What about us with asthma? What about us who failures? What about us who can’t shit properly? What about us who have no orgies and excessive fucking to become detached about? What about us who are broken when our friends fuck our wives? What about us such as me? What about us who aren’t in Parliament? What about us who are cold on March 6 for no apparent reason? What about us who poke in death tissue? What about Historians who have to read the dirty parts? What about us who have smelled up a treehouse? Why did you make everything so baffling? Why couldn’t you comfort me like St. Augustine, who sang: “Behold the ignorant arise and snatch heaven beneath our eyes”? Why do I have to explore the pock marks on Catherine Tekakwitha’s face like the lens of a moon missile? (Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers, 1966)
The Beautiful Losers exhibition in the Krakow Jak Zapomnieć gallery was inspired by the enigmatic 1960s novel by Leonard Cohen, widely considered a pioneering work of Canadian surrealism. The book is an extensive stream of consciousness, a fountain of human emotion, a voice of the hippie generation the author was a part of when living on the isle of Hydra. Beautiful losers function in a love triangle, pray to a catholic saint of native Indian origin, and are eternal idealists perpetually on the quest to discover new forms of spirituality in drugs, sex and art.
The concept of a beautiful loser is somewhat universal – it encapsulates experiences of lost, misguided, disturbed young people facing challenging realities. The exhibition features works from four artists and one collective, which combine to create an intellectual and visual collage touching on key themes from Cohen’s novel. Using very contemporary means of expression, the artists offer a modern take on escapism, micro religions, neo tribalism, escapism and a sort of shamanism.
In his ‘Emotions’ video, Sam Balfus introduces a spiritual world generated through a VR platform, inhabited by friendly ‘slollas’ and three-dimensional digital emotions. In her colour crayon drawings, Zofia Pałucha shows post-humanist elders as hybrids of herbs and supercars, offering guidance to losers. Aleksandra Liput’s ‘Astral Insects Catchers’ installations are soft-sculpted and crocheted objects reminiscent of native Indian totems, playfully purporting to cleanse society of evil energy, fear, nightmares and anxieties. Marcin Janusz explores the effects of poisons, toxins, drugs and dodgy dietary supplements on the human body. His abstract compositions contain strong visual references to bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat, fat or semen. The show’s sonic background is provided by Strahinij Arbutin, a Croatian DJ whose track is adorned by a Schwestern Sisters (Tea and Marta Stražičić) vaporwave video evoking the atmosphere of techno clubs – contemporary hotbeds of renaissance of psychedelic culture.