Stanisław Dróżdż. Alea iacta est
Stanisław Dróżdż’s installation Alea iacta est was exhibited for the first time in the Polish Pavilion at the 50th Venice Art Biennale in 2003. In this work, the artist wanted the viewers to follow a certain set of instructions: you are a participant in the game; roll the dice; arrange them in a row; find this dice pattern on the wall from among the 46,656 possible combinations. If you happen to find yours, then you have won, if you don’t, then that means you have lost. The installation included a table with six dice and panels filled with rows of dice, showing the results of possible throws and uniformly covering the walls of the room.
ms2 , Ogrodowa 19
The enormous space that was the Polish pavilion – the artist so relates in an interview – was replete with dice. Indeed, there were hundreds of thousands of dice on every wall except the floor and ceiling. There was a craps table in the middle of the space. Anyone who rolled a particular combination could then try and find it on the wall. If they succeeded, then they had won. However, because the entire layout, developed by me with the help of an IT specialist, had been designed to make the task more difficult. (…) There were few exceptions.
The Muzeum Sztuki’s reconstruction of Alea iacta est uses the elements deposited by Stanisław Dróżdż in the museum in 2003, following his presentation at the Biennale. Declaring a wish to donate the installation to an institution that would find it a permanent home, Dróżdż was open to the idea of reconstructing the installation in the exhibition space of the newly established branch of the Muzeum Sztuki, which is today’s MS2. In an interview, the artist recalls that the installation was meant to have been reassembled within two years. The different architectural context of the presentation did not pose any difficulties for the artist, with Dróżdż stating that, when reconstructing his installations, he always adapted to the new space.
Being situated in the MS2 building, the exhibition of the work Alea iacta est possesses a thematic link with the Neoplastic Room, designed by Władysław Strzemiński and to be found in the MS1 building. While the Neoplastic Room is universal in nature, it being oriented towards the comprehensive reconstruction of modern life, Stanisław Dróżdż’s installation foregrounds an existential dimension, stimulating as it does each recipient to reflect on the uniqueness of their fate.
Alea iacta est is interactive in nature; stimulating recipients to take specific actions. It creates a state of uncertainty related to chance and the possibility of winning. The recipient’s decisions are not determined – as in the works of Katarzyna Kobro and Strzemiński – by the laws of space constructed in accordance with space-time rhythm. Like any lottery, Dróżdż’s installation activates the recipient – it involves the risk of losing; it offers the possibility of repeated attempts at playing the game, and it lures with the prospect of fulfilment. Nothing is definitive in this work; and it cannot be perceived in an unreceptive sense. Perception here is synonymous with an engagement in the game. Moreover, it carries a philosophical dimension in that it stimulates the recipient to reflect on a specific course of events. Relating to this concept, the artist has stated that this installation is all about randomness:
Craps is played with five dice, but in my variation, craps is played with six dice because each dice has six faces. When you throw the dice, you either have to remember the thrown combination or write it down, and the idea is to find the combination (...) in the given space.
An introductory chapter to Alea iacta est is a small exhibition of other works by Stanisław Dróżdż, corresponding to important aspects of the Biennale installation. These are numerical works, built from digital records, or textual works that stimulate engagement. They highlight the permutations of elements, the three-dimensionality of a text and the immersiveness of an experience; and also, that intensive reading activates combinatorial abilities. This introductory part admits the possibility of a fluid exchange of works.