The Mad World of Dušan Polakovič

It sometimes seems that people are Homo Demens (derived from the Latine words Homo – man and Demens – mad). Althought Darwin said that people were Homo Sapiens (Latine Sapiens means thinking) and Huizinga refered to them as Homo Ludens (Ludens means playful), the fact, that somebody messes his planet up with dirt and waste, indicates that he can not be Sapiens, not even Ludens, because it would look like he has done it just for fun.  Moreover, if we take into account also very dubious Evolution Theory of the Antropology of a man and the fact, that from the genetic point of view Homo Sapiens Sapiens is closer to a swine than to a Neanderthal man, it is understandable why many people are called swines. But the strange thing is, what is pejorative in it.
Homo Demens or a Mad man is not completely unknown notion. It can be found in plenty of ”Mad literature” starting with the Medieval period, e.g. in Brant’s Medieval bestseller Das Narrenschiff – The Ship of mad men, later in Servantes’ Done Quijote and Hasek’s Lots of a Good soldier Svejk or Ryan’s novel How I won the war. Especially Svejk was maybe the only one who was normal among the group of mad men. How else can we define the war machinery aimed at a mass destruction of beings of the same kind which can not be seen anywhere else in the nature?  A man with his behaviour differs so significatly from the nature of our planet, that he is well aware of it. And that’s why the nature threates him with many disasters in the form of floods, fires or earthquakes. ”What does not kill me makes me even stronger,” says a man to himself and walks towards an inevitable death. A real war can be survived only with humour. But this was already known to Yossarian.

Fighting men

A man still fights with something every day, even if there is no war. He fights against: globalization, corruption, interruption; he fights for: survival, work, love; and with: clerks, windmills, illnesses or waste. It was just the problem of Ecology which was satirically dealt with in the early works of Dusan Polakovic, especially in the cycle Stick to Cleanliness (1974). Here he pointed out many problems of a previous socialistic society: the contamination of water sources is represented by mutated fishes with wings desperately flying over a river contaminated by oil waste flowing from a pipe. Emmisions are wittily characterized by means of a smoking chimney of a factory which fumes are drifting directly onto a plate of a man having his lunch or towns’ popculture is methaporically captured in the form of  dustbin full of rubbish on a lamp-post of the street lighting of a shape of Bratislava Castle. The ecological criticism can be found in his later graphical letter Beware – the National Park (1985). An oasis of almost exctinct animals growing on a rocky overhang attached to it only by means of safety pins wittily comments on actions by a man (Homo Sapiens) in point of the conditions of the threat  of extinction of exotic animals. They are especially a panda bear, sloth and rhino which has become a sought-for article of nowadays’ poachers who are capable of killing a rhino for its horn which is used to produce aphrodisiacs, which is, when considering the origin and spreading of HIV just in the countries of Africa, an awkard irony.

Mad men

The production of Dusan Polakovic has got a lot incommon with the ”Mad Literature” itself.  The main reason is that, in his works, features of the social satire close to the Dutch Art of the 16th Century, appear.

We can mention, e.g. his graphics in A praise of madness I-II (1984), which are inspired by philosophical and critical wwork of Erazmus of Rotterdam, a Dutch artist from the turn of the 15th and the 16th Century. It was these works by which he showed clearly his connection to the School of A. Brunovsky, not only by the fact that he had been his student at the Department of Graphics and Illustrations, but by the iconographic themes in his graphics, as well, which had already been used by A. Brunovsky  in his several works (e.g. The Erasmus – 1972, Praise of madness – 1973). Polakovic, unlike Brunovsky, made Praise of madness according to a Dutch painter of the 16th Century, Hieronimus Bosch, especially by creating a great number of beings made up by the combination of the human and animal bodies. This creats a gap between Polakovic’s production and the dreamy hyperrealism of his teacher and shifts him closer to his contemporary, a graduate from the same graphic course, Peter Klucik.
Klucik’s Bestiarium has already drawn some attention. Here, it might be suitable to mention that his fantastic animals were created by the combination of various ”real animals”. Polakovic’s ”Praise of madness” resembles a scene from a circus where new creatures are made either by a combination of a man and an animal {a crayfish with the man’s head, a swine with  the man’s head and ears of a bat, a dwarf with the elephant’s trunk ended by a trumpet} or by means of masks – of a hen, clown, snail or donkey – consisting of different masked figures.

Polakovic’s fondness of Zoology  does not come from  the inspiration of Borghe’s imaginatives beings as it is in the case of Klucik. His source of inspiration can be  found in the stories by an English zoologist and a writer in one person, Gerald Durrell, who founded a botanic garden for precious animals from all over the world (Catch me a Colobus. London 1972) on an island. Polakovic’s admiration and respect for his zoomorpic genre was expressed in graphics A respect for Gerald Durrell (1988), which is a kind of the top register of the graphic, e.g. a rhino with the head in the shape of a clenched fist, where a lifted thumb symbolizing ”OK”, actually supplements the rhino’s horn.
Another of his frequently used motives is a woman with the wings and a bird’s body (A prototype Aero No 1, 1985) resembling a mythological Antique being – a harpy. She, together with the rest of antient beasts, was created by Zeus, who must have been after a night out, having A hangover.
In later works of D. Polakovic, he combines everything with everything what creates  an impression that his compositions are rather chaotic, made by a mixture of parts of human bodies, animals, plants and things. However,  it is still possible to talk about the artist’s satiric concept, e.g. in the graphic Problems with gravitation I. II. (1988), where a man – an entertainer – is standing on a board representing the world and trying to find a balance while being tied by conventions. As the artist was born in Bratislava, he, obviously, could not miss out the capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, e.g. in the graphic Sonata for the Old Town (1993) where he shows the town as a madhouse and, maybe, he is not far from the truth.

Although, the graphic was originally ordered by the owners of a gallery ’Cafe’ whose sign post is placed  in the graphic  on the buiding of the University Library and not on the ’Panenska Street’, it means that he used it to tease his friends what is represented mainly by a key lying on the pavement.

English by Marcela Vancova

 - - -