The exhibition Three Films with Narration plays with the history of art. The protagonists of Agnieszka Polska's films are other artists’ works, including those of Włodzimierz Borowski, Robert Morris, and Robert Smithson.
The source material for Agnieszka Polska’s first works was photographs from pre-war journals and magazines about art from the 1960s. The photographs chosen by the artist were transformed by her into animations. Her interest lies in the aesthetic of old photography, most importantly in its poor quality and raster graphics, a technique that gives animations the character of an old document from the past. Polska is also the director of two authorial fiction films.
Three Films with Narration in Żak-Branicka Gallery in Berlin is an ironic triptych exploring the history of misunderstandings, abandonments, and black holes in the history of art. The artist explains:
Misunderstandings, wrong interpretations – these are the variables that push art ahead, creating new qualities and raising new questions. An archive – like every living organism – lives and is constantly changing, multiplying images of oneself. The elements that are negated and rejected in the process of archiving are brought back later as a matter of our subconsciousness.
Polska treats art as a form of archive, herself adopting the role of archive critic or librarian. She is interested not in what is already archived, but in what is now forgotten.
I was thinking about the space between the knowledge of an art critic and the knowledge of the history of art. The moment a critic stops being interested in the work of art, it usually becomes forgotten, until the history of art is ready again to evaluate it.
The protagonists of Polska’s two films The Forgetting of Proper Names (Zapominanie nazw własnych) (3'45'') and My Favourite Things (Moje ulubione rzeczy) (5'35'') are other artists’ works, including those created by Robert Morris (Three L-Beams, 1965), Robert Smithson (Nine Minor Displacements, 1969), Walter de Maria (The New York Earth Room, 1977) and Wolf Vostell (In Ulm, um Ulm und um Ulm herum, 1964).
In her films, Polska strips different artworks of their basic contexts, leaving the pieces without the function they were meant to play and bringing them into an absurd, meaningless collection. Morphed into jokes, those pieces become caricatures without any connections with the basic artists’ intentions. They all become sort of props, with which a doll house may be decorated.
Her video Sensitisation to Colour (Uczulenie na kolor) (5’02”) is a reference to the performance known under the very same name created by the Polish avant-garde artist Włodzimierz Borowski in 1968. Borowski, one of the most important creators of conceptual art, has its place in history but remains largely unrecognized until today. His performances may be labelled as pictorial and colourful, they were documented in black-and-white photographs, based on which Polska recreated the spaces where the photographs were taken.
The artist used grey materials exclusively. The film in its final version may be understood as a comment on the process of dealing with art from the past, presenting a new space for performance, a space abandoned by the artist and all the viewers. Sensitisation to Colour is thus a hypothetic reconstruction of an artwork based on available photographs and studies, whereas Polska is an archaeologist trying to reconstruct an artwork. How accurate is that reconstruction? Does the myth of an artist show it reliably?
The exhibition Three Films with Narration questions the means and plans regarding writing about the history of art. Are we able to reconstruct past and correctly interpret art with knowledge based exclusively on fragmentary information? At the end of the day, the original artists’ intentions and elusive elements, like humour and irony, are distorted and their art loses its original context. Polska applies to visual arts the Freud’s familiar theory: sometimes it happens that a name is not forgotten but wrongly remembered.
Agnieszka Polska ‘Three Films with Narration’
Żak-Branicka Gallery, Berlin
19 March - 24 April 2010
Source: press information
Posted by culture.pl, October 2016, translated by AW, October 2016