Demographic ethics - Ryszard Gorecki

Ryszard Górecki
Ryszard Gorecki
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Demographic ethics - how to look after social welfare without leaving one's house.
On the work of Ryszard Górecki
Sebastian Cichocki

According to a sociological theory by Peter M. Blau, human behaviour and interaction are based on mutual exchange of rewards and benefits between individuals or social groups. Human life may thus be viewed as a peculiar market governed by the principle of exchange: individuals seek rewards through exchanging material or non-material goods and performing services for each other. This mechanism is also used by more complex communities - any formal or informal organisations forming so called social macrostructures. This system functions smoothly providing its two fundamental principles - the principle of reciprocity and the rule of fair exchange (1) - are not violated. According to Blau's theory, human relations may be reduced to two simple rules: give me something because I am giving someting to you and give me as much as you get from me.

Were it not for the fact that the term has been associated with a group of artists examining relations between politics and the human body, Ryszard Górecki's work might be described as critical art. His 'demonstrative' paintings, schematic tables, graphics and showcases (reminding the viewer of conference room or office building hall furnishings) proclaim a manifesto, they are a form of antimarketing (2), a demonstration of individual resistance. At the same time, their 'disciplined' appearance creates a forceful impression that they might come off a production line. Employing the methods of advertising and marketing persuasion, Górecki comments on such phenomena as corporationism or mass consumptionism. His work is not autotherapeutic in nature. It may be seen as social in the broadest sense of the word, an ethic-economic 'manual' and as such can not be unrelated to mass production.
As stated by Nicholas Bourriaud, (3) The artistic question is no longer: "what can we make that is new?" but "how can we make do with what we have?". This is also true for Górecki's work as he clearly adopts the postproduction strategy - he succumbs to the temptation of reusing preexisting forms. In his painting "What to do" the viewer may recognise a painting by Mondrian, a public sculpture by Haring, an allusion to Baselitz's work and a sound wave graph. A new structure is created of ready-made, well-known prefabricated elements. This process agrees with the neo-Marxist maxim stating that consumption is at the same time production. Górecki's art reflects the gradual process of visual mechanisation - not only do we have to cope with visual images produced by humans, but also with images designed, multiplicated and distributed by machines. Consequently, the artist resorts to the esthetics of billboards or showcases, utilizes MDF, uses 'natural' colours ('natural' meaning here colours 'extracted' from mass-produced objects or advertising materials). His works come into being as a result of market research, observation of socio-economic processes and marketing behaviour rather than a consequence of an 'inner impulse'. It is the receiver that organises these elements into his or her own stories, systems and hierarchies.
The American artist Mark Lombardi attempted to trace and illustrate the global net of political and economic interrelations in his series of conceptual drawings "Narrative Structures" (1994-2000). He creates diagrams featuring Osama Bin Laden, the Vatican Bank, WTO or George W. Bush as well as hundreds of political parties. Individual elements build up an extensive network, full of obscure interconnections, which serves to intercept money and accumulate capital. Similarly, Ryszard Górecki spins his yarn of a world ruled no longer by individual states but by huge corporations fighting fiercely against each other over an anonymous consumer. Undoubtedly, the 'esthetics of resistance' typical of anti-official groups - leftist, anarchic, liberation or even terrorist groups - exerts considerable impact on Górecki's work. His art brings into focus the global insecurity and anxiety. While nation states seen as spatial economic entities fall victim to atrophy, transnational concerns inexorably grow in strenght. This may obviously evoke uneasiness, as we cannot fully understand what is going on within the corporations, where power is not subject to legitimisation through democratic vote and public control. So far, large concerns have not yet built up armies nor collected taxes, but this may only be a question of time.

The world of politics, economy, art market, stock exchange and advertising is gradually engaging artists' attention. Górecki, however, avoids addressing these issues directly. He refuses to reduce his art to mere propaganda or a quasi political system - instead, his work is full of enigmatic allusions, plots and configurations. His new series called "Politicians" comprises profiles of well-known figures from the world of global politics like Prodi or Schröder. The miniatures, which draw on press clippings, have been blackened with ink, so that only the eyes remain visible - reduced to ghastly white holes. The figures are surrounded by colourful, psychodelic shapes, whose source is as inexplicable as it is soothing. The world of politics has been confronted with the world of sheer beauty. Both seem equally irreal and abstract.

