Stanisław Dróżdż, Ale Iacta Est

Does God Play Dice?

A roll of the dice is simple, the simplest game of all. All players are equal. The result is determined not by skill, dexterity or cunning but by pure luck/ coincidence. The Game of Dice also serves as a basic model for game theory and as a tool in modern probability theory. Dice, as a symbol of coincidence and contingency, thus entered the language of historians, philosophers, mathematicians and artists.

No two artists seem to stand more apart than Stanislaus Dróżdż and Adam Jastrzebski – one is a classic, the other is just starting his career; both present contrasting attitudes – Dróżdż breaks down the problem into its component parts, analyzes and aims to synthesize. By contrast, Jastrzebski constructs Vinyl’s – which are sprawling, almost organic, multi-layered structures, busily cutting out intricate forms from self-adhesive foil.

Dróżdż has always considered himself an artist creating concrete poetry. His material was the word – the word which could yield spatial form – hence the term “concept-shapes” which he used when referring to his own work. Jastrzebski also created his own language, which he named Vinylogos.

Both artists refer to philosophy and mathematics – Dróżdż was inspired, among other things, by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jastrzebski keeps right on track with the latest research in natural sciences and mathematics. At one point they both reached for the dice. Ten years ago, for the Venice Biennale, Dróżdż created a monumental work consisting of nearly 300,000 dice. The work drew the viewer into a strange game: the artist gave him or her all the possible arrangements of six dice and asked the viewer to find the outcome of a throw perfomed by the spectator his or herself.

Whereas Dróżdż was cheating luck or fate, Jastrzebski entirely subjugates his work to them both. Although he had created an output code he ends his reign over his work ended at that point. The tedious hours spent cutting up the amorphous form just follow the roll of the dice; it is an observation of how the body of a Vinyl extracts itself from the void. Both artists in a perverse way write themselves into the discourse of determinism and avoid taking a position – are we ruled by chance alone or is there is any established order to the world? Both artists leave the question open.

This famous dispute brought two famous physicists to a simple exchange: Albert Einstein: God does not play dice. Niels Bohr: Albert, do not tell God what to do. These artists seem to settle the dispute between the physicists by simply asking: does God play dice?
The exhibition also presents an album edition of Dróżdż’s work “Alea iacta est” completed with small sets from the original Venetian implementation. Adam Jastrzebski also refers to a set of six dice showing six black Vinyls.