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Kasia Fudakowski

In conversation with
Jason File

As part of the exhibition: Elephant Juice
This took place before the opening on 14/12/2018

The artists invited to realize a project at 1646 are asked to engage in conversation with a correspondent via email or DM, be it someone previously unknown to them or whom they’re already familiar with.

This conversation spans the period before an exhibition is completed. 1646 invites the correspondent at the other end of this exchange to ask questions so they may be guided through the artist’s decision-making process and how their initial ideas develop toward completion. It provides insight into the artist’s body of work and is intended to paint a picture of the otherwise untraceable choices that constitute the artist’s practice.

17 OCTOBER: Jason File [JF] – Kasia Fudakowski [KF]

Dear Kasia,

I’m pleased to meet you via e-mail!

Since we’re starting from zero, more or less, perhaps a good place

to start would be a brief introduction to your plans for the 1646

presentation you are developing. Could you explain a bit about

what you have in mind, and how it relates to your art practice in

general?

Looking forward to corresponding with you over the next two

months as you develop your project.

Kind regards,

Jason

21 OCT: KF – JF

Hi Jason,

Thanks for getting in touch, I’m very happy to be connected with you

for this project. I was excited when Johan suggested the conversation

with you because of your work with the different aspects of the

law which is something I’m also very interested in, and I’m looking

to bring more and more into this project, though it may not manifest

itself ‘this time’…

So just to give you a quick introduction: The exhibition at 1646 will

be a presentation of the next ‘episode’ or instalment of my ongoing

film project Word Count. It’s based on the futuristic and fictional

premise that in the near future scientists confirm a direct correlation

between the dramatically rising sea-levels and the amount of

words that we speak. A new law is passed which restricts each

citizen on the planet to 433 words per day. This comes to be known as

Cage Law, after John Cage’s famous 4’33”.

The ever-expanding accumulating footage of Word Count investigates

the consequences of the first year of this new law’s implementation,

with some citizens being more able and willing to adapt than others.

I see it basically as a kind of filter through which to see the absurdity

of our current reality.

I’m not working with a feature length script, but rather, each time I

have the opportunity to shoot, finding a micro scene or scenes that

makes the most sense given the implicit limits of each opportunity,

and slowly making my way through and around four central character’s

narratives:

Bridget, a stand up comedian, Jennifer, a lawyer specialising in

Cage Law, her husband David, an out of work radio DJ and Professor

Sanchez, a radical intellectual who rejects the philosophy behind

Cage Law. Each character represents a different position. Jennifer’s

character works with the system and only strictly within

the legal limits, her husband represents someone who has

given in and given up, the professor symbolises a kind of

martyr to an idea while Bridget, the stand up comedian,

is the only character that has the mental agility to really

positively adapt her behaviour to create a new way to

communicate and indeed self-actualise.

For The Hague I am concentrating on the husband’s character,

who, having recently been made unemployed (as a victim

of Cage Law), tries to find purpose in his life by diving

for flooded debris in the sea. He repairs and resells

various things, ‘recycling’ them for word credits. I want

to use The Hague’s location on the coast as a kind of fifth

character in this film, asking how might life be different

in The Hague under this new law.

Maybe that’s enough to start us off? Looking forward to

hearing from you soon.

best

Kasia

23 OCT: JF – KF

Thanks very much for this introduction to your project.

It is a thought-provoking scenario you have proposed,

and I am excited to see how it evolves.

If it sounds good to you, I’ll try to restrict my questions

and comments to the improvisational comedy rule

of “yes, and?” that takes a scenario as given and goes

in pursuit of further development. This is because your

“Cage Law” idea prompts a lot of questions from the law

and politics side of my brain (Who passed this law? How

did it overcome resistance from interested parties? How

is it enforced internationally?) that I think are not really

necessary for you to answer given the micro-local

approach you seem to be pursuing in your filmed scenes.

One set of questions, though, I think come from a similar

place, and are perhaps more relevant to the scenes

you are producing – I’ll go ahead and put them out there

given that you mentioned your interest in the legal aspects

of things. One interesting feature of the criminal trials I

have worked on for the United Nations in The

Hague has been seeing how the trial transcripts differ

physically across different languages. I have attached

a page of the English language transcript from one trial

as an example. There is an effort to ensure that the

page numbers for the English- and French- language

versions of the transcript correspond, but French is a less

“efficient” language in terms of the number of concepts

expressed on average per syllable and word; the result

is that the English transcripts periodically contain

blank pages to allow the French transcripts to catch up.