Ryszard Górecki portraits an unstable world, reveals the weaknesses of this global collosus whose blood flow is controlled by giant corporations. He appears to emphasise the need for radical democration which, according to the political philosophers Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, requires new common sense. At the same time, Górecki's paintings do not portray the so-called real life which has become an obsession of many contemporary artists. He seems far more interested in synthetic reflections of our reality emerging from diagrams, statistics, tables and polls. They present figures rather than specific people, the amplitudes of stock market operations instead of conflicts between the poor and the rich world, the statistical chance of a sudden death instead of psychological portraits, indices and poll results as opposed to emotions and dramas. Once the mechanisms of social structures have been converted to virtually industrial visual forms such as schemes, strings of figures or tables, corporeity disappears completely. Consequently, radically different and often exciting interpretations become accessible. Paintings such as "Libido" or "Inquiring about sexual availability' present the interrelations between power and desire without losing the charm of a statistical metaphor.

"Love is rooted in sharing and trust" is a colour drawing by the Scottish artist Chad McCail, consisting of several panels. It demonstrates how the tension caused by functioning within orderly social structures may be relieved through sexual contacts (4). McCail commented on his drawing in the following way: People work together to provide what is needed. Trust and confidence grow. And love comes easily. Life is driven by the desire for pleasure. People give themselves to one another and tension dissolves. McCail's work, just like Górecki's drawings, (the drawings "Sex", "At home" and "O.K." are especially noteworthy) presents human life schematically, resembling educational charts displayed in schools. Characters and objects are represented by simple emblems, headings, captions and comments are introduced, the entire work has been given the form of a comic strip. Surprisingly and disturbingly, human life with its psychological and ideological complexity has been reduced to children's colour-me images, a trivial picture story. There remain but a few choices: team work, sex, rituals, eating, potential success, death. Nicolas Bourriard mentioned above wrote about the existing life scenarios (5): Human society is structured by narratives, immaterial scenarios, which are more or less claimed as such and are translated by lifestyles, relationships to work or leisure, institutions, and ideologies. Economic decision-makers projects scenarios onto the world market. Political authorities devise plans and discourses for the future. We live within these narratives. Thus, the division of labor is the dominant employment scenario; the heterosexual married couple, the dominant sexual scenario, television and tourism, the favored leisure scenario. He also quotes the words of the British artist and art theorist Liam Gillick: We are all caught within the scenario play of late capitalism.

Developing models and simulations of social processes has become the determining factor of a great part of an artist's activities, if not his obligation. Górecki's reconstructions make the world seem closer to the building-block utopia of Legoland or the digital simulation of "The Sims City" than to the real world behind the window. Let us take into account his representations of the BMW production plant in Lipsk, the glass showcase with tiny figures of office clerks getting stuck in mud, or an imaginary object from the painting "To have" (according to the author himself: the object is the result of a combination of the latest model of lawnmower, a surfing board and DIY equipment) (6). However, simplification of social life patterns makes it possible to reveal the rules of the game. A selection of attractive goods such as sex, power, money, safety, culture have been placed within our reach. There are also numerous services which can be performed, capital which can be amassed and dreams which can be fulfilled. Undoubtedly, Peter M. Blau might perceive Górecki's paintings as illustrations of his social structure theory. The market reality of global economy is not substantially different from the 'market' of everyday life. The sooner we realise this, the better our chance of winning a profitable 'contract' and claiming a generous share in the gains.

Let us bear in mind that, according to Max Weber, by power is meant that opportunity existing within a social relationship which permits one to carry out one's own will even against resistance.
(1) See Turowski, J. 1994, Socjologia. Wielkie struktury społeczne. (Sociology. Large social structures); Lublin
(2) In economy, antimarketing is defined as: "activities remaining in opposition to concepts, rules and techniques of marketing, and thus failing to fulfil the enterprise functions towards potential buyers and holding no promise of any success on the market." After Szkucki, T. 1998, Encyklopedia marketingu (The Encyclopedia of Marketing), Warszawa.
(3) (5) Bourriaud, N. 2002, Postproduction. Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World. New York: Lukas & Sternberg
(4) McCail, Ch. 2002, Active Genital. London: Book Worms
(6) Quoted after an interview with Górecki for Pegaz, TVP 1 - September 2001

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