Janek Simon's interactive installations, videos and objects are inspired by computer games and the Internet. They are Concerned with access to knowledge, distribution of information and analyzing ambiguous relationships between culture and economy within neo-liberal capitalism.
Janek was not here, critiques a method - of how the act of travel can deal with a certain isolation while accepting the need of a certain exploitation of people. The exoticism that travel and the visual culture around allows, how must an artist distance him or herself from it? Can it be distanced through satire? Is there a politics about the act of production of art works and how? Janek Simon has characterised his career with 'Do it yourself' mechanisms that draw their reason from humour and socio-political critic. He recedes from the isolation Poland enforces like an insulation from a global view through art projects that see him travel to Madagascar, Ghana, Nigeria, Cuba and India. Where he transports literature, historical narratives, game theory and other mystical outputs of computer algorithms and science popular in Poland or in a world dependent on the innovations such as 3D printing or interactive gaming. Simplifying these technologies by slowing them down to human error like a crazy calculator that computes wrongly but has an algorithm that reads human consumer behaviour thus benefiting the seller with a higher price. Souvenirs from his journeys become vitrines of commentary of his inability to not exploit the distance and the difference from Poland but find an efficiently manage to criticize a situation that may see resonance in post Iron Curtain Eastern Europe and exotic locales of the tropics. His project makes you disbelieve in the distance between places created by exoticism by throwing satire on myths such Marco Polo's account of a city of full of people with Dog-Heads - an exaggeration of travel. He uses this exaggeration to transport situations of commonness between people, to destroy feudal residues in society and art.
''So what I'm thinking of showing in Clark House is a collection of pieces that first of all deal with spacial (or geographical) displacement in different dimensions, then on a more particular level explore the notion that every description of a distant (whatever that means now) place (like a travel report, anthropological research, tourist memoirs etc) is to certain extant a lie and a fantasy. When it comes to the tone - all these projects play with a strategy of mixing different registers of communication i.e begin a serious and not-serious at the same time etc. I'm interested in spaces of meaning that can be achieved through these kind of figures. '' Janek Simon
Janek was visiting his home in 2001, he had been playing space invaders and many other video games, his grandfather had been a collector of carpets and all around his home in Krakow carpets hung from the ceilings. At dinner he noticed one of the motifs in the carpet resembled that of the invasive characters from the video game series, a history of fascination with cannibalistic creatures appeared prompting him to create a program of an animated carpet. The program is only Windows compliant, it carries a certain heritage of technology 13 years later discarding the avant garde in the digital. Andrzej Wajda made a movie based on a1948 novel in 1958 that detailed the schism that divided Polish society, Communism was seen as Russian occupation by the feudal sections of Polish society which included Janek’s family, while for the rural peasantry saw it as a movement that erased class and liberated them from slavery of the remnants of the Polish empire. After the liberation of Poland from the Nazis, a fight had ensued between the underground Polish guerillas who had resisted the Nazis and the Russian Army that had the mandate to turn Poland Communist. Janek then re-situates the movie and its story line in Nollywood , Nigeria’s cinema industry and the world’s second largest movie industry , discussing the Nigerian Civil War or the Biafra war, that led to the genocide of the Igbo people. Janek was not only interested in similar contexts of a civil war but more the myth that the Nigerian film industry was build on the ‘DIY’ attitude that arose after an electronics dealer imported large amounts of black VHS tapes from Europe in the 1990s and had to create a reason to sell it.
Janek studied psychology and sociology and while travelling through China was fooled by money exchangers who had corrupted calculators to match an algorithm that was based on consumer behavior and would change the actual computation to about 7% higher while convincing the consumer it was working all right. Janek then created his own algorithm corrupting a calculator. On the internet he found the diagram to built a DIY 3D printer, which he did and since then has created absurdist sculptures. He creates a Dog-Man based on the myth that Marco Polo during his travels had sighted a city with humans with dog heads. He believes any traveller creates the idea of the exotic to create a sensation of distance from his travels when he is back home. Exoticism for him is a basic natural human tendency but also a neo-imperialist trait of a fetish with the unknown.
