Into the Unknown
Moving Images from the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw*

July 29, 2022

4 Agnieszka Polska The Thousand Year Plan 2020 2 Agnieszka Polska, <i>The Thousand-Year Plan</i> [Bin Yıllık Plan], 2020, 27’54’’
Sanatçının izniyle
Agnieszka Polska, The Thousand-Year Plan [Bin Yıllık Plan], 2020, 27’54’’
Sanatçının izniyle
*Featuring a body of work from the moving image collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Salt’s exhibition “Into the Unknown” brings together works by Diane Severin Nguyen, Nathalie Djurberg, Agnieszka Polska, Józef Robakowski, Duncan Campbell, Deimantas Narkevičius, Shana Moulton, Jananne Al-Ani, Oleksiy Radinsky, Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska. This piece is compiled from the exhibition texts prepared in collaboration with writer-editor Eda Sezgin.

4 Diane Severin Nguyen If Revolution Is A Sickness 2021 1 Diane Severin Nguyen, <i>IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS</i> [EĞER DEVRİM HASTALIKSA], 2021, 18’53’’<br />
Sanatçının izniyle<br />
Sanatçının izniyle

Diane Severin Nguyen

IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS follows Weronika Nguyen’s story of growing up as a Vietnamese orphan in Warsaw and explores the politics of identity and representation by tracing the hidden subjectivities, traumas, and the pursuit of belonging. Diane Severin Nguyen’s work embodies the satirical setting of the celebrations that once gained popularity in the late 80s in Poland and Eastern Europe, where red nail polish and strawberry juice became prominent as an allusion to the ‘Red’ Revolution of 1917. The work utilizes the currently much-admired hybrid aesthetic of K-pop (Korean pop), in which symbols and colors of communism are notably featured. The text and lyrics written by the artist pay homage to the revolutionist rhetoric. The work alludes to the political and economic transformations following 1989 as well as the socio-cultural structure unique to Poland, where a large Vietnamese population resides. In present-day Poland, a group of young people perform and sing K-pop in front of Soviet-era buildings, monuments, and abandoned industrial sites, creating a correlation between communism’s ideals of equality and the collective existence of a global music industry.

Diane Severin Nguyen (1990, USA) premiered IF REVOLUTION IS A SICKNESS in New York at the Sculpture Center. Her work primarily focuses on time-sensitive transformations of cultural and historical structures.

Monster 02 2 1 Nathalie Djurberg, <i>Monster</i> [Canavar], 2011, 5’01’’<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Nathalie Djurberg, Monster [Canavar], 2011, 5’01’’
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Nathalie Djurberg

Monster is a story of an encounter, a self-confrontation, where we witness a charming animal transform into a fiendish, devouring creature driven by bestial urges. The room full of clay and glass objects, in the beginning, conveys a serene and safe atmosphere, but quickly escalates into an instinctive and destructive scene, creating a restless, internalized spectacle.

Nathalie Djurberg’s (1978, Sweden) Monster, created with collaborator and musician Hans Berg (1978, Sweden) is a characteristic work of their collectively produced stop-motion animation films throughout the years. The duo employ music as a critical tool, enhancing the eerie nature of memory and the psyche. The contrast between the fragility and transparency of the materials with the violent and dark narrative is a defining approach of the duo’s grotesque and absurd aesthetic.

2 Agnieszka Polska The Thousand Year Plan 2020 1 1 Agnieszka Polska, <i>The Thousand-Year Plan</i> [Bin Yıllık Plan], 2020, 27’54’’<br />
Sanatçının izniyle<br />
Agnieszka Polska, The Thousand-Year Plan [Bin Yıllık Plan], 2020, 27’54’’
Sanatçının izniyle

Agnieszka Polska
The Thousand-Year Plan

Set in Poland in the 1950s, The Thousand-Year Plan is a story of “enlightenment.” The story focuses on a pair of progressive engineers tasked with the electrification of rural areas, crossing paths with nationalist partisans hiding in the woods. It presents a familiar and timeless setting of modernization; on one hand, the “progressives” advocate the flames of knowledge and on the other, the “reactionists” hold on to the values of the established order, wherein such a context beyond the enlightened, a darkness comes to the fore… The Thousand-Year Plan consisting of two synchronized screens, calls into question the duality of infrastructures and the codependency between governance and technology; through the experience of electrification, the work inquires about present-day information technologies and the mechanisms of power.

Agnieszka Polska (1985, Poland) challenges the documentary form with an anachronistic approach, from found footage to archival materials. Her concerns revolve around the gaps within historical narratives and forgotten Polish avant-garde figures, as well as artists that never existed. In this aspect, the artist follows a documentative approach favored particularly by the Łódź Film School in Poland in the 1960s. This approach suggests documentary as a political tool and a form of resistance, tackling the archive as an obscure matter of history and the subconscious and a material that preserves its relevance constantly.