You may have come across this phenomenon – it turns

out that there is actually a wide range of language

efficiency across different languages, ranging from

Mandarin and English at a high information density per

word, to Spanish and Japanese at a low information

density per word. In this study (http://ohll.ish-ly-

on.cnrs.fr/fulltext/pellegrino/Pellegrino_to%20appear_

Language.pdf, see also http://content.time.com/time/

health/article/0,8599,2091477,00.html), researchers at

the University of Lyon found that low information density

corresponded to a higher rate of speech so that the

total amount of information conveyed across time was

relatively similar no matter what language was spoken.

It seems that in The Martyrdom of Professor Sanchez, his

words are counted the same in Spanish (one of the less

efficient languages) as in English (one of the more efficient

languages). So this got me thinking, the Cage Law

must be unfairly discriminatory against some countries

and languages, while a competitive advantage to others.

Especially in the legal realm, German is famous for its

openness to packing complex concepts into a single word

that looks to outsiders like a verbal car crash (for example,

the famous rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften,

which describes insurance companies that provide legal

protection). Would languages start evolving

like this, with people also using conjunctions, eliminating

articles, using active instead of passive sentence structures,

et cetera? It seems that as a lawyer,

Jennifer might be the kind of character who would take

advantage of this for her clients, or her family, or her-

self. Indeed, maybe her law firm, or a cabal of govern-

ment workers, might seek additional advantages through

codes or even new languages. What if they did this to

seek power, like in the (dated) 1949 Robert Heinlein sci-

fi novella “Gulf”, or if they tried to use Ithkuil, a lan-

guage constructed for efficiency and accuracy, as docu-

mented in this New Yorker article (https://www.newyorker.

com/magazine/2012/12/24/utopian-for-beginners) from a

few years back? Does the Cage Law include using written

words, or clear body language? Would hearing-impaired

people and others with a good command of sign language

suddenly have a huge competitive advantage in communi-

cation? Would there be other noticeable changes in the

physical surroundings or environment that your char-

acters inhabit?

These are all speculative questions that relate to the

way such a rule could alter individual behaviour and so-

cietal structures, so I guess it raises the more general

question of how far do you want to go in your elaboration

of the “rule-making” component of this collection of

performed scenes? And likewise, how much do you want to

allow audiences to figure out from clues in the scenes

themselves versus the text that accompanies any pres-

entation of this work?

I have other questions I wanted to ask, but I think this

is plenty for our next exchange – I hope all is well with

you! (Where are you based at the moment?)

29 OCT: KF – JF

Thanks so much for your engaged and concentrated response.

I’m now on the train on my way from Berlin (where I live) to

The Hague to shoot the next ‘instalment’ with a heavy bag

filled with green rubber suits and what feels like a cold

coming on. I’m super excited though to be shooting at the

Pier which will be the first time we really see the water

more present on the screen.

Your response technique of ‘Yes and…’ is apt as it’s exact-

ly how I’m also working with this idea as the premise sim-

ply functions as a filter through which to see the world

and our, at times, absurd social behaviour.

So, although so far I have been, as you say, pursuing the

theme on a more micro-local level, this is more of a capa-

bility/budget issue than a particular choice at this point.

I see this project as an ever-growing series of shorts

which will slowly, drip by drip, begin to illustrate the

potential consequences of the implementation of this law,

and that picture is always changing and hopefully getting

bigger and richer. The point is that Cage Law would af-

fect every level of life from the micro to the global so-

cial political sphere and so it’s a joy to jump around and

see where the chips fall in each situation.

To answer your first question, o f who

[I imagine] passed this law, I see it as a mirroring of

The Rome Statute, The Dublin Convention, or The Paris

Agreement where certain nations got together to agree on

a level of co-operation on a specific issue. The idea with

this is that of course some nations were/are either not

represented or boycotted the decision, which has conse-

quences for the whole. I’m interested in using stereotypes

as dangerously ‘useful’ or ‘efficient’ short cuts to start

to play the game of ‘what if…’.

So along those lines, I imagine for example, the brooding

Nordic nations realise they don’t use all their word cred-

it quota each day due to their lower population-to-land-

mass ratio, i.e. they don’t bump into each other much, and

begin to sell off their credits to nations in far great-

er apparent ‘need’ like Italy and Spain where, by break-

fast, most citizens are already struggling to stay with-

in their quota.

Monarchic England is the first nation to reveal a two-

tiered class system in which the wealthy, educated ‘up-

per-class’, inexplicably has a higher word count access

than the underprivileged ‘lower classes’. The sudden crim-

inalisation of ‘over-speaking’ results in over-crowded

prisons, and with austerity measures introduced result-

ing in cuts to legal aid, the poor are progressively mis-

represented, their voices, literally, taken away.

