Janek Koza paints, directs animations and films, and creates comics. He was born on 1st April, 1970 in Wrocław.
Animated film and video director, author of comics, painter.
He studied at the Painting Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, receiving a diploma from Prof. Stanisław Kortyka's workshop in 1995. After completing his studies, he started working at his alma mater as an assistant of the Chair of Visual Knowledge. Janek Koza is in fact a pseudonym used by the artist; he is also known as mgr Jan Koza (Jan Koza, MA), in the past he has also sometimes signed his works as 'porucznik Jan Koza' (lieutenant Jan Koza). For a long time, he worked with an informal Wrocław-based group of artists concentrated around the Entropia gallery. Their were brought together by co-organised exhibitions – first one of which, titled Frisier Wunder, took place at Entropia, as well as their programmatic lack of seriousness. Koza's works have been presented at a wide range of exhibitions, at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Łódź Art Museum, and at the National Museum in Poznań. The artist has authored more than one hundred animated films, widely showcased in Poland and abroad, for instance at: WRO Art Center in Wrocław, Łódź Art Museum, National Museum in Poznań, Animamundi in Brazil, and Image Forum in Tokyo.
His animated film productions are a result of the artist's interest in video techniques and his desire to expand his practice beyond visual arts. Between 1993-1994, he worked on the animated series Liryka erotyczna (Erotic Lyric Poetry), in 1995, he created the film Konsumpcja (Consumption), and one year later the series Erotyczne zwierzenia (Erotic Confessions). The latter collection of short films, constituting one of the most famous works by the artist, was initially presented at the regional, Wrocław-based TV station TV5, and later on Canal +. The episodes – humorous and providing an apt commentary on the observed reality – are filled with the romantic stories of ordinary people, who talk about their joys, desires and infatuations, betrayals, and the beauty of marital life. The animations are drawn with sloppy, wobbly lines and their protagonists are quite characteristic, while the whole is consistently kept in meagre aesthetics. The artist mocks or even parodies the convention of talk show programmes, contrasting confessions about the 'most intimate experiences' with the folksy reality of the early 1990s.
The visual qualities in these erotic tales are far from those apparent in romantic comedies. Instead of candle-lit dinners or posh limos, we see large housing estates, radiator bars, and aching legs, as well as thoroughly ordinary protagonists with numerous, marring flaws – intricately illustrated by the author. The whole is complemented by simplified animation and a voice-over – recorded by the artist – introducing these rose-coloured stories. The animations also became the basis for Koza's comic book published under the same title by Kultura Gniewu. The author demonstrates in it 'what a complex feeling love is, how winding the paths followed by Cupid's arrow are, and what sort of trap an amateur of male-female interactions, and not only, is exposed to.' The book, which to some extent is a continuation of the animated stories, comprises, beyond the themes from the films, stories which Koza previously published in the Activist monthly.
In late 1990s, the director was involved in the creation of Elżbieta Wróblewska's series Szczepan i Irenka (Szczepan and Irenka), which, just like Erotyczne zwierzenia, was broadcast by Canal+. He also worked on his next animations: Welcome in Cybersex (1999), Psy (Dogs – which is also a slang word referring to the police, 2000), ZTV – telewizja dla zwierząt (ZTV – Animal TV), and Próżnia (The Void, 2001).
In 2000, he also created the animation Z pamiętnika młodej lekarki – konsumpcja (From the Diary of a Young Doctor – Consumption), based on a text by Ewa Szumańska, and incorporating the voice of the author of the referenced radio series and Jan Kaczmarek. These films also present an ironic image of Polish reality right after the post-communist transformation, with the accumulating symptoms of commercialisation, consumption, and at the same time, the still apparent roughness, provinciality, and mentality that remained from the period of the Polish People's Republic. This rough – though aspiring to be modern – reality was captured in the film Próżnia, subtitled as 'journey into nothingness.'
Here is 'a small mid-European country awaiting its first ever launch of a passenger rocket.' Two adventurers career towards the skies in the Kopernik -7 rocket, 'the pride of national technology,' bidding farewell to their motherland, together with its sheaves of grain and grey blocks of flats, in order to complete their mission. A professor, one of the expedition's participants, has a hard time parting with his beloved, yet modest set of readings, comprising Pan Tadeusz (Sir Thaddeus) by Adam Mickiewicz, Chłopi (The Peasants) by Władysław Reymont, and an 8th grade Physics and Chemistry textbook. The document entrusted to them by the general, which they open once they are already in outer space, turns out to be an ordinary shopping list, naming all the key ingredients in Polish cuisine. Its hilarious story, filled with absurd humour, with deliberately clunky and sloppy drawings and quite hideous characters, is rich in accurate, painfully honest reflections on Polish reality and human relations. Próżnia was also transferred onto paper and published in the magazine Arena Komiks. Koza is also an author of comic stories included in the anthology Manga po polsku (Polish Manga) and in the collection I co dalej kapitanie? (What's Next, Captain?), dedicated to the adventures of an animated character, Citizens' Militia Captain Jan Żbik. In 2007, Koza released another comic book, titled Wszystko źle (Everything is Wrong). As its publisher, Kultura Gniewu, wrote that it's:
The unbeautified characters, with their numerous, common flaws, tragicomic events, perfectly conveyed in the simplified drawings with laconic, although often powerful commentary from the author, and the plot, which is strongly embedded in the Polish reality, contribute to yet another presentation of Koza's recognisable visual language. Just like in other works by the author, one will also find here the skilful and synthetic presentation of everyday scenes on paper, as well as his ironic, ridiculing style. Apparent is also the social engagement of the artist, who points the blade of his art, mocking and intentionally far from the canons of beauty, if not repulsive, at the early capitalist reality in Poland.
an exceptional guide to everyday matters, which for many form a labyrinth of challenges. Jan Koza, the author, presents 'real life' stories with a moral, with the intention of warning his readers about the threats that await them – a wrong emotional investment, professional and marital problems, or the meanness of fellow human beings.
The director spent several years working for an advertising agency. He was responsible for, among others, the Heyah ad campaign Wajcha w dół (Lever Down), which was acclaimed and awarded at many advertising festivals. Koza also created music videos, such as Sunday Morning by Physical Love (2004) and Parzydełko by Pustki (2008).
- 1993-1994 – Liryka erotyczna / Erotic Lyric Poetry (series, eight episodes);
- 1995 – Konsumpcja / Consumption;
- 1995 – Sonet letni / A Summer Sonnet;
- 1995 – Szaleństwo / Madness;
- 1995 – Kiełbasa / Sausage;
- 1996 – Erotyczne zwierzenia / Erotic Confessions (series, nine episodes);
- 1996 – Cud / A Miracle;
- 1997 – Witamy sponsorów / Welcome to the Sponsors;
- 1998-1999 – Szczepan i Irenka / Szczepan and Irenka (series);
- 1999 – Welcome in Cybersex;
- 2000 – Psy / Dogs, Z pamiętnika młodej lekarki – konsumpcja / From the Diary of a Young Doctor – Consumption;
- 2001 – ZTV – telewizja dla zwierząt / ZTV – Animal TV;
- 2001 – Próżnia / The Void;
- 2006 – Physical Love – Sunday Morning, music video;
- 2008 – Pustki – Parzydełko, music video.
Author: Iwona Hałgas, November, 2010, translated by AM, December 2015