​I​nterview Series

Written portraits of artists whose work has been featured in Notas al Futuro exhibitions.

Jan Cieślikiewicz

In the Blink of a ​C​osmos​

"I think it would be a shame if we caused our own extinction, but my guess is the Cosmos would not blink if that happened."

Jan Cieślikiewicz is a New York-based photographer from Gdansk, Poland. Cieślikiewicz’s work tackles on Contemporary issues such as ambiguity, uncertainty, expectation, individualism and human interaction in man-made spaces. Jan is a graduate of the General Studies program at International Center of Photography, he also holds a degree in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University. His work has recently been part of Hamburg’s Triennial of Photography.

Do you prefer animals to people?
It depends on the context. I only eat animals, whereas some of my best conversations have been with people. Ultimately people are animals too, and it’s interesting to consider some of the qualities that define us as a product of evolution. Similarly, so many of our actions and emotions are a result of having a physical body that shares many needs and features with other much simpler organisms.

Are you cruel?
If anything, I have a bit of a phobia of hurting other people. Deep inside, I think I am quite a gentle being. But that is not mutually exclusive with other opposing qualities. I can be very direct and honest, which sometimes comes off as harsh. Recently I have started practicing martial arts. There’s something primeval and exhilarating about hitting an opponent with force. This type of fighting is a form of meditation and bonding for me and has nothing to do with cruelty, even if there’s pain involved.

Do you have many friends?
I meet and get to know many people. I would consider many of them to be my friends. But the world we live in doesn’t make it easy to make and maintain true friendships. There’s too much noise, too many distractions and not enough time for deeper meaningful connections, which to me is a foundation of a friendship.

What qualities do you look for in people?
I am learning to appreciate people for who they are, and whatever good qualities they have. I try to surround myself with positive spirits though, who want to go beyond superficial in conversation, people that help me grow.

"Perhaps what surprises me the most, is that the surprises keep coming despite getting more mature and wiser."

Are you often disappointed?
I’ve learnt to take things as they come and mostly I count on myself, so no I don’t often get disappointed. If something doesn’t go my way, either think how to give it another shot, or move on to the next thing. In the case of an experience not meeting my expectations, then I usually just view it as a learning opportunity. There is something to learn from everything.

Of what are you most afraid?
Losing my health and physical fitness. Being in good shape, being active, is an important aspect of my identity and how I relate to the world. There are many ways to be happy, but it would take some serious re calibration on my part to lose mobility or have my health severely decline. Unfortunately, there’s no way around getting old.

What shocks you? If anything?
Absolutely nothing. But I get surprised. Perhaps what surprises me the most, is that the surprises keep coming despite getting more mature and wiser. When I was younger I thought once you figure things out you would just cruise through life on auto-pilot, but that’s not been the case. The road through life is a windy one. All in all that’s a good and beautiful thing about it.

What is the most hopeful word in any language?

And the most dangerous?

Can you cook?
Of course. I specialize in scrambled eggs and the sandwich. One day I will expand my menu. I recently started being a lot more conscious about what goes into my food, and that’s an incentive to start cooking for my self more regularly.

If you could be anything, what would you want most like to be?
I would be this guy Jan Cieslikiewicz. He’s a bit mad some times and has a very long surname, but overall he’s a fine human. I guess I wouldn’t mind being something that flies too – but with some sort of consciousness, so maybe an eagle, or some sort of a bug. I can also see benefits of being a god -the kind that knows a lot more than we do, but not the kind that has to decide on everything, or the kind that everyone prays to.

Suppose you were drowning. What images, in the classic tradition, do you envision crossing across your mind?
I am a very good swimmer. I swam competitively for 15 years until the end of university, and at the peak I would swim up to 20 kilometers (12miles) a day, pretty much year round. So I imagine if I was drowning, memories of all those 5am practice sessions in heavily chlorinated pools would be flashing in front of my eyes, and I would either be really really angry, or dying laughing at the irony. I would probably also be seeing faces of the people I love.

What are your political interests?
I am generally not a very political person. I have certain preferences, but my interests are mostly as an abstract observer. I don’t believe the Universe cares too much about how we organize our societies on this planet, and I don’t believe that there is a single right answer to most of the fundamental questions. For example, I think it would be a shame if we caused our own extinction, but my guess is the Cosmos would not blink if that happened. I also tend to be in favor of personal freedom. The idea of an institution or a group deciding what’s good for individuals, as a principle, feels wrong to me. Yet I don’t see any rules written in the stars that a more rigid society is forbidden, and total freedom for everyone obviously wouldn’t work. With respect to technological progress, a hypothetical extreme outcome - a future where advancements in technology have left no space for anonymity, or caused us to live in a virtual reality simulation - seems scary. But again, there is no inherent reason why a “matrix-world” is against nature, and from a different perspective than ours, maybe our role is to actually build that world. These types of ambiguities leave us with, what in the end, are subjective choices on which values to give the most importance. I see politics as one of the arenas where, often through bizarre tactics and personalities, all the micro and macro views collide, and where ideologies fight for influence.



For more info about Jan check out his wepage

For more press:


Using Format