50TH VENICE BIENNALE — POLISH PAVILION / ALEA LACTA ESTA
In 1977, at the small space of Galeria Foksal in Warsaw, Stanisław Dróżdż presented unusual work, both visually and intellectually exciting, open to many interpretations and explanations. On the walls of the gallery, the ceiling and the floor, he threw letters which formed the word "między" ("between"). In order to read the word, the viewer was forced to visually penetrate the entire space. This created a situation where the viewer suddenly became aware that he was not reading, but was himself being read by the surrounding text, and the word itself was perfect in defining the precise relationship between viewer and work.
In response to the theme of the Biennale in Venice "Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the "Viewer" Stanisław Dróżdż has prepared a special installation, related in some aspects to his "między" ("between") work from Galeria Foksal. Dice have taken the place of letters here, and instead of reading a text, the viewers must look for the correct configuration among the many possibilities contained on the 250m2 wall. Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer finds a table with 6 dice and instructions:
You are a player in a game: roll the dice:
Put them in order: find that configuration on the wall, out of the 46,656 possible combinations: if you find it, you win; if not, you lose." The title of the work is based on Caesar's famous phrase, "Alea iacta est". The artist says that "taking the dice in your hand puts you in a situation you can't turn back from; a choice has been made, and whether you like it or not, you've become a part of my work." Dróżdż proposes a game, as games are archetypical of conflict, but the conflict here is increased by the desire to win. The game is a provocation — once the dice are cast, the player is trapped. It doesn't matter how withdrawn the player is, nor if he looks for the combination he threw, in what mood he looks, nor whether he finds it or not. A single flash of emotion is enough for the player to become aware of the existence of the work — conflict is in us all, in our desires. Every day we take part in some game, every day we are involved in some conflict. Stanislaw Draki2 presents his method for avoiding conflict: the on!y way out is to not pick up the dice. Dróżdż's concept is so simple, yet so deep, and creates a precise situation wherein the artist evokes several levels for the viewer and participant — visual, emotional and rational.
As every day we come into new conflict, in this work Stanisław Dróżdż shows us a way to avoid such conflict: the only solution is not to take up the die. His proposal is as usual simple, though profoundly complex: by setting up a premeditated situation he forces response and involvement at several levels: visual, emotional and rational.
"With the ALEA IACTA EST project, the artist Stanisław Dróżdż conquers a shape for poetry and frees it from its traditional 3-dimensionality by introducing depth, interaction and sense of the game. The Polish artist uses the game of dice and lays them out in a complete and modular way. All possible combinations of the six dice system are shown exactly 46646. In the center of the space, a table highlights six dice and the rules of the game in many languages so that the participant can throw them and achieve the combinations that have been laid out.
The passage through concrete poetry has allowed Dróżdż to find a recreational and hedonistic spirit, a vital surge towards the form, which includes minimalist modularity, Dadaist play, a futuristic leap, surrealist interactivity until actuality of installation. The art piece does not present itself as a head-on picture to contemplate but rather as a concrete „appearance” for crossing, the synthesis of a view of art which wishes to represent the complexity of the subject to in relations with the world.
The word becomes a sign, the sign becomes a rhythm, and the rhythm becomes a number. This is art, which slides towards something abstract contained by the rules of the game, a dice game.”
– Achille Bonito Oliva, Dom Gry / The House of Game, in: ALEA IACTA EST, Exhibition Catalog, Polish pavilion, 50th Venice Biennale, Zachęta – National Art Gallery, Warsaw 2003
"Today we live in the world of „intelligent” games, which indeed evoke no intelligence at all. But the simple and evidently human and seemingly innocent „game of dice”, in the form of a work of concrete art has been developed by Dróżdż, will perhaps let us reflect upon and meditate about what we often forget in our arguing and bargaining over contemporary culture, frequently treating intelligence as a skill devoid of rules. This game, outwardly „not very intelligent”, can be the element to cause a stir amidst the disputes carried out and about the flickering images and the wordiness of texts surrounding us."
– Wiesław Borowski, Od słów do gry w Dice/ The Word of The Game of Dice, in: ALEA IACTA EST, exhibition catalog, Polish pavilion 50th Venice Biennale, Zachęta – National Art Gallery, Warsaw 2003