Showcase: Marcin Owczarek

Marcin Owczarek was born in 1985 in Wroclaw. At the age of twenty, he began studying photography at The College of Photography in Wroclaw, graduating with an honorable mention for his cycle Brave New World, which presented an idiosyncratic version of a future world. Owczarek is fascinated with the influence of new technologies over human life, particulary within urban space. Focusing on the issues of mechanization and standardization, he tackles them in an antiutopian style, depicting the total capture of the spirit by the machine world.
His art has also been influenced by the content of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as well as his studies in cultural anthropology.

Interviewed by Giulia Bertelli

Hi Marcin! Tell us, are you living in this world or in a surrealistic one of your own?

I believe the body of the Surrealist lives in this world, but the mind is far away from this world. Mind drifts somewhere between dreams, myths and unconsciousness. It is not easy to force body and mind to work parallel in the real world.

I looked at your work before reading your biography and I imagined you as a forty-fifty years old man while you are younger than me. I tell you this because your work seems to me like an elaborate work.  How many years did it take for you to make this kind of art?

There are many singular components which I could enumerate to describe, how did I approach to this kind of art. Indeed, the most influential for me is: my own experience, conversations with other people I met, hundreads of books I read and especially my study in Cultural Antropology. Anthropology gave me erudite knowledge of other cultures, beliefs, ethnic arts, rituals, mitologies , from the ‘primitive’ tribes to western societies. Apart from that, ther is also the world we live in, which might be called the global mental hospital created on the foundations of technocratic hell. Regarding all the components I mentioned above I can honesty say that it took me all my life to create this kind of art.

How are your works born? I mean the material proces.

This kind of photography I represent might be called ‘Digital Manipulation’, alternatively we can call it ‘Collages’. My first step is to make a sketch of the picture on a piece of paper I want to generate. This process is simply conceptual part. Subsequently, I use computer to give birth to what I wanted achieve in sketch. Of course there might be some improvements, small changes, but basically the backbone of the concept always stays. The result is collage. To create the final image for example ‘Democracy’ I needed hundreads of single photographies.  That is why I also travel a lot to gain singular photographs.

How long does it take to finish the image?

With triptychs it takes me around two-three months to finish, with single picture one-two weeks. I usually work 12-14 hours per day with my images.

In the eyes of you, is Nature changing the Man or is it the opposite?

In my opinion Nature gave all her best parts to the Man, but Man never understood that process. Instead of living in the coexistence with the Nature, Man simply takes from the Nature and uses her in the most primitive way – only to make profits and dance on her grave with his hands full of money . Man has utterly  devastated his planet and through the centuries appeared to be extremely destructive. We have already exterminated many from the extraordinary beauty species of mammals in this world. Man has poisoned rivers, soil and air only to satisfy his wallet. The population of bees dwindles away to nothing, wolves are also endangered species. Tortoises day because they eat plastic bags – the rate of rubbish in the oceans is so high, that they  eat by mistake plastic bags, thinking they eat jellyfish. One can multiply the examples ad infinitum.

Are we going to see the Total Extinction yet?

It is not easy to answer  with one sentence since the question is complicated. Defiantely we have already possibilities for Total Extinction – I mean: nuclear era, there is several ‘small’ wars currently in this world, the way we poison the planet,thousands of people die every single day from starvation or in the refugee camps.There is a problem with overpopulation.The huge disproportion between the richest and the poorest countries. One day those masses will react against that situation. Who knows what will happen then? I’m not a prophet, I just describe what I see and feel in the surrounding world. My images in many moments  predict the human degradation as I wrote in my manifeste –  because I wanted to stress that in my opinion this process has already started.

I love “Democracy”, how is a work like this born?

As I mentioned before my images consist of my own experience and the way I perceive the reality around us. In ‘Democracy’ I presented strong socio-political statement and all I wanted to say, I said by my artwork. This is simply the world behind the curtain or under the mask.
Furthermore I will use my own quotation from the interview I gave few weeks ago: “All I can say is that so called ‘Democracy’ in the contemporary world, is the experience of the labyrinth for me, with the Minotaur inside. The Minotaur runs the labyrinth, he demands helpless virgins and slaves. The only way to leave this circus is to find Ariadne’s Thread. The rest I revealed by my image”.

Would you like to live in an apocalyptic world?

I think there is no choice, because we already live in the apocalyptic world. We can ignore the naked facts coming from the world, and pretend that we live in the world of sweet consumption. The ‘truth’ is that only few per cent from the global humanity can say they live. The rest suffer from hunger, poverty, the lack of clean water. For those people every day is part of apocalypse. If we leave just for the moment the world of television, consumption and tendentious news, we will find that we live in the apocalyptic world. This world is not far away from our backyard.

In these days what is the role of Art? Does it have to help us to understand the risk we are running or does it have to distract us from it?

With my first sentence I will stress that I respect every single manifestation of Art. But in the way I present and understand art: Art is activism and Artist should give the ‘truth’ and evidence about this planet. For me art should explore the deepest parts of human life which we want to forget or hide. To satisfy the tastes – the empty entertainments  was presented., to fill the free time – the television was created. Art has nothing to do with taste or entertainment. In my mind,  art is not for giving pleasure. Art should constantly remind about the burning landscapes full of human insanity.

“The Agony of Narcismuss”, what is the idea, process, study behind this work?

The figure of Narcissism comes from the greek myth where Narcissism was extremely handsome boy who felt in love with his own reflection. In psychoanalytic theory, the spectrum of meanings might be interpreated as: egoism, vanity, conceit, selfishness, self-love or self-absorption. This term refers to the single person as well as to the groups.
By creating my image I wanted to mention three aspect of life. First is that in western society we love our body and present day as much that we are afraid of speaking about death. But the fact is that, no matter how much dietetic food we eat, how many carrot juice we drink – we are born to die. Second is that we think that western culture is the best from best, with all eurocentrism. Hence we ignore and underestimate the cultures around us. Third aspect is connected with the the term which is described in the buddhism philosophy and is called ‘the death of ego’ – and reveals the depths of the mind. There is also many associates with the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’.

Describe for us “Consumption” with one word, noun or adjective.


Are you fully satisfied with your work?

No. I think there is still many things to learn, discover and improve. The moment of fulfilment hasn’t come yet for sure.

Are you living in an utopian world where you can live with your art or do you have an apocalyptic job?

Unfortunately I left utopian world many years ago. Currently, I’m full-time artist and I’m always in my atelier working on new images. The problem with apocalyptic job is that- if you once found her, she will never let you forget about herself.

Do you have an essential artist without whom your work wouldn’t be possible?

Many people try to compare me with Hieronymus Bosch or Peter Bruegel. To be honest, I know theirs paintings but I never tried to follow the style they achieved. I can say that I was more inspired by the philosophers, sociologists, writers, than the artists. The great value of inspiration for me are: Antonin Artaud,Guy Debord,Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley, Austin Osman Spare, George Orwell,’Tibetan Book of the Dead’…

Last question, tell us an overestimate artist of our days.

Hovewer hard I try, I do not know the answer. The reason is simple – I don’t follow the contemporary artist market so much. Of course I have some artist I value much, but ufortunately they are more underestimated that overestimated. All in all, I believe the history and the spirit of future centuries will verifay every single artist and his art. Money success helps to realise many projects, but the essence is not to sell good and be known only for five minutes, but to last timeless

(Images © Marcin Owczarek)

More of Marcin’s work here

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