Piotr Bosacki’s activity revolves around different disciplines – art, music, animated film and literature. He focuses on problems pertinent to composition, something which is abstract by nature. “For me as a composer going blind would be worse than going deaf”, says the artist, who was nominated for Spojrzenia / Views 2013, the Deutsche Bank Foundation Award.
Visual artist, working in art, music, animated film and literature,
Bosacki was born on the 20th of December 1977, in Poznań. He graduated from a secondary school of art and Frédéric Chopin Music School in Poznań, on a secondary-school level. From 1999 until 2004 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. He now lectures in the Faculty of Multimedia Communication at the University of Arts in Poznań.
He is a member of the unofficial artistic group Penerstwo and was a member of Wojtek Bąkowski’s audio-performance group KOT, which disbanded in 2011. In 2012, Bosacki received an award from ARTeon, a Polish journal devoted to fine arts. His animated films have won awards at prestigious film festivals
For his graduation exam, Bosacki prepared two works; one devoted to fabrics and the other to interludes. The first work was on painting. Kodeks / Code (2004) is a collection of 300 panels with compartments in which the artist placed organic and inorganic matter: grown yeast, moulds, drying and cracking fish and bone glues, and plant material decomposing in a variety of ways. “I wanted to see what different substances look like and what forms they can take”, the artist says. This work was a continuation of his activities in art grammar school, which he attended along with Konrad Smoleński. Together they would, for instance, mix watercolours with oil paints, observing the outcome. “We explored painting with an equal amount of serious curiosity and humour", the artist says. "For example, I created a painting whose thickness exceeded its width. It was a 15x10 cm painting and the paint was 18 cm thick.” Neither Bosacki nor Smoleński spend their time painting any longer. Limiting his means of expression, Bosacki shifted his interest towards abstraction and the art of words.
His second graduation work, Kołomaszyna / A Gear-wheel Machine, is made of nine gears and weighs over 100 kg. When the gears are in motion, springs that are stretched among the gears extend and compress. Kołomaszyna is a hypnotizing and harmonious sculpture one can set in motion that combines the image of the springs with silent music.
A spring can serve as a string of an instrument. If you expand and jerk the spring, it will issue a higher sound. If you loosen it, the sound will become lower. In Kołomaszyna each spring cyclically extends and compresses, thus, potentially, creating a sequence of rising and falling sounds. The dynamic composition of 12 springs combines such 12 sonic sequences. As a result, we are facing a graphic representation of a unique harmony of 12 sounds.
As a child, he listened to the Polish Radio's Program Two. “When listening to classical music on the radio, I couldn’t help but wonder how the notes are arranged. And so I enrolled in a [music] school”. First he was learning to play the piano and later went on to study the double bass. “I started studying music later in life, which may be the reason why I am interested in its theoretical, rather than practical, aspect. I don’t play any instruments. At the moment I hardly listen to music, although I still write musical notations”.
I like those European compositions that have been influenced by Bach. I enjoy the Second Viennese School, i.e., composers using the 12-tone composition technique - Schönberg, Webern, and Berg, whose artistic work is as much geometrical in character as it is a living sound. Then there are the Franco-Flemish and Renaissance Schools: Jacob Obrecht, Johannes Ockeghem, who practised a specific form of serialism as well. But I am also fond of Bethoveen, Chopin, Bartók and Lutosławski.
Bosacki is interested in geometry present in the creation of music, with notes are written on squared paper, where one line is assigned to tempo and another to the pitch of the sound. His music compositions and visual works of art have been structured in a way that resembles the work of a theoretician.
I have studied geometry of many melodies and harmonious systems. Sometimes purely by looking at notes I can see, rather than hear, whether they form a good sound. Speaking half in jest, for me as a composer going blind would be worse than going deaf.
In his teenage years Bosacki composed short piano pieces. Later he wrote compositions for ensembles, such as quartets and string orchestras. Between 2004 and 2013 he composed five "scrolls" for a string section and one for a woodwind section. What forms the basis of their structure is one of the Netherlandish methods used by the composers of the Franco-Flemish School in the 15th and 16th centuries. The trick is that manuscript paper with musical notation can be read as it has been written, i.e., from left to right, but one can also turn the paper over and read a mirror image of the notation against the light. Therefore the same notation can be played as originally intended, but also backwards. What is more, both these versions of the same musical notation can be performed simultaneously, thus giving rise to a duet.
Piotr Bosacki Mały zwój (A Small Scroll), 2004. Performers: Ewa Guzowska, Marianna Szadowiak, Tomasz Lisiecki, Przemysław Mrowiński, Andrzej Nowicki, Bartosz Woroch
Such compositions come into existence as if spontaneously. When I write down the first note for a musician on one side of a transparent score, it automatically becomes the last note to be played by a musician performing the reverse version of the piece.
Bosacki is on the lookout for systems thanks to which a piece “writes itself”. In music, this process is of geometrical nature. In Kodeks, however, the artist had no control over how, for example, yeast would transform. He only observed the process of its transformation.
He has also written a piano quintet Pipy lalek / Dolls Twats with lyrics from poems by Wojtek Bąkowski, and a piano piece Ćwiczenia z kontrapunktu / Exercises in Counterpoint. In 2007 he released his first album.
Aside from composing music, Piotr Bosacki draws a lot. Usually on a sheet of white or squared paper, but not only - for example, the drawing sculpture Kołomaszyna.