The proud Poles, feel unreasonably and personally victim-

ised by Cage Law because they are the only nation with over

six grammatical cases. As a credit saving policy, they de-

cide to radically do away with the past tense, resulting

in a 35% decrease in national speech requirements…

The Germans are laughing with their compound nouns and thus

retain their position as the strongest economic power in

what is left of the crumbling European Union. Through acts

of apparent charity they buy up huge swathes of, ironical-

ly German subsidised credits from the indebted Greeks be-

fore selling them back to them at a higher interest rate.

The Americans might use their global and financial influ-

ence to ‘buy’ up credits from poorer struggling nations,

which might sell their entire gross national credits with-

out even asking it’s citizens, rendering them forcibly si-

lent for extended periods of time… while ‘rogue nations’

which did not sign in Cage Law might refuse to co-oper-

ate throwing any delicate adaptive efforts of the under-

signed out of the window.

I imagine the western-centric nature of Cage Law would

also encounter difficulties when assessing tonal lan-

guages. Being unable to decipher the difference between

syllables and words, a syllabic half-credit system might

be imposed in Asian countries which results in them be-

ing at a bureaucratic disadvantage at the global table. I

was very interested to read about the relative efficien-

cies of language that you mentioned, and LOVE the visual-

isation of the blank English pages existing to allow the

French to catch up.

There would also be unexpected shifts under Cage Law like

for example Mexico’s regrettable history of indigenous il-

literacy ironically works in its favour with its populous

being much more accustomed to working with images and

signs than words. Many impoverished locals, particularly

the female population, also find that their words sudden-

ly have a value that they did not have before.

You asked about the written aspect of this scenario, and

although I revel in this ever evolving thought experiment,

I am aware that in the film I don’t want it to be a check

list of all the ‘clever’ things I have thought of for this

rule. Do you know what I mean? These shorts should ex-

ist as sketches that just suggest various scenarios. But,

yes, the written question is an important aspect, and the

narrative conceit I have invented is that a written word

is equal to half a spoken word credit. The idea being that

somehow the production of new information is not infinite

or at least that there is a cost involved. This means how-

ever, that everything that was already spoken and recorded

or written down can be recycled. And that’s exactly what

the character of David, the unemployed husband, is up to.

This week we will film him as he dives for analogue record-

ed speech, mostly in the form of records, and dries them,

straightens them out and then re-sells them for credits.

I think it’s important to repeat that the Word Count pro-

ject takes place in the first year of the implementation

of this new law, so it’s really as much about our relative

ability to adapt as how we might do it. I imagine long-term,

people would indeed develop much more sophisticated means

of communicating non-verbally, be that sign language or

recorded speech, but yes, initially there would be a hi-

erarchical flip which might see the hearing or speech im-

paired at an advantage. There might be people who consid-

er donating, or abstaining…

I’m aware that this email is swelling, and I haven’t an-

swered all your questions, and while I would love to write

on, I think it would be wise to practice a little self-re-

straint, and finish here!

15 NOV: JF – KF

I very much enjoyed reading your extensive response, as

it suggests so many avenues this project could take! It

also built out the world or worlds that might be inhab-

ited by these characters in numerous ways.

One major aspect of your response imagined the use of

national stereotypes as a way of teasing out the im-

plications of the Cage Law, which for me highlighted

the importance, or at least the potential importance,

of a humorous or satirical element in this project. I

noticed that in the series of shorts to which you re-

ferred me in your initial message, the structure and

content seemed to work together to operate almost like

a set-up with a punch line. Do you see humour as playing

an important role in this project, or in your art prac-

tice more generally? Has it contributed to this par-

ticular instalment as you develop the David’s charac-

ter and world as he goes diving for speech? How much

of the action is scripted as opposed to improvised?

(… and how did the shoot go? What’s next?)

Best of luck as the project begins to take form!

5 DEC: KF – JF

Sorry for the long pause. The shoot went well and the edit

was pretty smooth, now just on my way back through the

mist to The Hague for the install.

Yes! Humour is THE most important element to me, though

I’m happy for it to get momentarily or even often submerged

in the horror. This instalment of the film or in fact three

little films are a good mix of tragic, comic and the mix of

that in the very every day.

What I’m most nervous about for the install is to get this

sound piece working which involves a sound regulated mag-

netic valve. The idea is that when people speak in the first

room, the tap will release water. The hope is in the end

there will be many buckets of water, representing how much

was spoken in the room… let’s see if it works!

Are you in The Hague at the moment? Will you make it for

the opening? Or London? What are you working on right now?

Would be nice to meet some day.

