Akumulatory

2013

Created to accompany the exhibition Too Close for Comfort (2013) at Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels, Akumulatory (Polish for battery) is a collection of snapshots of underground gyms in Poland, found in various blogs on DIY gyms. Densely photocopied in black on to cream paper, the images show training facilities set up by young people squatting in empty council estate building basements. The spaces embody an atmosphere of dirty hard work, stripped down to their bare essentials without any decoration apart from the patterns of old carpets on the floors and odd posters on the wall. Welding and constructing the training equipment from scrap metal is a popular way for Polish youths to spend their free time, before they pump their muscles by heaving up barbells at their homemade bench presses. In this admiration of DIY culture and the survivalist skill of organising yourself on a limited budget, or no budget at all, the book pays homage to Dudek’s own anti-readymade agenda and childhood autobiography.

Akumulatory was produced in this same anti-readymade spirit, without a budget: the pages were photocopied at the local copy shop, each cover hand-printed from a woodcut, the text block stitched together with steel wire and hand trimmed with a Stanley utility knife. The strong binding gives the book plenty of tension at the spine; therefore holding the book open to view the images becomes a strenuous exercise in itself.

Leafing through the book has something of looking into the depths of a torture chamber. Perhaps also due to the fact that the images are similarly devoid of people, Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s imaginary prisons (Carceri d’Invenzione, 1745–50) come to mind, with their complex halls of machinery, cables and pulleys – ready to torment or reform their inmates.