Impossible Songs

‘Impossible Songs’ – Mikołaj Sobczak

Impossible Songs is an exhibition of the artist Mikołaj Sobczak curated by Jester’s curator-in-residence Valentina Bianchi.

Impossible Songs consists of a multimedia installation presenting the multiform mythology of the artist Mikołaj Sobczak. The exhibition functions as a translation of the musical The Universal Empire presented at the Mennonite Church in Amsterdam by Rozenstraat – a rose is a rose is a rose in March 2024.

The handout with the exhibition text and further information can be also read online.

The piece is evoked through film and sound recording, but also through the presence of some of the elements utilized on the day of the performance.

Some of the set pieces (for example the costume worn by the puppet of William Blake/Mercury) have been imbued with the energy and atmosphere of the live show, metaphysically carrying some of its essence into a new visual constellation. The images are screened and the audio is played in the kunsthal, occupying an ideal space as well as a real one and transporting the audience on a stage that is at the same time new and reminiscent of the musical setting. In a composition fluctuating between repetition and novelty, past and future are alternatively melted and solidified.

Jester’s kunsthal is radically transformed by the theatrical set pieces transporting us in seemingly abandoned living spaces with lighting fitting for a crypt. The immersive scenography plunges the viewer into a theater-like catacomb, three shrines to the relentless heretics of history. Several wooden cutouts complete the composition and act as palimpsests on which layers of archival materials, photos, and drawings merge to take the viewer through a narration that spans centuries. The collages employ diverse techniques, like CNC wood cutting, printing, and painting. Adding new layers of paint and meaning, Sobczak transforms installations and enriches the manifold universe of his lore.

‘Impossible’ Songs

The impossibility referred to in the title is the one constantly looming over any historical fact. According to Blake himself, The history of all times and places is nothing else but improbabilities and impossibilities; what we should say, was impossible if we did not see it always before our eyes. Historical changes are ungraspable: there seems to be an insurmountable gap between historical experience and history itself.

The same could be said of Blake’s own life, work, writings, and songs. They would be considered most unlikely if not for the fact that they did, in fact, exist.

The whole project honours the resistance of all kinds of heretics, from historical examples to contemporary queer activists and communities that were and are persecuted in our times. An occasion to celebrate and commemorate the characters but also a community and society of people with a common will for survival and triumph.

This project was realized with the support of ROZENSTRAAT – a rose is a rose is a rose and M Leuven.

About ‘Universal Empire’

The musical tells the story of two members of an anabaptist commune in Amsterdam and the turmoil the group goes through when William Blake joins it, transported into their world under mysterious circumstances. Entangled into notions of economics, spirituality, and modernity, the characters represent the alchemical elements of Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury. Blake/Mercury spiritually floats outside time and space, plunging into the hopeful commune or a capitalist apocalypse. As a sort of Messiah, he tries to help the commune escape the threats of modernity, capitalistic overproduction, and the homogenization of society. This process, understood by Blake as a shared consciousness, is the “Universal Empire”. Religious persecution is the main threat to the survival of the anabaptist commune but it also functions as the allegory of all forms of oppression and erasure, for example of queer people. It is through esotericism and magic that religion is exorcized and new or ancient knowledge systems can again flourish.


About Mikołaj Sobczak

Mikołaj Sobczak’s installations, performances, and films are windows into the complex cast of characters and narrations of his mythology. Stemming from a thorough research into persecution society and queer resistance, Sobczak’s work contributes to a necessary and ongoing multiplication of histories.

Sobczak has recently exhibited at Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany, Kunsthalle Münster, Germany and Shedhalle, Zurich, Switzerland, and his works are part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, The National Museum, Gdańsk, and the Galeria Bielska BWA.

Sobczakwas an artist in residenceat the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam between 2021 and 2023; at Art Explora, Cité internationale des arts in Paris until February 2024. He was awarded the Paszport Polityki award in 2021.