10 DEC: JF – KF

Ahh yes, the début of a new technology! I’m familiar

with the excitement and anxiety that comes with that

particular type of experimentation. I have found that

it can sometimes provide incredible opportunities for

collaboration across disciplines by seeking out experts

with the right kind of background to advise on develop-

ing technical solutions to out-of-the-ordinary artistic

problems – but then there is always that pesky problem

of whether it will actually work on time! How have you

approached this particular issue? Is it something where

you already have special knowledge and can make some-

thing like this on your own, or have you worked with spe-

cialists to design and build this valve? If the latter,

how did you find them and how has it gone?

I would love to hear your more of your thoughts on how

humour is the most important element for you, especial-

ly in terms of whether (and how) you think it might be

capable of affecting the audience in ways that are oth-

erwise not accessible in contemporary art. Is it con-

nected to an exploration of the notion of the absurd?

I hope you can find a moment during your installation

period to send one last response on or before our 11

December deadline for printing, although I know that the

few days before opening can be intense. Also, if you feel

that there are important aspects of this project that

I have not asked about, and that you would like to con-

vey to your audience, please feel free to include them.

(Which sort of raises that perennial question of how

much you want the audience to receive directly though

the work versus through accompanying exhibition text…)

As for me, I regret that I will not be able to attend in

person to celebrate the opening of your exhibition with

you on the 14th. I am currently in the United States for

some project development – just finished an installa-

tion that is on show at a museum in Sarajevo, and wrap-

ping up the edit of a new video that will be screened in

London on the 17th. However, I look forward very much

to meeting you sometime soon, and will be there in spir-

it. I will keep my fingers crossed that all elements,

including your sound-activated valve, work the way you

want them to!

In the meantime, best of luck this week, and have a great

opening!

12 DEC: KF – JF

Thanks for this last email. Such beautifully leading ques-

tions! I don’t know if that’s the lawyer in you or this specific

slightly artificial assignment, either way, it’s

been very interesting to exchange with you. Shame that

you won’t make it to see the show, but I’ll send you some

links to the new films asap. I meant to write back sooner,

to get one more exchange in before we finish, but I’ve been

a bit exhausted in the evenings after installing and sud-

denly things like being horizontal and watching a Metallica

documentary seemed very important… Anyway, we have till

tomorrow morning, so here is me squeezing one in.

The show in now installed, and it’s a strange feeling. I’ve

never done a show like this. Can’t help thinking it’s a bit

of a 90’s exhibition! Installation art, immersive, ‘mul-

ti-sensory’. It sounds and smells like an exhibition any-

way. Interestingly there is this really nice sound bleed-

ing between the videos in the space, so while you watch

one specific person or couple trying to deal with the world

under Cage Law, you catch glimpses of other little worlds

happening at the same time from the corner of your eye.

The project as a whole is still very fragmented, but I feel

like slowly I am getting a bit more of the picture together,

and snippets of narratives will start to make more sense.

The short we shot with David (the diver and husband char-

acter) fleshes out his character a little now, but I guess

you don’t have to know that it’s ‘David’, it could just be

a guy pulling records out of the ocean.

I’d say the humour is pretty undercover in this exhibition,

because the atmosphere is a little oppressive (I’ve built

this temporary tunnel construction which is made from tim-

ber and grey-green plastic sheeting with water weighing

down from above so that when you walk under you have to

hunch over to avoid it’s dull weight) and it’s therefore not

a ‘comfortable experience’, but I’d say humour is still the

motivation behind the project (not that humour has to be

comfortable, far from it). And yes, it’s very much linked

to an exploration of the absurd (if the absurd is an exag-

geration of the truth). For me, humour or the comic, when

it works is like a short circuit to the truth and it only

works when it connects to the truth. I also believe it’s the

most economic form of communication, in the sense that if

it works, it connects to something already in the mind of

the beholder. I am so in love with Kierkegaard right now,

and in his ‘Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs’ he ar-

gues that the Socratic way is ‘the most positive’ (as op-

posed to negative) relation you can have with another, i.e.

the continual questioning to allow the subject to discov-

er what they already ‘know’. That’s vastly over simplified,

but what I mean is that the comic element is like a super

conductor and it can connect on such an intuitive level,

bi-passing the critical cerebral level that much of con-

temporary art discourse exists on.

The water feature works! Many people helped along the

way with it including my engineer brother, my electri-

cian friend back in Berlin and finally Floris here in the

Hague who seemingly very enthusiastically took over the

installation while I worked on the plastic with Johan and

Clara. So, I’m very lucky. Fingers crossed it holds out

for the show.

So, thanks again for your time and thoughts on this, and

all my very best

Kasia”

Info

About

Kasia Fudakowski studied at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University and has exhibited internationally at venues such as; The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Kunstverein Braunschweig; Arnolfini, Bristol; GAK, Bremen; FUTURA, Prague; Harburger Bahnhof Kunstverein, Hamburg; Sprengel Museum, Hanover; and Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

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