Agnieszka Polska creates video works employing mainly found material, such as archive photography and illustrations, which she subjects to subtle interventions, whether animating them or working them into the existing image. In the process, the artist changes their primary context, simultaneously creating illusions of documentation. She investigates the impact of documentation on its future reception. Her visually powerful explorations of lost times or half-forgotten figures of the Polish avant-garde, turn to how the past is fictionalised and re-worked. Her animated videos evoke a sense of melancholia, and a longing for something that perhaps never was, but which she makes real at least on film. In an interview with Art Review, Polska said that, ‘Slow, unnaturally calm movements are present in most of my videos. I mainly work with animated film so a meditative, contemplative quality is present also in the process of production, which is very important for me. Each project needs a lot of time and concentration (for viewer and maker)’.
Agnieszka Polska, Performance-lecture at Calvert 22, 2012
Agnieszka Polska, I am the Mouth, 2014
Working primarily with digital animation, collage, and computer-generated imagery (CGI), Agnieszka Polska creates dreamlike films that explore the ways that language and visual iconography manifest themselves within contemporary consciousness. The ideas for many of the Polska’s works derive from her own scripts and poems, as the discovery of connections between words, and the surreal aspects of meaning that arise from their juxtaposition, commonly form the foundation of her films.
I Am the Mouth II (2014) features a pair of disembodied lips that is half-submerged in water and whispers seductively about the mechanisms by which words, in the form of sound waves, make their way through various materials including the viewer’s own body. The steady tone of the voice emanating from the lips hypnotizes the listener, revealing the subliminal influence artists have on their audiences.
Agnieszka Polska, Future Days, 2013
What might seven avant-garde conceptual twentieth-century artists, each associated with disappearing from the artworld (through choice or circumstance) do in the afterlife, where it’s not just ‘art’ that they have been disconnected from, but ‘life’? One answer to this is Future Days (2013), one of five new and recent short films by Polish artist Agnieszka Polska. In the future ofFuture Days the Swedish island of Gotland stands in for the underworld, where the protagonists (Paul Thek, Jerzy LudwinÅL ski, Włodzimierz Borowski, Lee Lozano, Charlotte Posenenske and Andrzej Szewczyk, each portrayed by an actor in a semilifelike latex mask) amble about the more remote parts of the island, encountering similarly ‘departed’ artworks – Robert Smithson’s Partially Buried Woodshed (1970), Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking (1967) – while musing on their situation. The dialogue is a bit clunky, the artists are kind of zombies after all, but their predicament throws up pertinent questions touched on in all these films: what does creative absence mean and how do we, the living, construct and perpetuate mythologies about people and events from the past?
Paweł Freisler, another ‘disappeared’ artist, is at the centre of The Garden (Gardener’s Responsibility) (2010), having supposedly withdrawn from the artworld in the 1970s to take up gardening. Using a mix of filmed and archive horticultural footage, Polska reimagines Freisler as the film’s unseen narrator, explaining the ecosystem of his garden. A reimagined event is also the focus of How the Work Is Done (2011), a 1956 student occupation at Kraków’s Academy of Fine Arts. This creative absence is the students’ labour, alluded to by simple animations of chopping, sawing and chiselling, the use of animation a nod to Poland’s art-historical associations with the medium.
Agnieszka Polska, How The Work is Done, 2011
n 1956 a group of students of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow locked themselves inside the sculpture and ceramics workshop, transforming the venue of daily labour into a space of passive existence. In her quasi-documentary, Agnieszka Polska re-enacts the strike.
Juxtaposing its inherent inaction, not far removed from an artistic performance, with animations showing the humdrum character of everyday creative work, the artist poses a question about the social effectiveness of the artists’ efforts. The film was awarded Grand Prix of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the 10th Geppert Competition (2011)..
Agnieszka Polska, Talking Mountain, 2015
‘The Talking Mountain’ appears before ones eyes like a hallucinatory reunion with the kind of radical Eastern European children’s television that many of this film’s specatotors surely grew up with during the 70s and 80s. The film documents a journey that Polska embarked on with her friend Sara van der Heide, in an attempt to find the talking mountain – a fabled rock that is shaped like a face which, rumour has it, can answer all your questions. A playful journey of discovery, which is sceptically aware that much of what we (think we) know in fact are no more than dreams and wishes, which our otherwise so rational brains project onto the world’s infinite movie screen. And which thereby turns a classical philosophical limitation into its own advantage and reformulates it as a game.