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Ksawery Kirklewski’s multifaceted practice combines the many aspects of digital art

Coding artist Ksawery Kirklewski discusses his fascinating craft, which brings together a diverse set of digital disciplines.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Apr 08, 2023

Digital art practice has expanded its scope on an unprecedented scale over the last two decades. While this growth has primarily been fueled by the proliferation of digital arts workspaces that are now more accessible than ever before, there have also been some other key developments within the wider ambit of digital creativity that continue to thrust the sum of its parts even further into the limelight. One such aspect is generative and code-based artmaking, which combines the logic and rhythm of complex mathematical equations with the beauty of visual art. Increasingly, it is moving out of smaller labs and experimental spaces, and is finding its footing within large halls and concert venues, and at top exhibition destinations.

Data Traffic – a light installation made up of 24 car headlights, 2020, coded installation, Ksawery Kirklewski, Jakub Kirklewski Video: Ksawery Kirklewski, Jakub Kirklewski

One of the practitioners at the vanguard of the digital craft today is Ksawery Kirklewski, a creative coding artist of growing repute. Kirklewski was born in 1988, and is a graduate of the graphic department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, Poland. While the visual artist’s representation of his own practice may limit him to the realms of creative coding, this is most likely for purposes of brevity: a look through his oeuvre will reveal a depth of creativity that involves large-scale installation pieces, complex audio-visual works and even a focus on integrating motion typography along with his other creative skills. Much of the artist’s work is purely digital, but certain pieces occupy a more ‘phygital’ space; they allow for some audience interaction, all the while simultaneously presenting automated performances. These continue to capture the attention of both art connoisseurs who are aware of Kirklewski’s creative practice, along with passers-by who are lucky enough to stumble upon the artist’s exciting work, which at first may feel as though it is something of a maelstrom. Indeed, his activation of new technologies, programming, advertising media and tv equipment, along with the generative and code-based bedrock mentioned above, may feel a bit daunting to those that are not as yet acclimatised to such works, but a deeper engagement will undoubtedly lead to a highly enriching viewing experience.

Enter 2022, an interactive light installation, and a sign of things to come for the artist, 2022, interactive light installation Video: Ksawery Kirklewski, Jakub Kirklewski, Arek Krupiński

While Kirklewski’s star is currently on the rise, he is by no means a stranger to acclaim: His diploma project Exhibition of Banners, made in 2015, received the Polish Minister of Culture Award for Best Diplomas of Polish Academies of Fine Arts. This was a solo exhibition across 20 TV sets, each playing looped animations by the artist, and since then, he has only expanded in scale: one of his most recent projects includes the brilliant light installation FLUX, which was exhibited in Miami during the Miami Art Week. This is a perfect example of the artist’s focus on combining the interactive with the automated, as it allows for viewers to tinker with the exhibited light sculpture through gestural and vocal signals, but FLUX also has a “performance mode”, which is based upon footage sourced from the audience. The piece is a follow-up work to other projects by Kirklewski, including Enter 2022, which was commissioned by Nxt Museum, Amsterdam, and was instrumental in laying the foundation for the artist’s current creative focus. Other noteworthy works by Kirklewski are Symphony in Acid, which was made in collaboration with Max Cooper from the UK, and CTRL_DAT for Kate Vass Galerie, which is an up-and-coming creative space in Zurich.

Hanging D, 2021, video, Ksawery Kirklewski, Max Cooper (remix of work by Joep Beving) Video: Ksawery Kirklewski, Max Cooper

The artist’s visual work on Hanging D, remixed by Max Cooper and originally by Joep Beving, will be of particular interest to fledgling coders: it is inspired by the concept of Data Excavation, and is programmed entirely in Processing, which is a deceptively powerful digital sketchbook, and a first stepping-stone for many code art practitioners. The artist discusses this piece on his website, explaining that it holds a nostalgic quality for him. He feels as though it speaks to the new bodies of memories we are creating and storing digitally; memories that will create a stronger source of posterity for future generations than the family photo albums our forefathers left us. These visual memoirs will allow our descendants to travel back in time and exist, as never before, in a world that preceded their own. This is how the installation artist arrived at the idea of Data Excavation. Each shape or “pixel” here represents a life-event, which passes us by ceaselessly, and their colors come from the vibrant, if limited color palettes utilised by old computer games.  The result is a hypnotic and stylistically retro video art piece that continuously builds and breaks itself over and over again, creating low-resolution memories that possess the unmistakably ghostly quality of obsolete recordings.

A typographic music video, Symphony in Acid, 2022, generative and interactive website, Ksawery Kirklewski, Max Cooper Video: Ksawery Kirklewski, Max Cooper

Another fascinating work by Kirklewski is Symphony in Acid, which, as mentioned earlier, was also created in collaboration with Cooper. This piece features fast-paced motion typography, and was created as a website with both generative and interactive aspects. Kirklewski’s video takes cues from the philosophical text Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), by the German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, which explored the limits of language. While Wittgenstein famously stated “the limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” Kirklewski challenges this belief through Symphony in Acid. A viewer may place his video within the wider context of the modern zeitgeist, and wonder if our newfound digital connectivity has finally eliminated all barriers between us and our habitus. Returning to the work’s conceptualisation and execution, Kirklewski seems to be a strong believer in going open-source: he has made his code for Symphony in Acid freely available to enthusiasts who might want to modify it on their own.

Artist profile, 2022, photograph, Ksawery Kirklewski | STIRworld
Artist Ksawery Kirklewski, 2022, photograph Image: Courtesy of Ksawery Kirklewski

As Kirklewski continues to develop new works, the already considerable range of mediums and media he treads grow as well. For example, Symphony in Acid has now found its place in the NFT market, where it is being sold as a series of video snippets. It is exciting to follow the work of veteran digital artists such as he, as they always seem to manage innovation and accessibility deftly, creating engaging art experiences as a result. Kirklewski’s work is important right now, and will undoubtedly remain so well into the future.

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