Currents of Bialystok

site-specific installation, 2015, object length ca 50 m: electroluminescent wire, power supply.

(En)lightenment of the River.

By a symbolic gesture in the public space of Białystok, Paweł Dudko initiated the process of illuminating the river Biała, which flows through the city. However, in the case of the latest installation and many other site-specific works by Dudko, illumination is not merely about lighting up but also creating an impression of enlightenment.

“The Currents of Białystok” is a simple land art installation dedicated to the hometown of the artist. It consists of an electroluminescent wire placed within the depths of the river that flows through the center of Białystok. The freely flowing glowing red “threads,” moved by the current of the river, visualize its element – the flow. Similar to wind or air, it is a scientific and abstract term that remains invisible until revealed by an external factor, a specific “indicator,” as Charles S. Peirce would say.

This ephemeral artistic expression is evident in many of Dudko’s previous works, as well as the dialogue between technological media and nature or the immediate human environment. Light serves as the tool in Paweł Dudko’s work, activating nearly every material he engages with. Just like in “The Currents…” or works such as “Palimpsest,” “vanish,” or “Incubator: nova.PK1305,” light becomes both the cause and the effect of revealing content. Through its fleeting form, each message serves as a reminder of the ephemeral components of human life.

The complexity of Paweł Dudko’s works lies in the integration of disciplines traditionally seen as competitive within the field of humanities. Despite its seemingly calculated and technologically fascinated nature, Dudko’s art is, in reality, a very delicate treatment and animation of the human environment, with all its components. Examples of this can be seen in works such as “Fruits of Enlightenment” or “Płochy,” beautiful creations that are contextualized within nature but constructed using industrial elements. Light, as the main medium in all of these mentioned works, is approached by Paweł Dudko in accordance with its biological and cultural conditions – as a value that awakens life, interactive and symbolic at the same time.

The Lumo Białystok Festival of Light and Street Art, in which Paweł Dudko’s work was first presented, is based on the realization of illuminated projects in urban spaces. The light transported through electroluminescent wires along the Biała River intuitively reveals that it is not solely about visually attractive spectacles. Similar to Dudko’s previous works, light becomes the factor that brings life into being. Through the artist’s intervention, the river seems to unveil its interior as a complex organism. In the context of cultural symbolism, on one hand, its form is highly archetypal, and the winding glowing wires evoke long, submerged female hair. In classical poems, legends, and fairy tales, rivers are often associated with silence, serving as realms that conceal human destinies and secrets.

On the other hand, the pulsating red “currents” take on an organic and even corporeal form. The viewer seems to observe a seemingly chaotic, pulsating “spiderweb” of the circulatory system responsible for sustaining life. In this sense, the interrelation between water and light becomes particularly significant – strictly biological and almost mythical. Without the presence of both light and water, there is no chance for new life to emerge. The river, mediated by the linear course of the Biała River and given shape by Dudko, acquires a kind of human element with its linear, rhythmic flow of life, its “source” and “outlet,” and its constant variability.

The illumination of the river referenced in Dudko’s work is not just about its lighting. In the simplest terms, “The Currents…” reveals the actual currents of the river, an inherently sensual phenomenon that is inaccessible to our senses, much like the air or the wind, the soul, the moment of death, or the Absolute. These are existing but invisible and transcendent aspects. Illumination refers not only to the process of lighting but also to enlightenment – the path of knowledge, revelation, and discovering truths. For St. Augustine, it would be the gift of supernatural light bestowed by God upon the mind, while psychology simply calls it the “Aha!” effect. Enlightenment may be a philosophical concept, but it is also the simple realization of what is so obvious in everyday life that it is unconsciously overlooked. For example, the fact that our blood circulation works continuously throughout our lives without our control or that we instinctively rely on imperceptible sensory air about 17 times per minute on average. This is precisely what Paweł Dudko consistently suggests in his work – to contemplate the ephemeral fragments of life. He does this, among other ways, as part of the Lumo Białystok festival, using an “illuminated” river, which, translated into one of the Balkan languages, mysteriously means “lumë.”

Dorota Perszko

The work was realized as part of the President of the City of Białystok Scholarship for Young Artists.

Wschodzący Białystok

The installation was presented during the Lumo Bjalistoko Festival of Light and Street Art in 2015.