2 Jozef Robakowski Impulsator 2000jpg Józef Robakowski, <i>Impulsator</i> [Dürtümatik], 2000, 2’33’’<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Józef Robakowski, Impulsator [Dürtümatik], 2000, 2’33’’
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Józef Robakowski

Impulsator is a reflection of Józef Robakowski’s pursuit since the 1960s, for an absolute art experience rather than a representational one. The work is a continuation of Test, a series of experimental films he produced from the 1970s in defiance of traditional modes of narration and representation. By poking a succession of holes on unexposed film strips and the absence of a camera, Robakowski uses the movement of light through the pores to form abstract lines. The work pays tribute to Andrzej Pawłowski, a leading figure in Polish experimental cinema, and lacks aural and visual synchronicity. Impulsator behaves unpredictably to the music of Leszek Knaflewski and traverses beyond an optical experience aiming at the viewer’s body with pulsating light and vibrations.

Once part of the neo-avant-garde movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Józef Robakowski’s (1939, Poland) practice entails material experimentation and the simplicity of expression. As a founding member of the artist collectives, Zero-61 and Film Form Workshop, he actively worked to establish a strong independent film scene in Poland.

5 Duncan Campbell 1 Duncan Campbell, <i>Arbeit</i> [Görev], 2011, 41’<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Duncan Campbell, Arbeit [Görev], 2011, 41’
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell’s Arbeit explores the life and opinions of German economist Hans Tietmeyer, who was Deutsche Bundesbank’s president from 1993 until 1999, and an influential bureaucrat during Europe’s transition to a unified monetary system. Narrated by a voiceover, the film uses archival newsreels, vintage advertisements and photos from the Bundesarchiv [The National Archives of Germany]. In this context, the film stands as an exceptional documentary where unexpected connections between people, theories and anecdotes are formed. Campbell brings into focus the occasions, situations and objects Tietmayer could have supposedly witnessed or experienced throughout his life, rather than scenes directly from the bureaucrat’s life. The film bridges the unification of Germany after 1989 and the new world order with the current financial crises plaguing the EU countries. Narrated by an anonymous expert, this timeless and placeless story questions the nature of established historical narratives.

This approach of inquiry, alluding to the subjective nature of the documentary form, plays a crucial role in Campbell’s practice. In Bernadette (2008), Campbell explored the revolutionary story of Bernadette Devlin, who at the age of 22, was the youngest ever elected member of the British Parliament and was dubbed “a Castro in a mini skirt.” After this work that followed Devlin’s battle against social deprivation in Belfast, Campbell turned his attention to Europe’s financial meltdown through Arbeit.

Duncan Campbell (1972, Dublin) won the 2014 Turner Prize for his film It for Others, commissioned for the 2013 Scotland + Venice presentation at the 55th Venice Biennale. His moving image work entails in-depth research on historical subjects, objects, or occasions of interest and the use of archival materials. In his work, Campbell tackles and probes the documentary medium as a notion, and emphasizes the archive’s ability to fracture fixed historical representations and narratives.

1 Deimantas Narkevicius Into The Unknown 2009 1 1 Deimantas Narkevičius, <i>Into the Unknown</i> [Bilinmeyene Doğru], 2009, 17’01’’<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Deimantas Narkevičius, Into the Unknown [Bilinmeyene Doğru], 2009, 17’01’’
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Deimantas Narkevičius
Into the Unknown

Created on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Deimantas Narkevičius’s Into the Unknown utilizes films and images from the archives of East Germany’s official film studio DEFA. Through these images, depicting the everyday life of East Berliners that aim to illustrate the well-being of citizens, Narkevičius creates contrasts between the notion of an idealized society with subjective slices of scenes belonging to individuals and their private lives. Into the Unknown adopts an interrogative style towards the immanent information and privacy politics of political regimes and alludes to the political history and personal memory tension by using found and archival footage.

Deimantas Narkevičius (1964, Lithuania) constructs films through documentary images, voiceovers, interviews, reenactments, found photography, and images, in which he approaches historical events from a narrative perspective. Narkevičius produced Into the Unknown in 2009 as part of a collaborative project between the British Film Institute and Goethe Institute, Building Memory–Four Films About Architecture, Monuments and Community.

4 Shana Moulton Mindplace Thoughtstream 2014 1 Shana Moulton, <i>MindPlace ThoughtStream</i> [MindPlace DüşünceAkışı] (2014)<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle
Shana Moulton, MindPlace ThoughtStream (2014)
Courtesy the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Shana Moulton
MindPlace ThoughtStream

Named after a biofeedback system device used in the healthcare industry,MindPlace ThoughtStream is a video-performance work by Shana Moulton. Through her alter-ego Cynthia, the artist humorously examines the impact of capitalism and mass culture on the psyche. The device measures the skin’s temperature and levels of moisture, and with the feedback of sound and light, it aims to regulate its user’s stress and anxiety, hence helping one achieve an optimal emotional balance. We witness Cynthia as she attempts to use this device as a way to cope with anxieties in her solitary world.

Shana Moulton’s (1976, ABD) work revolves around the relationship between consumerism and New Age culture, and how this relationship is manifested in the present-day healthcare industry. Cynthia, surrounded in her universe with outfits and consumer objects fashioned from pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, becomes an absurd representation of Walter Benjamin’s definition of the modern-day person, whose life is defined by the objects surrounding them. Moulton also views Cynthia as an autobiographical character due to her capacity to endure the anxieties caused by life’s many uncertainties and contradictions through humor.

