- acrylic on banner, 2023
Peasants, ever-exploited to the limit, would for centuries repeat the tale of Cockaigne, a legendary land of plenty and uninterrupted rest, where tables are always full and the best wine flows in the rivers. Cockaigne was an imaginary refuge from hunger and exploitation. However, for those on the upper rungs of the social ladder, it was an object of derision, proving the boorishness and baseness of those who believed in it, as Cockaigne differed significantly from the refined ancient utopia of Arcadia. These two radically different versions of the land of happiness speak volumes about the history of backbreaking labour and class violence, which did not come to an end as feudalism had disappeared. The class system would evolve, adapting to the new capitalist realities and making dependencies less clear. Today, it is corporations and states that have replaced the feudal lord as stewards of arbitrary exclusion and oppression. Inspired by Pieter Bruegel’s 1567 painting of three men dozing on the ground, Małgorzata Mycek created her own depiction of the legendary Land of Cockaigne, this time set in the modern world – of free people resting on the beach, living in harmony with animals and supporting each other. Mycek’s Cockaigne is a place free from mansplaining, transphobia, exploitation and violence of any kind. The paintings were created using the acrylic-on-banner technique, in which waste products from a large-format printer become a substitute for canvas. The technique was discovered by the artist during a financial crisis that prevented her from acquiring materials for her work.