If you want to have a real line, you use a string. In order for a drawing to be authentic, there has to be a real object, a real machine. In the movie Rzeczy oczywiste [Self-evident Things] there is a scene where a firmly twisted band is set free and unravels on its own. The drawing depicting the process of unravelling is authentic, because the band is a real object. That is why I use three-dimensional objects for my drawings.
The artist’s favourite medium is film, and the initial structure of his film pieces is based on sketches and later complemented by the spoken word. Poetic, minimalistic, witty and full of contradictions – with the use of simple means, his films raise important existential and philosophical issues.
In the silent movie Film sznurkowy / A String Film (2005) we are shown a labyrinth filled with bright and dark strings that move along narrow corridors like little snakes, forming the image of a bright ellipse against a dark background, followed by the image of a bright ellipse against a dark backdrop. The Film bez dźwięku / Film Without Sound, 2009 is about 15 seconds long, and features an animated man carrying out daily activities as his body disintegrates. His body parts come off and then after a while “meet” again. Sztaby i zegary / Bars and Clocks (2010-2011) is about two people moving along the lines of a circle, whose height changes depending on various factors.
In the narrative films it is always the text that is created first (as an independent literary miniature) and the image comes later. This resembles a situation where one tells a story and only then shows it. We usually hear the voice of the artist himself - grunting, swallowing hard, making slips of the tongue, and sniffing. Bosacki mixes analytical language with colloquial speech, imitating the voice of an announcer from the Polish Radio's Program Two.
Bosacki’s trilogy of films with narration that was created in 2010 and 2011 resembles serious lectures delivered as if over a cup of coffee. The literary dimension of the trilogy alludes to the rhetoric of old Judaism, whose language is seen by Bosacki as ideal for a physical description of the world. In Szechina / Shekhinah the artist tells about his religious dream of the revelation of a glowing woman, angels, and a minister of culture. Drakula / Dracula is an attempt to explain the structure of the world, in which the author interweaves aspects of physics, chemistry, and biology with his personal existential and philosophical confessions, as well as an analysis of the senses. In 2011 Drakula won the grand prize at the Short Film Festival in Poznań and the Audience Award at an independent film competition of the Polish Film Feature Festival in Gdynia. The third part of the trilogy – Umiłowanie życia / To Love Life – is a poetic treatise on the structure of the world.
Other films by Bosacki include Kompletne bzdury / Complete Rubbish (2011), a burlesque comedy about - among others – bowels, parasites, money, and the Chopin piano competition, and Jak Greisera wieszali / How They Hanged Greiser (2005) narrated by an elderly lady, an eyewitness to the last public execution in Poland of a German war criminal, Arthur Greiser. Film o Kostuchu / The Grim Reaper (2008) is narrated by a little girl and in it, the artist used nails and a rubber band to create a variety of geometric shapes. The animation received an honourable mention in a competition of the Media Art Biennale WRO in 2009. In Film żarówkowy / Light Bulb Movie (2012) we see a bird's eye view of a labyrinth, with a little man walking up and down its corridors. The model used in the movie has built-in light bulbs with different sounds assigned to them. The model is an instrument created by Bosacki which plays a ready composition in a tempo and rhythm of pre-established vibrations.
Bosacki prepared Rzeczy oczywiste / Self-evident Things (2013) for the competition exhibition Spojrzenia / Views in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. The text read by the artist conceals paraphrases of and allusions to other literary and philosophical works as well as the language of science – including works by Leszek Kołakowski, Emmanuel Levinas, Thomas Mann and Niels Bohr - “sentences so vague that they could refer to anything”.
Bosacki’s animations often feature real objects that “perform” in his films. A mechanized apparatus – drawings, animations, or objects made of screws, buttons, matches, rubber bands, old photographic films or audio tapes to resemble precise tools – serve to illustrate various problems and theories, they are like teaching materials used in the process of instilling knowledge. Obiekty animowane / Animated Objects (2011-2012) follows DIY and Adam Słodowy aesthetics: a rubber band forms changing shapes as it is moved by a pair of tongs, while two turning photographic films painted with dots and circles every so often form the image of a face.
“Spoken language is the greatest achievement in the evolution of the animal kingdom”, says Bosacki. He values wit to which he refers as “the melting pot of the language evolution”. In 2009 his first book, Traumtagebuch / Dream Journal, featured illustrations by Wojciech Bąkowski. This journal of dreams is a series of miniatures full of thoughts about the world and life. In the catalogue prepared for an exhibition in Arsenał, an art gallery in Białystok, Julian Heynen writes:
Traumtagebuch takes up a childhood oddity, of constantly walking around a playground behind the church. This provokes reflection on the monotonious circular movement which measures off space, a movement through which the time of a conscious self freezes in mindlessness.
In those moments, "the insight becomes deeper" and the mind can "secretly take care of important matters".
In 2012, Bosacki published his doctoral thesis entitled Urządzenie elementów / The Economy of Elements, which is a philosophical work about language and works of art seen as linguistic structures. “Language has a physical impact,” writes the author. In Traktat poetycki / A Poetic Treatise (2012), Bosacki talks about the body as made of mutually influential organs. His article opens the first issue of Półmrok / Twilight, a journal on art and literature. Bosacki writes: “There would be no eye without the stomach, and no stomach would exist without the eye”. The quarterly is published by the Stereo Gallery, which represents Bosacki and embraces Poznań-based artists from Penerstwo, and it is edited by Wojtek Bąkowski. “Everything matches everything. If it wasn't the case, nothing would function”.
Unless otherwise stated, all statements by Piotr Bosacki are derived from an interview conducted by Agnieszka Sural in September 2013.
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 27/09/2013, tanslation: Małgorzata Pachoł 10/2013