2 Jananne Al Ani Shadow Sites I 2010jpg 1 Jananne Al-Ani, <i>Shadow Sites I</i> [Gölge Alanları I], 2010, 14’22’’<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Jananne Al-Ani, Shadow Sites I [Gölge Alanları I], 2010, 14’22’’
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Jananne Al-Ani
Shadow Sites I

Jananne Al-Ani’s Shadow Sites I constitutes the first part of an extensive project, drawing on Paul Virilio’s literary work The Aesthetics of Disappearance. Al-Ani was inspired by forensic anthropologist Margaret Cox’s studies on blue butterflies in the Balkans, a particular species that increased in population around a hidden mass grave from the Kosovo War in 1999 due to the soil’s elevated levels of fertilization. Interpreting the butterflies as omens of disappearance and destruction, the artist formulated her project, The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People on aerial photography images taken for military, and archaeological purposes from archives such as the Smithsonian Institute and the Arab Image Foundation.

“Shadow site” refers to a terminology used in aerial archaeology, to survey and map the Earth’s surface marks and is based on identifying subsurface layers through accentuated shadows, when the sun is low in the sky. During the period between the two wars, this technique was most notably used by the British Royal Air Force’s inspection flights, revealing many previously undiscovered archeological sites in Europe. In Shadow Sites I Al-Ani investigates the possibilities of how aerial film footage may reveal the relationships between the surface, body, and landscape, and scans areas that include the basin of a copper mine dating back to the Bronze Ages in Faynan (Jordan), Nabatean ruins from the archeological site Khirbat el-Moreighah, a Roman castle in Humeima, and the remnants of trenches left behind by Ottoman garrisons around the city of Ma’an.

In her archive and document-based practice, artist and curator Jananne Al-Ani (1966, Iraq) primarily focuses on traces made invisible by official histories, places stripped of their social and cultural layers, and abstract topographies where a goal or utopian ideas are assembled.

2 Oleksiy Radinsky Circulation 2020 1 Oleksiy Radinsky, <i>Circulation</i> [Ring Hattı], 2020, 11’30’’<br />
Sanatçının izniyle<br />
Oleksiy Radinsky, Circulation [Ring Hattı], 2020, 11’30’’
Sanatçının izniyle

Oleksiy Radinsky

Circulation follows an urban route in Kyiv, tracing a familiar yet unknown scenery. With an anthropological view of architecture, Radinsky highlights Kyiv’s architectural heritage from the Soviet era, intertwined with the city’s contemporary urbanization, in the experimental film based on his observations over three years of a 50-kilometer circular train route. Running along iconic governmental structures and architectural monuments from the former communist regime, the route offers a timely perspective on Eastern Europe’s post-Soviet topography.

The social tensions and cultural contradictions caused by the Soviet architectural heritage in a post-Soviet urban development and infrastructure constitute a crucial theme in the work of artist and writer Oleksiy Radinsky (1984, Ukraine). His previous works, Troyeschyna Dva (2017), a critique of Eastern Europe’s infrastructure politics, and more recently, Facade Color: Blue (2019), a documentary project on the architect Florian Yuriev, are archetypally themed works.

6 Enthusiasts Archive 2002 1 Neil Cummings ve Marysia Lewandowska, <i>Enthusiasts Archive</i> [Müptelalar Arşivi], 2002<br />
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle<br />
Neil Cummings ve Marysia Lewandowska, Enthusiasts Archive [Müptelalar Arşivi], 2002
Varşova Modern Sanat Müzesi izniyle

Neil Cummings, Marysia Lewandowska
Enthusiasts Archive

Enthusiasts Archive by Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska is a collaborative and extensive research project into the remnants of the archives of amateur and underground film clubs founded in Poland during the socialist regime. As part of the exhibition Into the Unknown, ten short films from this comprehensive archive are featured at Salt Galata.

For the artists, the film Camera Buff [Amateur] (1979) by Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski, a story based on the passion of a humble factory worker for amateur filming, became an inspirational milestone: In 2002, Cummings and Lewandowska started to work on and trace the amateur film clubs of socialist Poland and the films produced by its members. Composed mostly of documentaries about family, city, factory, and rural life as well as historical, abstract, and experimental works, the artists restored and digitized a diverse range of films.

Enthusiasts Archive was first presented in Warsaw 18 years ago at CCA Ujazdowski Castle. In 2005, this debut was followed by exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery (London), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin) and Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona). The archive was acquired into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2019 and is now available online. Emblematic of an idealized notion of society and art at the time, Enthusiasts Archive offers a wide scope of insight into the purpose of the archive, its transformative and public impact on the narratives and ownership of art.

Welsh artist Neil Cummings’s work revolves around the political economy of art. Polish artist Marysia Lewandowska’s work focuses on the social functionalities of the archive and exhibitions, forms of knowledge and ownership, and alternative histories.