swombie, fibreglass mannequin head inside glass mannequin head, batteries
and wires soaked in battery acid (sulphuric acid), 30x15 cm, 2018
His artworks often reflect on our post-internet behaviours, smartphone-oriented modes of generating knowledge, and apocalyptic visions of social media. Nevertheless, he tends to travel in time in order to draw parallels between the nostalgic past and our online present. I am interviewing Piotr Krzymowski – a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London.
Do you still dislike being called an artist?
I actually started liking it a lot! (laughs). I got used to it, though I’m still convinced that the word artist is extremely conventional and misleading. When I tell people what I do, they immediately reply: “That’s wonderful! Can I see your paintings please?”. Most of us imagine artists as craftsmen – people with particular skills and talents just like painters or sculptors. For me though, being an artist is based on observing the contemporary world around and translating it to an individual language, one that is not always immediately obvious and captivating.
Is it a milestone that art is leaving the spaces of museums and galleries today? Does it still matter what we label as art?
On the one hand we have a group of curators, gallerists and art historians, who define what is art, and what isn’t. On the other hand though we encounter the era of omnipresent social media, which allows us to curate ourselves and therefore function as “world-class photographers”, “fit-influencers”, “models”, or “style gurus”. Platforms like Instagram have in consequence also democratised the art environment. Nevertheless, if Instagram disappeared tomorrow we would still have art. The faith wouldn’t be so kind to the influencers though!
Your works are very much related to our digital culture and the issues it attracts. Do you observe the world as the sociologist?
I tend to focus on those aspects of the everyday, which we often miss or abandon. For example the video work Search Engines, which I showed at the CoCA in Torun last year, presents the automated search suggestions for the sentences we put into Google, Instagram, Facebook, and PornHub. We tend to ignore the search engines of these platforms, but they prove to be very useful for studying the depths of human mind. Before we decide to see a doctor, we analyse the symptoms on Google, which proves that the internet knows absolutely everything about us. The Big Brother knows our desires, fears and fetishes. I also tend to pay a lot of attention to the things that are less noticeable but have an extremely real quality and dimension. One of the art installations, which I’m planning to show during my next solo show at the CoCA in Torun, will be a line formed of old rulers hanging on a wall at the height of the eye sight. The line will be measuring exactly 26 metres, which is a distance that a smartphone user travels daily on the screen of his iPhone whilst scrolling mindlessly through images and data.
Search Engines, video installation, CoCA, Torun (Poland), 2018
One of the themes that you seem to be also interested in is the human body. A touch too much and keeping in touch deal with both sensuality and technology.
In my works I often refer to our physicality and it’s fragility. A touch too much is a screen print illustrating the fingerprints collected from the screen of my iPhone after using it for the period of 24 hours. This particular work was created after I learned that we touch the screen of our devices at least 5600 times a day. Forget about the hygiene, but it’s a rather intimate relationship that we have with our phone! We are focused so much on using our sight when we are engaged with the smartphones that we totally ignore the rest of our senses, and most importantly the sense of touch. That brings us to another work named keeping in touch, which features a mannequin hand holding the screen of my iPhone, which is now covered with copper sulphate crystals embedded with my own fingerprints. The important aspect of this work is that the aforementioned chemical substance is used in the production of all our everyday electrical devices, but is also extremely harmful once used in large quantities. The work reminds us about not only the fragility of technology, but also one of our own bodies.
It provokes one to think...
I really desire to showcase what is around us, but what is not immediately noticeable and hiding underneath the layer of contemporaneity. Sometimes I’m using humour to accentuate it, sometimes an element of surprise. I don’t want to judge, or point towards the good or the bad. In my opinion art should not present crafted judgments. It should instead offer a space for interpretation and reflection, provoke one to think and dream.
Piotr Krzymowski and his work a touch too much
This reminds me of your other series of works featuring the emoji icons.
Emotional Baggage is an art installation made of emoji pillows stuffed inside storage, vacuum bags. The pressure used in the process of making the works allowed these pillows to gain a human quality – they appear wrinkled, more three-dimensional and imperfect – in contrast to the perfectly round and glossy icons displayed on the screens of our smartphones. The titles of individual works in this series came from the online translator, which converts a sentence constructed with the emojis into text. Even though the results don’t make much sense due to the algorithmic structure of the translator, it’s presence proves that the emojis are a fast growing language that should be taken seriously.
According to the statistics we use 60 million emojis daily on social media platforms and over 5 billion of them on Messenger. There is another work in the series worth mentioning here. It’s the emoji pillow, which had it’s back replaced with a transparent fabric. It exposes the new stuffing of the cushion – hand written love letters from the 1920’s, which I found on a flee market in London. The work compares today's language of expressing affection with the one that we used a hundred years ago.
You tend to use many forms of expression: video, art-installation, photography, and collage. And you are very consistent in this inconsistence of forms.
To change forms of expression is a natural development for me, because the language of expression results from particular interests. When I was totally obsessed with the search engines I realised that the ideal form to document them was moving-image. I should mention here that many remember me as a collagist. I don’t use this technique as often anymore, despite my ongoing fascination with the films of Godard and Truffaut from the 60’s (which triggered the interest in collage). I came to the conclusion that this interest doesn’t reflect on the contemporary everyday anymore...
Did you always dream of being an artist? And why one graduating from Central Saint Martins?
I was never a child that one would find sitting in the corner of a room with an inseparable pencil in his hand or dragging his parents to the museums. It started rather late for me. As a teenager I was accepted both to the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and to CSM in London. I took the risk and went abroad eventually choosing the intriguingly sounding degree of 4d. It’s a course focusing on the disciplines related to time such as film, video, or sound. Why did I choose this particular academy?
I knew that I could truly express myself. CSM particularly values the creativity more than the skills.
Can we see your works in Poland this year?
I will have a solo presentation at the Centre of Contemporary Arts in Torun later this year. I would also love you to see a group show at the Roman Gallery coming up in a few months in London. Come and see!
Piotr Krzymowski – born in 1989, graduate of the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. His debut was marked by the group show Bloomberg New Contemporaries in 2012, in which he presented two video works – 73 and Boys. Krzymowski had a chance to present his works in various galleries and institutions around the world. He currently works and lives in London.
Words: Beata Brzeska (originally published in La Vie Magazine, March 2019)