by Jade French
Adam Niklewicz plays with the relationship between identity and nationality with a slice of sausage in the middle. Removing our typical relationship with food (eat and run) Niklewicz forces the viewer to reimagine how we can view food with everything from beautifully rotating chicken bones to musical sausages! His sculptures are multi-faceted creations which resituate objects outside of their normal habitats. We caught up with the artist to find out more…
Jade French: How does your relationship with both Poland and America inform your work?
Adam Nikelwicz: On one hand, there’s the visual vocabulary of my Polish childhood, on the other – the American pop-cultural and commercial iconography. The two clash and blend together (there’s a bit of smoke) and all this occasionally produces some creative leaven.
JF: Do you think through creating art you gain a sense of identity? Or does art incorporate a universal feeling, which negates nationality?
AN: I’d dread to hear that my art is somehow ethnic, hermetic or obscure. True, I often base it on quirky, ethnic, folkish facts but I do hope I’m able to distill these facts into works with universal appeal.
JF: Can you explain more fully how ‘Romantycznosc’ is a reflection on the Polish psyche? How did you create that piece of work? It’s amazing that the sound is so pitch perfect when made out of meat!
AN: It’s hard for me to explain the Polish psyche notion (other than through art itself), I know though it reaches its peak when a Pole plays a polonaise on the instrument. Putting this piece together took a lot of effort and a lot of sausage. And there were these frequent (up to three times a day for a few weeks) visits to my local Polish deli, which confused the store clerk. My appetite for always the same mundane kind of sausage, the shear amounts of the product purchased, the fact that I’d often produce a tape measure from my pocket to check on the sausage’s length before buying – all this made the clerk uneasy. I fought against the instinct of explaining myself. I decided that the explanation (I’m not really weird, I’m only making a musical instrument out of sausage) would not boost my image with the man. In other words, I enjoyed the process and misperceptions it produced. The process has recurred several times since with other projects. What makes the piece utter the right kind of sound must remain a secret.
JF: One thing that strikes me is the manipulation of found objects into functioning equipment- like the Art Forum kaleidoscope. How important is it that your art has a function, as well as an aesthetic value?
AN: I want my work to both look good and to possess content. Yes, I need my objects to function, but their purpose must not adhere to an easy logic.
JF: Is the Art Forum piece a comment on art journalism? I noticed you cut the visuals from the review sections out- how much do art reviews affect an artist?
AN: Perhaps it’s a comment on the nature of art. I truly believe that art is ever-changing (like the kaleidoscope effect used here) and ever-fresh (not unlike nature itself).
JF: Do you think using microscopic visuals forces the viewer to look harder at your artwork, or engages them in a different way?
AN: A small object of art feels precious, like a piece of jewelry. I noticed that people gladly focus their attention on a small work. They feel encouraged to wrap their minds around it.
JF: Would you classify your work as playful?
AN: I’m very happy when someone calls my work playful. I’m equally happy when viewers find it humorous.
JF: Pieces such as ‘Ounce’ have a strong sense of nostalgia and poignancy- does this piece relate directly to personal experiences?
AN: I love that you misspelled the title of this piece! The actual title – ONUCE, stands for a garment of sorts – two pieces of fabric or paper (often a newspaper) designated to be wrapped around feet, usually in addition to socks. All this for an extra protection against cold. I suspect the term made the title partially because it looked like a misspelled English word (e.g. ONCE, OUNCE). I used to wear onuce as a child. Big time!
JF: Pieces such as ‘Calle Lunga’ and ‘Monument to Borscht’, although stationary, seem to incorporate a sense of movement- is that something you recognize yourself?
AN: These two pieces are not really built to last. They appear to face the imminent prospect of collapsing, breaking, sagging. I think, this is where the sense of movement comes from; their fragile nature implies change and change is related to movement.
JF: The kinetic sculpture ‘Chicken Soup’ has a sense of frailty to it – what do you think this piece is trying to say?
AN: I like fantasizing about that chicken I consumed. I assembled its bones in a rather aerial manner. I wonder- is this transformed bird on the verge of taking off?
JF: Why is there a link between food and heritage within your work?
AN: Food is a visible, tactile, sensuous (and surprisingly meaningful) way of experiencing a cultural heritage.
JF: I also read that you ate paint as an art student, which relates to the piece of bread with orange oil paint – can you tell us the story and why you recreated this moment later in life?
AN: The incident happened many years ago during a drinking party of a bunch of 17-year old art students – all ready, perhaps even certain, to conquer the artworld. In my own drunken stupor, I spread orange oil paint over a slice of bread and challenged everyone to take a bite. Nobody did! Meanwhile, I put myself on the spot and now I had to have a good chunk of the slice. The long forgotten incident returned to me quite suddenly, and made me realize that the then display of adolescent stupidity was in fact an act of commitment. A vow. I’m the only participant of that gathering from he past that keeps making art. I recreated that ‘action’ now to renew the old vows.
For more about Adam visit his website.