As a tourist and a traveller keen on making his journeys critical reflections of his views on neo-liberal societies Janek understands his own latent exploitation of the people he visits as his subjects or labour he doesn't compensate in the value he would like to. Thus he creates a video of uncomfort while riding a man pushed cart through a street in Madagascar. On a map of Ghana which he procures from the Ghanaian Survey office, he writes ‘Janek was here’. These maps are detailed but absurdly outdated and the one he writes on is a survey of the distribution of pigs in the country. Absurdities and myths that come to serve us understand out contemporary realities.
- Sumesh Sharma 2014
“The artist does not point to the source of this threat. On the one hand, he makes objects which suggest an approaching cataclysm, on the other, he gathers hints and constructs tools with the help of which a human being can free himself/herself from civilisation and will survive in the face of the catastrophe. This attitude is based on the thought of anarchists who propagated the idea of individual rebellion against the system and state. This rebellion finds its expression in Simon's individual creativity, and consequently, in his aspiring for self-sufficiency. Lukasz Ronduda described it as an "anarchic and pragmatic attitude in the face of contemporary knowledge of reality based on overproduction.” - Culture PL, 2014
Simon studied sociology and psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His artistic activity began around 2001. As VJ Jansi he cooperated with Commbo group, making visualisations for music in clubs and with the 36,6 Foundation. He is author of interactive installations, videos, objects. Simon takes inspiration from computer games, Internet and the archive (in its multiple meanings). He lives and works in Cracow. His artistic début took place in 2002 during the Novart.pl Festival in Cracow. There he presented Carpet Invaders - a simple computer game whose board was an image of a carpet projected on he floor. Within the limits marked by the edging in the style of Eastern carpets, a space ship navigated by the viewer shoots at elements of the oriental ornament. In 2010 he showed Morze / The Sea at the Raster Gallery in Warsaw, which took upon the subject of travel and conquest, attempting a new sort of geography lesson based in culture, economics, tradition and real-life experience. He embellished a portrait of Levi-Strauss with traditional Indian bindis and scribbled Janek Was Here over a political map of Ghana, testing the limits of our consciousness of the Polish dream of imperialism - one that never came to fruition, but was always vested in the hearts of those who wanted to conquer the world, much like the Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. - Culture PL, 2014
Janek Simon (born in Poland in 1977) is a tourist, a sociologist, a bogus scientist and a sort of graffiti artist. In the tone-setting work Janek was here (2010), which opened his recent show, “Morze” (Sea), Simon connected the dots marking poultry distribution centers on a map of Ghana to spell out the three titular words. This act of bêtise sublime—the term is associated with Flaubert’s discussion of a crétin named Thompson who wrote his own name on Pompey’s Column in Alexandria, and also applies to the legendary World War II tagger Kilroy, celebrated by Pynchon—links Simon to colonialists of every kind who have left their signatures, literally, on the cultural landscape. - by Daniel Miller, Art in America, 2010
Janek Simon's interactive installations, videos and objects are inspired by computer games, the Internet and the archive in its multiple meanings. They are Concerned with access to knowledge, distribution of information and analyzing ambiguous relationships between culture and economy within neo-liberal capitalism. Failure and catastrophe, as well as chance and probability are amongst the topics of Simon's interests. - Manifesta 7, 2008
The exhibition is supported by the Polish Insitute New Delhi. The artist and Clark House Initaitive especially thank the director Anna Tryc-Bromley and Aneta Swiecicka.
Image: Marco Polo’s journey where he encounters a city of Wolf Heads
Opens: 25 November, 2014 | 6pm
Clark House Initiative
c/o RBT Group, Ground Floor, Clark House building, Colaba
8 Nathalal Parekh Marg (Old Wodehouse Road), Bombay 400039, India
All days including Sundays during period of exhibition.