5 March 2022 – 3 May 2022
Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko
Curator: Stanisław Małecki
In this way we all bricoleurs; each with his own little machine. Machine-organ connects with machine-energy, flows and breaks all the time. 
Even a short while ago, the cult of war and nuclear threat could be associated with the militaristic inclinations of our ancestors and the perversions of the 20th century history. However, in recent months we have witnessed the cold-war tensions return and grow. The awareness of such threat is reentering our collective imagination.
Seen from a distance, the structures and sets of colourful figurines and trinkets constructed by Szymon Popielec look like coral reef. They evoke associations with growths, which like an alien tissue, take root in the social awareness. The surreal, distorted vision of the world is the artist’s commentary on the coexistence in the present day appropriated by the media. It is a version of an out-of-tune reality, where something must have turned into the wrong direction. Our common, subconscious fears and fascinations assume here the form of delirious and hallucinogenic, organized systems. The artist transforms the found waste of the consumerist world into instruments which constantly remain in the course of flows and connections.
The space of the exhibition is full of tensions. On the one hand, it seems to be a tale about a world on the eve of a nuclear crisis, on the other – this world has already been tamed, pacified. The figures filling the buildings and small installations created by Popielec seem to be living their own life, like the characters from the stop-motion animation of Jan Švankmajer or the indecent protagonists from John Waters’s films. Horror vacui mixes here with the emptiness of the white walls of the chapel; the space of a nuclear shelter is shared with the contemplative surroundings of the former sacred object. The structures created by the artist blend in with the chapel space, alluding to the representations of religious motifs.
The genre scenes presented by the small figurines and trinkets in the blank windows resemble the Stations of the Cross. Concentrated groups of tiny figures are building enormous, oppressive constructions, peculiar cities-systems similar to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In the centre of the room we can see mutants, who live in the weird structures, creating their idol. The dangerous social phantasms also find a place for their realization in the artist’s vision – the desire for fascism has won.
The eponymous ‘tension frequency’ evokes an association with the universal academic definition describing our reality. This term could be referred to the systematic returns of social phenomena, typical of our species. On the one hand, they are the haunting phantoms, causing social unrest and fear, forcing some people to emigration and others to an excessive consumption, on the other hand we still hope that democracy and equal rights will drive away various manifestations of authoritarianism and the cult of power.
Another aspect important for Szymon Popielec is spiritual pursuits. The artist believes that on a daily basis people function between different frequencies. What affects it is the fact that we lead our everyday life in a more or less conscious way, yielding to the impact of various external stimuli. So the artist asks whether a form of life in harmony is possible at all? And maybe everything that defines our existence is only shared imaginings and constructs, and the belief in the possibility of establishing a mutual dialogue is a form of today’s utopia?
 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Anty-Edyp. Kapitalizm i schizofrenia, Warszawa 2017, p. 5. [Bricoleur is someone engaging in bricolage – DIY, someone making non-professional repairs of practical objects, looping for connections between unconnected elements.]