Bâton Fleurdelisé


an interference in spatial, with elements of performance/action
duration ~ 3hrs.
exhibition ‘Bâton Fleurdelisé’, Warsaw
M.A. Diploma - Miroslaw Balka Studio of Spatial Activities

121,55 kg / potassium nitrate

55,25 kg coal

44,2 kg sulfur

military secretarial desk, chair, brass ashtray
4 soldiers of Polish Armed Forces (WP)
surface area m2

A space is divided in two parts in relation 3:1. The larger area of space was evenly spilled with: potassium nitrate, coal and sulphur 55%: 25%: 20%. Together with 221 kg (75%, 69,85 square meters) of material, which in this proportion consists of black powder (gunpowder). The desk, a chair and an ashtray occupied the rest of the space. The viewer is introduced into an intimate situation, distinguished by a certain type of routine. 

Periodically, around every 3 minutes, soldier enters and lights up a cigarette, inhaling the smoke. Finally he leaves the cigarette in the ashtray then vacates the space. The next soldier repeats the action with a new cigarette or picks up the timbering cigarette left behind. This rhythm takes few hours to be established. 

The space is transformed by the quantity and nature of the material filling it, as well as the smell. A sense of exclusion is experienced by viewer, as the space occupied by the work, theoretical can (but should not) be entered.

Bâton Fleurdelisé in a free translation means ‘marshal’s baton’. Napoleon said that every French soldier is holding the Marshal’s baton for France in his satchel, meaning that he can get promoted from a Private to the Marshal. Zygmunt Bauman rightly commented that ‘maybe every Private holds the Marshal’s baton, but only few Marshals, Colonels or Masters are holding a soldiers bayonet in their briefcase.’ It describes how illusionary is the following of goals, which in reality can prove to be quite abstract. The ‘the carrot and stick approach’, that makes people to devote oneself to a noble cause, counting on appreciation, can be called a strange motivation.