In his unique practice as a traveller, thinker, anarchist and artist, Janek Simon persistently tests the possibilities of artificial intelligence. His quest is not aimed at resolving any specific issue, but to the contrary, often seeks to heighten complexity. The main subject of his interest is issues of post-global and post-colonial identity interwoven into everyday economic, political and cultural dilemmas. Working with contemporary algorithms, Simon pursues what was already the domain of art in the age of modernism: to expand the fields of experimentation and freedom.
All of the sculptures in the Polyethnic series, developed since 2016, are made using a home 3D printer. After individual elements are printed, they are then assembled and glued together by the artist, giving the finished product a handmade character. Simon’s figures are a fantasia on the theme of a new global folklore and the potential of contemporary do-it-yourself technologies. They are created by combining ethnic motifs from various cultures of India, Africa, South America, and Europe.
“The concept for the sculptures in the Polyethnic series arose during one of my travels to West Africa,” Simon recalls. “I realized that the sculptures sold at souvenir markets aren’t authentic. They are actually hybrids amalgamating motifs from various cultures, sometimes very far apart. … Working with a 3D printer, I nonetheless have the feeling of using a natural material. In some sense it is reminiscent of sculpting in clay.”
In the works from the Synthetic Folklore series, Simon uses an algorithm he developed which draws on hundreds of traditional patterns of textiles and carpets to generate entirely new compositions. The latest works from this cycle offer the paradoxical effect of depth achieved through superimposing numerous layers of flat patterns. The multicoloured horror vacui of these mosaics cut from acrylic discs simulates the dynamic of ever-accelerating cultural processes, the radical congestion and interpenetration of various codes ultimately generating the illusion of opening up new spaces. This perspective is ambivalent, offering no stable conclusions. It is rather a contemporary, global vortex.
Janek Simon (born 1977) is one of the most original artists of his generation. His works reflect on the changing economy and culture in the era of globalization. The objects and installations he creates often include an experimental and anarchist dimension, illustrating the collision between scientific theories and everyday reality. The retrospective of his works entitled Synthetic Folklore (curated by Joanna Warsza) was the highlight of the past year at Warsaw’s Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art. The upcoming exhibition at Raster coincides with the release of the first monograph book on the artist (published by Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art and Sternberg Press), which we also recommend.