Konrad Smoleński combines his love of music and art - and the results are challenging

Fire as a metaphor for destruction; ŚMIERĆ/THE DEATH (object/action) wood/pieces of cloth/oil/explosives. Konrad Smoleński

Smoleński’s interests lie in the areas of installation work, performance and objects, and as a leading member of Poznań’s Pink Punk music collective he frequently mixes audio and visual elements, throwing together a variety of disciplines in a seemingly anarchic mishmash.

Cleverly, though, they come together in a more thoughtful and intelligent way than may initially seem the case.

Having found acceptance in the Polish avant-garde art world, Smoleński takes advantage of this position to continue upsetting the apple-cart from within.

His 2009 piece There’s no God consisted of a vast wall of worn-out and grubby speakers, the configuration of which varied depending on the gallery space, which due to their condition were only capable of confronting the audience with a loud, constant and unnerving low hum – a sound torture of sorts, in a space normally associated with the contemplation and quiet reverence of the art within.

With sound playing an important part in his work, it’s sometimes impossible to differentiate whether an object is an artwork, or a musical instrument.

In 2003 he created a guitar-like instrument made from a dog’s skull, the object was used in a series of half hour long music performances under the title Niuniuni Plays on a Dog.

Konrad Smoleński
(Jakub Leszko)

With his minimal punk aesthetic, Smoleński would play the gruesome instrument through heavy amplification, creating an almost Shamanistic ritual in the process and giving a new ‘life’ to the remains of the dead animal.

Fire, as a metaphor for destruction, is also prevalent in his work. His 2008 piece Death comprised of a large-scale wooden frame on which the word ‘death’ was constructed from planks attached to the structure.

Positioned in a field alongside the main Warsaw-Poznan railway line, the frame was set alight in time for passengers on the “Jan Kiepura” express train to catch sight of the bizarre and ominous pyro-show.

The artist hoped that the chance encounter between the random viewers and the burning wooden ‘Death’ sign meant that, unprepared and with no knowledge of the performance, those who saw it would carry the image of what they witnessed in their minds for a long time to come.

His video piece Guard (2009), features a burning drum kit in a sterile white space which may be an art gallery. Fire removes the function of the percussion instrument, yet at the same time the fire and the instrument reveal different sounds as the object is engulfed in flames.

The ‘guard’ of the title enters the scene and extinguishes the flames with an extinguisher, leaving only the charred and smoldering remains of the now useless drum kit. The sound experience is emphasised by sound effects cut from Soviet films of the 1950’s and 60’s.

The video is screened on a shabby monitor which is haphazardly placed on a junkyard player and dirty old speaker. The mound of worn technology is laid out like a pile of rubbish which also hints at the possibility of setting the whole set-up on fire - destruction by flame being omnipresent.

Smoleński was born in Kalisz (central Poland) in 1977. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. In 2001 he was a winner of the Views, Deutsche Bank Foundation Award.

His work has been exhibited widely in Poland, across Europe and in the USA.