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2016 Solo Sculpture Exhibition Yarra Sculpture Gallery Melbourne

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Indesign Event Melbourne 2014 collabration between Cezary Stulgis and Archilux

Northern Exposure

Group Exhibition, Sydney NSW

Suburban Opera

Group Exhibition, Wooloongong NSW

Mr Thing

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Group Exhibition Cloudland

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2012 Taschen Street Art Calender produced by Wooster Collective NYC

 

K-9 (PROTOTYPES), Shooting Gallery, Brisbane, 2011

Cezary Stulgis

 

K-9 (PROTOTYPES), Shooting Gallery, Brisbane, 2011

 

 

 

A becoming…

 

During the 1950s and 1960s the USSR used a number of dogs for sub-orbital and orbital space flights to determine whether human spaceflight was feasible. In this period, the Soviet Union launched missions with passenger slots for at least 57 dogs. The actual number of dogs in space is smaller, as some dogs flew more than once. Most survived; the few that died were lost mostly through technical failures, according to the parameters of the test.

 

Dogs were the preferred animal for the experiments because scientists felt dogs were well suited to endure long periods of inactivity. As part of their training, they were confined in small boxes for 15–20 days at a time. Stray dogs, rather than animals accustomed to living in a house, were chosen because the scientists felt they would be able to tolerate the rigours and extreme stresses of space flight better than other dogs. Female dogs were used because of their temperament and because the suit for the dogs in order to collect urine and feces was equipped with a special device, designed to work only with females.

 

 

Cezary Stulgis’ title for these works “K9 prototypes” with its scientific, machinic and robotic overtones calls to mind the Soviet space dogs and their remarkable stories. The Soviet space dog period seems to represent an ultimate end game of the ancient and no doubt primal relationship that exists between man and dog. The dog has always been our close companion, ‘man’s best friend’, and this entails a particular privilege in our living relations and to our personal lives and domestic spaces. Perhaps more than any other animal, the dog has been anthropomorphized – an animal that understands us, our wants and needs, a guardian, a tracker, a retriever, a worker, and a guide, obedient and loyal. In the case of the Soviet space dog they also strangely became our colleagues, our early astronauts, and far from the average lab rat, have been individually named, recorded and heroicised as such.

 

Stulgis’ sculptures manage to capture both machinic and primal qualities and their power lies in the tension these opposing qualities generate. Exposed steel frameworks, wired forms and the assemblage-style construction evokes a factory and workshop-like process of multiple units. However the raw and unrefined nature of the forms, the charred and burnt wood, the dribbles of resin, the steel welds, the mess of paint and plaster, express an animal energy – these are not robot dogs, they are real dogs, blood and bones, hair and slobber. There is a shift between prototype and archetype, between external form and internal force, between our ability to ‘other’ the dog and externalise its use-values, and our ability to identify with the dog and internalise an ancient and primal relationship.

 

After all, we did not choose to clone a dog, but rather a sheep. Sheep are to be farmed as ‘produce’ and, perhaps on a subconscious level, we tend to believe that sheep are already clones so, in a bizarre logic, the harm would be minimized – who knows? But cloning a dog would certainly be too close for comfort in the ethical scheme of things for that proto-science. The dog, like the cat, has been accepted as a member of the human family. As honorary humans we attribute these pets individuality and personality. And perhaps for the cat, this is as far as it goes, as the cat is a natural individual. But the dog is not. The dog is naturally a pack animal. A pack is not a herd. The dog understands the herd, can control the movement of sheep and cattle, and his animal pack lies outside the herd.

 

So when we forge a relationship with a dog we not only make the dog a member of our family, but also we make ourselves a member of the dog’s pack. So often the dog is upheld for its subservience, for its obedience to ‘his master’s voice’, as a demonstration of our human superiority. But, on another level, we can feel that the relationship is more dynamic, more fluid, we can feel a pull towards the dog being, the dog’s recognition of us as pack members.

 

As prototype, Stulgis offers the dog form as a container, a multiple – perhaps even an echo of the specially designed Soviet space suit which they wore on their voyages. As archetype, this sense of containment is fractured - the forms equally express a porousness, an energy which seeps beyond edges and confinement. The tension in these works seems to beg the question – how far does the subject join or not join the pack? How far does it stay away?

 

Perhaps it is in this aspect that these works may be understood as self portraits. And not simply of a personal identity but of a social identity – a portrait of the artist and his relationship to the social body. The pack, different from the animal herd and the human family, is also different from the crowd. The crowd is large and variable, and it is territorialising in its sociability – crowds will lay claim to their members and have a sense of singularity, wholeness or purpose. Packs, on the other hand, are small and restricted. The pack is deterritorialising – that is, it roams, has multiple purposes and mobility, it disperses and reforms without decomposing.

 

Does Stulgis correlate the dog’s relationship to the human family with the artist’s relationship to society? Our relationship with the dog is neither familial, predator-prey, nor farming/cultivation based. Rather it more closely approximates to an alliance, or what in Nature may be described as a symbiosis. (Certainly this was true of dingoes when they followed the Aboriginals, feeding off the scraps of their campsites along the hunter-gatherer pathways). It is a relationship which philosophers Deleuze and Guattari have described as ‘becoming’.

 

Becoming is certainly not imitating, or identifying with something; neither is it repressing-progressing; neither is it corresponding, establishing corresponding relations; neither is it producing, producing a filiation or producing through filiation. Becoming is a verb with a consistency all its own. [Deleuze & Guattari 1987, a thousand plateaus, p.239]

 

In our relationship with the dog, there is a becoming animal – an experience which both feeds and bleeds our sense of human-ness. Something we crave – it is reassuring to know that we are just another animal, part of an interconnected evolutionary system. And something we fear – that we are just a biological and chemical, finite and mortal, ‘bags of bones’ and that all our ‘immortal’ systems, language, technology, information, encode and control us. (This is the deep rift between Nature and Culture). Like K9, we are both archetype and prototype. Becoming animal is a becoming multiple, to become part of the pack with an intelligence which is neither individual subject nor machinic object. Stulgis’ sculptures seem to express this other intelligence – as if one could wear and inhabit them or use them as containers or cradles, for campfire, for a nomadic life.

 

Is our social relationship to the artist somehow also akin to this, somehow also a symbiosis? I am not referring to the romantic notion of the artist as outsider, though I do not underestimate the potency of this vehicle for modernity. Rather, it simply seems that our relationship with art exceeds economic and institutional relations, and is not familial or merely social (the crowd). It also exceeds the cultural in the sense that it goes beyond or is tangential to the prescription of behaviours, social conditions and conditioning. It is also something we both crave and fear, challenging our sense of perception in ways that are surprising and rewarding but perhaps also sometimes disturbing or too challenging. This is what art is.

 

With this understanding, Stulgis is perhaps asking us not to adopt his K9s or identify with them, not give them pet names and personas (internalising them as archetype). Nor might he be asking us to deconstruct them, disassembling their components into what we recognize and use (externalising them as prototype). Instead perhaps he is asking us to feel the pull of an other intelligence, to join the pack and forge a social alliance, to understand them as the work of an artist. Such a movement would indeed be a becoming – a creative movement for creatures we might yet become.

 

Beth Jackson

 

December 2011

K-9 (PROTOTYPES) 2011

Solo Sculpture Exhibition 28 October - 18 November 2011 Shooting Gallery, Spring Hill, Brisbane

Salt Magazine Article

Sea Salt Magazine, Spring 2011 Pushing Creative Boundaries

Salt Magazine Article

Swell Sculpture Festival 2011