After a long shift underground, miner Staszek Zięba finally comes to the surface. He washes his body from coal dust and irradiates it with a sun lamp to make up for the sunless hours.
We learn about the procedure from an archive article, published in the mid-1950s in Śląski Tygodnik Ilustrowany “Panorama”. We don’t know if the article was a propaganda text, intended to cast a positive light on the mine authorities who exploited the miners or if there indeed were genuine attempts to provide the workers with irradiation sessions. Similar information may be found in archives across our eastern border. There have been various models of antidepressant lamps on the market for years, and one Silesian family told Michał Patycki that the devices were initially intended to cure the eyes of miners.
The artist does not, however, start a journalistic investigation. Inspired by the press release he starts fantasising. About the sun. And coal. And about the energy that connects the two. About how we can be led through darkness by light. The very light whose lack or surplus poses a mortal threat. The delight over this life-giving energy combines here with the vision of darkness and climate apocalypse. While analysing these relationships, the artist looks closely at laboratory objects and the experiments once conducted in the “Barbara” Experimental Mine in Mikołów.
As he steers clear of clichés, we are not going to see the typical image of a mine shaft, just its structural variation, created based on a scientific model. The exhibition will not feature a black lump of coal in any form. Only the microscope suns, borrowed from the archives of the Museum of Deposits Geology of the Silesian University of Technology – magnified carbon structures – a far echo of the coal we know. Their roundness, for ages a cultural symbol of life, may at the same time be seen as an eye-soothing, ideal and simple form with an inexhaustible interpretive potential.
Michał Patycki (born in 1995 in Gliwice) – a photographer and slavicist, a graduate of the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (the Czech Republic), where he is currently doing an MA course. His works focus on issues bordering on para-science and the utilisation of photographic archives. He is interested in energy and its place in the universe.
The exhibition is supported by:
- 15 February ‒ 3 April 2020
- artist: Michał Patycki
- curator: Maga Ćwieluch