KRZYSZTOF M. BEDNARSKI / MARX NLC (NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS)

Noctilucent clouds (NLC) is a meteorological phenomenon. Present in the highest parts of the stratosphere, noctilucent clouds are sometimes visible in the night sky long after the sunset or before the sunrise. NCL appear to shine with its own metallic light. The phenomenon, just like aurora, used to be observed primarily in polar regions. Currently, due to climate change, this phenomenon has occurred more and more often in the temperate zone, also in Europe. Krzysztof M. Bednarski embeds the image of Karl Marx in the context of the current climate change and spectral phenomena observed in the sky. Bednarski has worked with this image since the production of his diploma project “The Total Portrait of Karl Marx” in 1978. In his artistic output, Karl Marx’s head plays the role of an empty sign, an open form which although remains iconic, yet it loses its symbolic power and thus is transformed into a capacious vessel for new content, emerging along with the changing historical, ideological and political contexts. In the People’s Republic of Poland, the image of Marx was an emblem of official ideology, and operations made by Bednarski on this image were interpreted as polemic gestures towards this ideology. By appropriating Marx, the communist regime successfully neutralized the subversive, emancipating power of his ideas. After the collapse of communism, the author of “Capital” appears to regain this power. Paradoxically, although Marx becomes valid and useful in the critical description of reality again, his image has disappeared from the public space in the post-communist countries together with other emblems and monuments of the former system. Bednarski’s work brings the portrait of Karl Marx back to the public space as a phantom monument, a “noctilucent cloud”. It is a monument which is detached from its plinth. An image that is duplicated, multiplied and mutated just like a tissue irradiated with history and political notions.