Marek Kijewski's Królowa Midas szuka Bugsa / Queen Midas Looking for Bugs is a two-piece sculpture made out of various, mainly materials that are not typically associated with traditional art media. The Queen is a duck built out of Lego bricks, while the second sculpture with a concrete base, cast in synthetic resin and covered in 24 carat gold flakes, resembling Bugs Bunny changing into a red carrot with long red ears.
The sculpture can be considered as part of a series by Kijewski partly realized with Małgorzata Malinowska (a.k.a. Kocur) where the mythological theme ably intermingles with elements of mass culture and the utilized materials in any way do not fit within the traditional academic sculpture. After spending a summer vacation in Crete, Greece, Kijewski created a whole series of such, presenting such works as: Fred Flinstone from Knossos – a variation about the mythical Minotaur and The Tattoos of Wilma Flinstone presenting sculptures inspired by Cretan women.
Queen Midas was first displayed at the artist's solo exhibition entitled Positive at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, 1995. In a witty and perverse way it resembles the mythical King Midas; the protagonist from Owidiusz's Metamorphoses in return for saving a Silenus was rewarded by Dionysus with a gift of turning everything he touched into gold – this quickly became the King's curse; an impending starvation death because even food and water turned into the precious metal. This is the story that the work probably relates to explaining the image: by the touch of the duck's wing Bugs Bunny imagined as a toothsome carrot gradually begins to turn into gold.
In his earlier work Marek Kijewski, co-founder (along with Mirosław Bałka and Mirosław Filonik) of the Neue Bieremiennost group created sculptures that applied to the 80's theme of "new expression". Even then his works had a spark or irony and humour which was often bolstered by their title. After that, the artist focused on mysticism accompanied by a simplification of form followed by an ascetic reduction of his work to installations composed of light bulbs or fluorescent lamps.
In the mid-'90s he began using atypical for artistic use materials taken directly from ordinary every day life. Concrete, polyurethane foam, plywood as well as peacock feathers, beer cans, even food products from Polish grocery stores like winegums or colored candy became art material. The aforementioned products pointed out the rapid expansion of the consumer culture in the first half of the '90s which not only changed the society's habits but also the surrounding iconosphere.
Kijewski is one of the first Polish artists who started using materials rather associated with the Western consumerism – desirable objects – as in the famous Lego pieces in the Queen Midas Looking for Bugs. The sense of the sculpture however does not apply only to these associations, its semantic potential appears only as the pop culture elements are juxtaposed with ancient tradition, as suggested by the "queen" of the title.
In his other works Kijewski indicated this sphere using other precious materials such as bronze or stone as well as formal reference to classical forms of sculpture – a totem, obelisk, bust or horse statue. The artist continued his mystical and shamanic interests- his raw material being hallucinogens and drugs.
The sculpture Queen Midas Looking For Bugs is one of the many examples of the uncanny poetry developed in the 90's by Kijewski where various patterns of the so-called high culture legacy loaded over the centuries with sumptuous meanings are juxtaposed with banal elements of pop iconosphere. Some refer to the universal truths rooted in mythology, philosophy and religion, other allow to keep an ironic detachment from tradition and above all indicate its repeated existence, after passing through the mass culture filter. The ambivalent nature of these works derives from the dialogue between elements of different cultural agendas, conjoined at a semantic, formal and material level. These works rather than showing the cultural gap dividing the mythical Midas and modern Bugs, frankly display the contrary- the inability to separate the overlapping images and mutually interpenetrating meanings. The significance of the piece is fluent, constantly undergoing a mutation. The uninhibited choice and arrangement of the motifs is accompanied by a constant shift of meanings and accents.
- "Republika Bananowa. Ekspresja lat 80. / Banana Republic. The Expression of the ‘80s." exhibition catalog, Wrocław 2008
- "Marek Kijewski. Drżę więc cały, gdy mogę was ozłocić / Marek Kijewski. I'm all a-tremble when I can shower you with gold". Exhibition catalog, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw 2008
Author: Magdalena Wróblewska, November 2010
• Marek Kijewski
"Królowa Midas szuka Bugsa" / "Queen Midas Looking for Bugs"
Lego bricks, 24 carat gold, rubber
Within the collections of the National Museum in Warsaw.