposite corners of the painting, however the media concentrated only on the one of them – the right-wing one – father Rydzyk. Former president of Poland, Kwaśniewski, shown as a pig was omitted. But what is incredible is the reaction of society, who saw in white figure lying underneath the pig/Rydzyk the pope – John Paul II, who is in all different place in the painting. Whereas father Rydzyk is in Poland the symbol of all the worst features of Church , he became common target of mockery and so he was depicted in this fashion. It is absurd how influential he is and how many Poles respects his authority. And both, in the Battle and on the board of the Ship of Fools there are firstly people who are very influential, with huge impact, positive as well as fatal for Poland. It wasn’t us who created those characters and their functions, it was reality.
3. What is your larger message for the painting?
‘Battle of Grunwald/Ship of Fools’ shows the events and characters of last period of Polish history, also in international context. The painting is painted in convention of surrealism and popart-comic, with South Park-like kind of humor. This is Polish-Polish war taking place on the Hieronymus Bosch’s Ship of Fools. Like in the theatre of absurd, i.e. in Ionesco’s works, farce and parody interweaves with satire full of cruel accents. It depicts encirclement and loneliness of person in today’s world. Using known to every Pole work of Jan Matejko from the end of 19th century we relate first decade of 21st century. The painting, little bigger than the original (430 x 990 cm), is a commentary to surrounding us world where we can observe constant struggle for power, comic game of simulation of existence. It is a commentary to the reality after period of transformation, in the moment of Poland pursuing the modernity and trying to put itself at the high position.
We all fit to be illustrated at the painting, because every one of us is an actor in the theatre of absurd. Whereas we had to make a choice and depict spectacular personas, known to everyone from TV screen, the leaders who have bigger control of the direction the ship drifts.
Fellini made ‘Satyricon’ at the end of 60s in the times of cultural revolution. He knew that the certain era was ending. After all this is the rhythm of the world – bad quality outs good quality or the other way around. But there is always still hope that the next metamorphosis will bring the better one.
The painting was born out of our reflections about artist’s mission and the purpose of the art, the place of the artist in today’s absurd world drown in corporate-political chaos. Born from the reflections about current state of culture and human thought. Don’t you think that tales about rhinos, continous waiting for Godot, the lack of Bald Soprano are still up-to-date? Don’t we function in Kafka’s oneiric world of paranoia? Isn’t individual alienated like in Saul Bellow’s work? Aren’t we attacked by even bigger trap of routine? Individualism loses with corporate way of thinking, manipulation of society, political correctness.
4. Where is the painting on display?
Since two years we have been tring to show "Battle" to the audience. Despite this fact we were met with a refusal everytime we have tried. All public institutions refuse us because they are afraid of scandal. The Warsaw National Museum director was intrested but program comittee didn't agree unanimously. Currently we have our only second exhibition of this artwork, and it is organized by the private institution - not so famous art gallery, situaded in Poznań. The private, independent magazine called Arteon decided to award us for this painting. In Poland we are dissidents which are not accepted by the system and the official art circulation. And that is because we criticise sickness of this environment as well as specific people working here. There is no place for indyvidualists or for people with charisma. Every single artist who is popular is strictly connected to the official, propagandist line of polish art world. We are received here as dissidents. It sounds ridiculus but it is the evidence of the level of democracy in Poland! Isn't that funny?
5. What, if any, religious affiliations do you all have?
We respect all religions. After all every single civilization was built on their basement. We are not especially religious, we don’t feel afilitation to any of them. For us much more important is spiritual development than afilitation to some institutions. Mostly, we are inspired by brylliant reflections of some great individualists and eminent personalities. There are philosophers, artists as well as writers and directors among them. Undoubtedly some of them were under the influence of many different philosophies and religions, so everything in our art is intertwining and it is never univocal. We are open and inspirations comes from many diverse places. We can say that our next project is devoted to them- we can say the geniuses, but for now we are still working on it.
„We are all such accidents. We do not make up history and culture. We simply appear, not by our own choice. We make what we can of our condition with the means available. We must accept the mixture as we find it — the impurity of it, the tragedy of it, the hope of it.”