or, Elżbieta Łubowicz

The viewer who has faced the white wall of a gallery filled by Stanisław Dróżdż from the ceiling to the floor with a multiplied word ‘or’ written in computer fonts precisely cut out of the black foil may feel as a fly walking on a printed sheet of paper. The text enlarged to the size of mural painting confuses the viewers with its scale and weakens their sense of reality. And here we face the wall which by its assimilation to a sheet of paper seems to be foregoing its material existence and becoming a void, a conventional background for the text. The text then, rather than of words, consists of letters which by their size and repetition make up a visual ornament.

        The work ‘or’ is simultaneously the text and the image. This temporal and spatial structure may present either the former or the latter aspect but never both at the same time. When we try to read it as a text, it immediately transforms into an image (as there is too little to read), whereas when we watch the ornament on the wall it cannot escape our notice that it forms words. The word and the image, being still different categories, transform one into another, reciprocally provoking their presence.

        The uniqueness of this situation is intensified by the fact that the conjunction ‘or’ does not join anything. Released from the context of a sentence, it expresses only a pure, potential relation. The word ‘or’ in the Polish language can be expressed by two synonyms: ‘albo’ or ‘lub’, the latter of which was used by Dróżdż in his work. The conjunction ‘lub’ has its own meaning slightly different from the former one: it indicates a replacement or exchange rather than an alternative. It is not choice but possibility which is the most appropriate context of this word. We can have one thing instead of another; this or that or something else – there is a wide range of possibilities. We face the wall ‘or’. The words, which are visible as a whole in the centre, are fragmented on the border with the neighbouring wall, the floor and the ceiling. They run somewhere further in the space and recede in time. Therefore we face the image of possibilities which are currently before us and those which have been available to us and which will come. Around us, there opens an enormous space of potential possibilities, only several of which are being realised. And in vain could we ask why it happens in this way and not in another; why it is that and not something else which happens to us…

        That is a vision of imagination, which is poetic in its character. It could have been evoked by means of a traditional poem based on ‘the alchemy of the word’, which is the interplay of meanings appearing on the border of the words neighbouring in closer or farther distance. In the concrete poetry created by Stanisław Dróżdż the interplay of words has been replaced with the interplay between the meaning of the word extracted from the sentence and the visual context it has been placed in. In this way, the word becomes something more than only an image: it takes the substantial form of the object, such as the wall, the window or the floor. The conjunction ‘or’ placed in its multiple form on the wall metaphorically opens the doors up to a new suspicion. Perhaps the real objects which surround us and make up our reality, through inverted analogy are the signs which carry the sense and thus the entire reality is nothing but a text? It may be the text which we are supposed to read throughout our whole lives.

Wrocław, 1998 / 2009