Kobas Laksa is a visual artist, photographer, and filmmaker. He was born on 7th February, 1971 in Białystok. Laksa lives and works in Warsaw. He studied at the Department of Painting, Graphic Design, and Drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, from which he graduated in 1996.
Visual artist, photographer, filmmaker.
He uses a variety of media in his works – photography, photo collage, performance, installation, and film. He first started working in film. Between 1996 and 2003, he created short fiction and experimental films (Czy mógłbym się u pani wykąpać i przespać? / Could I Wash and Sleep Over at Your Place? from 1999, Strzały / Shots from 2002). In 2001, he received the main prize at the OFF Cinema Festival in Poznań for his film Sceny z użycia / User's Note (1997). Later on, he also started making documentaries. In Pojechałem z mamą na pielgrzymkę / I Went on a Pilgrimage with My Mom (2000), he created a touching portrait of his own mother, an organiser of pilgrimages to sacred places, at the same time offering an approach to the theme of Catholic rituals that was far from the common perception. His short film Koło jest przyjemne / Circle is Pleasure (2003) was devoted to a completely unknown artist creating bas-reliefs from a modelling compound which she makes from moulded egg cartons. Laksa also directs music videos, for instance for the band Abradab.
WALKING BEAT LADY AARP picture of me from Kobas Laksa on Vimeo.
Kobas Laksa is now mainly known as a photographer and author of collages, which can be found both in press and exhibitions. He gained notoriety for his series Projekt miejski Warszawa / Urban Projects Warsaw (2004), which comprised photographs taken in the capital's various locations, turned into horror vacui photo collages. The merged motifs contribute to a vision of a future metropolis, in which tens of roads intersect on multiple levels. Some of the photographic combinations produce impossible situations.
In some of his other collages, Laksa also expressed interest in a mutated body – for instance, he created images of a man with two legs and two torsos. He used photographic techniques to multiply his own figure, as if he was a triplet.
In 2008, the curatorial duo Jarosław Trybuś and Grzegorz Piątek invited Kobas Laksa and Nicolas Grospierre to participate in the project Hotel Polonia. The Afterlife of Buildings, presented at the Polish Pavilion at the 11th Venice Biennale of Architecture. The pavilion was transformed into a hotel for the duration of the Biennale, in a reference to the project's futuristic vision of a second life of buildings. The exhibition revolved around six recent architectural project realised in Poland. Nicolas Grospierre photographed them in their present state, while Laksa used the technique of collage to conjure a vision of their future. He turned the Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń into a water park. The Metropolitan office building in Warsaw's Piłsudski Square, designed by Norman Foster, became a prison. The exclusive Marina Mokotów residential estate was transformed into a refugee housing complex. The Warsaw University Library was reimagined by Laksa as a shopping centre, and the new airport terminal – as farming grounds. One of the collages also became a metaphor – the high-rise building Rondo 1 by the ONZ Roundabout in Warsaw was presented as a giant necropolis.
Some ideas of transformations came from the curators who were responsible for the theoretical framework of the project, and some from the artist, but it was Laksa who visualised them in his characteristic style, previously apparent in the cycle Projekt miejski Warszawa. He commented on his method of working and the secret of a successful photo collage in an interview:
I take pictures, I observe the details, search for associations in a seemingly chaotic structure. I try to understand how a given place has arrived at its particular form. It is an arduous work, which I later continue on the computer. I review a bunch of photographs in the context of light composition and perspective. I pay attention to the smallest details, as credibility is the key of a successful photo montage. In order to create a believable image of the University Library as a shopping centre, I set up my camera at a particular time and angle at the Blue City, as it was the only supermarket where the type of light and space resembled that at the Library.
At a first sight, it is a post-catastrophic vision of the world, however the curators also asked if that was not in fact the plausible course of events. They wondered:
What will happen with the Warsaw University Library when all books are digitised? What should we do with the two hundred metre tall skyscraper or Norman Foster's Metropolitan office building when the speculative housing market crashes or the model of office work changes? What will happen with an airport terminal when, due to the increase in the cost of oil, flying will again become a luxury? What will become of the Licheń Basilica when Poles stop going to church?
These questions were followed by another one, much more important than the fantastic visions: how should we, then, design the buildings of the future?
The exhibition was extremely successful, as it was awarded the Golden Lion at the Biennale. When it was presented one year later at the Zachęta gallery in Warsaw, the curators transformed the exhibition rooms into a disco venue (Disco Zachęta).
Later on, Laksa moved on to create performance pieces. At the festival Artboom 2010 in Kraków, he created a mobile sculpture titles LikeKonik. It was his own version of the Kraków's Lajkonik which occasionally appeared at the Old Market Square. However his outfit differed from the image of a traditional Lajkonik – dressed entirely in black leather and latex, with a mask on his face, and a leather pelt in his hand, he resembled a BDSM Lajkonik, a frequenter of dark clubs, lost in the city streets. The artist wanted to refresh the story behind this local tradition. Initially, this festivity was so dangerous that the officials banned it. It wasn't until Stanisław Wyspiański designed Lajkonik's costume that this custom made its return, although in a non-brutal model.
In Summer of 2010, Kobas Laksa also staged a performance in Spycimierz (Spycifestum), a small village in the Łódź region, which has preserved its tradition of flower bed compositions for Corpus Christi. A procession walks over a two kilometre decoration made out of flowers, shrubs, leaves, and pebbles, destroying it. After a few days, it is cleaned up. During the 2010 Corpus Christi celebrations, Laksa was involved in the work on the flower bed, by including in it the text: “Lord, save us, we are perishing.” It is a quotation from the Gospel of Matthew, which has often been brought up in Poland whenever its national upsurges failed.
Selected solo exhibitions:
- Rauchdelikt – ParisMoskau.de Gallery, Leipzig
- Home Video – Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- Cimitero Comunale – CK Zamek, Poznań
Selected group exhibitions:
- International Print Triennial – Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków
- Fade into Black – Klima Bocheńska Gallery, Warsaw
- Czarna dziura – wystawa dla młodszego widza (The Black Hole – an Exhibition for the Younger Audience) – Kronika Gallery, Bytom
- Hotel Polonia. The Afterlife of Buildings – 11th Venice Biennale of Architecture
- Disco Zachęta – Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
- Wenus (Venus) – Kraków Photomonth
- Miejsce w sercu (Place in Heart) – Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- 5th The Young Triennial – Centre of Polish Sculpture, Orońsko
- Energy Class B – Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast
- Nieodkryte / Niewypowiedziane (Undiscovered / Unspoken) – Nowy Theatre, Warsaw
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2010. Translated by Ania Micińska, November 2015.