Opening: Thursday 18 April 2018 6-8pm with floor talk of the artist
First chapter: 19 Apr – 16 May 2018
Second chapter: 17 May – 16 June 2018
‘I focus on differences in scale and try to continuously shift the narrative through different scales. These meditative journeys might start from massive astronomical objects and eventually reach the smallest particles that construct matter, which—in the case of my stories—are always words and letters. The environments I build and describe always have language at their base. This approach derives from the idea that the smallest indistinguishable particles are cloned ideas that function interchangeably in the same way as the letters of the alphabet.’
Agnieszka Polska on the Amorous Ideas Behind Her Award-Winning “Baby-Faced” Star – Interview with Kate Brown
Project Arts Centre proudly presents the first solo exhibition of Berlin-based Polish artist Agnieszka Polska in Ireland. Staged in two chapters – each showing three looped and consecutively screened video works – the selection contains a mix of early and more recent pieces including her latest film Mirrored Garden. Based on fictional stories blended with elements of science-fiction, the first thematic chapter highlights the ways in which social norms are established and implemented. The second focuses on the civic responsibilities of the artist and the impact they may have on their surroundings.
Agnieszka Polska’s video works often employ the process of montage, combining found and digitally manipulated material and images. Drawing largely on the conventions of documentary, her early works were driven by explorations into the less exposed or forgotten protagonists of postwar art history and the Polish avant-garde, and they possess an archival subconscious that addresses the misunderstandings, misrepresentations, absences, disappearances and errors of human memory. Polska deliberately interferes with the established rules of history making and processes of representation in order to challenge the conventional ‘museum-archive consciousness’ and ‘reshape what has been collected without fear.’
Her recent video works witness a shift in focus towards the complex mechanisms and interplay of visual perception and language. They touch upon contemporary urgencies such as environmental catastrophe, the rise of nationalistic sentiments, and the social responsibility of the individual. Informed by her interest in diverse approaches to quantum theory and soft manipulation techniques such as ASMR (Auto Sensory Meridian Response), Polska’s digitally generated contemplative image/sound-worlds explore sensorial and cognitive borders and the limits of the human mind. The alluring anesthetized voice-overs support the immersive quality of her video environments. The process of immersion becomes a political act, described by Polska as a ‘tool for creating an environment competitive with the environment of seduction that surrounds, for example, organized religions.’
Chapter 1: 19 APRIL – 16 MAY
Mirrored Garden, 2018, presents a surreal vision of a park cut by an axis of symmetry into two identical, mirrored halves. With the history of Bad Muskau Park as its point of departure, the film was shot in the mysterious Garden of Cosmic Speculation – a private Scottish garden designed by the post-modern landscape architect Charles Jencks. In a poetic fashion, the narrator of the film references concepts from physics (such as symmetry breaking), in order to question how conscious we are in our decision-making process.
My Little Planet, 2017, is loosely connected to a group of works that address the much debated rational individualism philosophy (Objectivism) of the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand. Using online and digitally manipulated images, the video-animation presents us with a post-apocalyptic condition, a narrated dystopic scenario in which time is in a permanent state of emergency, the globe reduced to a floating ashtray full of Marlborough cigarette butts.
Guns, 2014 (with Witek Orski), is a narrated series of trance-like multi-coloured rotating charts that show makeshift improvised pistols. The piece recalls the 1968 student protests in Poland, when entire stock of weapons in the collections of the Polish Army Museum (even the original rifles used during the 17th century and 1830 anti-Russian November Uprising) were drilled through to prevent their possible usage.
Chapter 2: 17 MAY – 16 JUNE
The New Sun, 2017
The piece is the second part of a diptych that is inspired by a poem written by the 19th century Polish poet, Maria Konopnicka. The poem describes the harmony of the daily rhythms of quiet rural life and is told from the perspective of the sun. Performing a monologue of varying tones and emotional shifts (from a pathetic, tender loving to merciless, and stand-up style irony), the anthropomorphic sun recounts the miseries and hardships of a nearing apocalypse. This cosmic love song uses the voiceover of Aaron Ronelle Harrell—an emerging actor and Broadway singer, and also draws from the polyphonic compositions of the Persian mystic poet Rumi, often called the ‘voice of love’.
I Am the Mouth II, 2014
Playing with the persuasiveness of marketing messages and the ambiguities of understanding in visual imagery, verbal language and science, the video presents a pair of disembodied bright red lips partly submerged in billowy water. With reference to Samuel Beckett’s theatrical production the ‘one-mouth’ play Not I (1973) the video plays on the curious and much debated sensory phenomenon known as ASMR (Auto Sensory Meridian Response). Triggered by specific acoustic or visual stimuli, the sensation is often likened to ‘a flow-like mental state’.
How the Work Is, Done 2011 was ‘intrigued by the idea of an artist refusing to work in order to achieve a specific aim’ and is loosely based on first-person accounts and documentation of the 1956 student strike at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. During this short-lived occupation, students barricaded themselves into the sculpture and ceramics workshop, shutting down production in protest against the meagre labour standards of the Communist regime and the political standardisation of their studies. The protest ended in a crackdown and the closing of the studios that were torn down a few years after. While the camera pans across an empty studio space with carefully arranged piles of cloths arranged on the floor to represent/remember the lying bodies of weary students, we listen to a sort of unconcerned tutorial that describes sculptural materials and production techniques.
Curated by Lívia Páldi
Exhibition views, Agnieszka Polska: Softly Spoken, Project Arts Centre, Dublin, 2018
Photos: Ros Kavanagh
Agnieszka Polska, My Little Planet, HD animation, 2017 (still)
Agnieszka Polska, Mirrored Garden, HD animation, 2018 (still)
Agnieszka Polska, Guns (with Witek Orski), HD animation, 2014 (still)
All works are courtesy the artist, ŻAK | BRANICKA, Berlin and Overduin & Co., Los Angeles
Agnieszka Polska creates videos, animations and photographs which often use archival sources and fabricated visual materials and which reference the history of art – especially of the 1960s and 70s. Her work was exhibited in the New Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Prague, Nottingham Contemporary in the UK, the Salzburger Kunstverein in Austria. Polska’s work has been included in exhibitions and screenings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the 19th Biennale of Sydney, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin. Her work was featured in the 11th Gwangju Biennale in Korea and at the 57th Venice Biennale. Polska was the 2017 winner of the Prize of the Nationalgalerie in Germany
Polska was born in Lublin, Poland. She lives and works in Krakow, PL, and Berlin.
Project Arts Centre is proudly supported by the Arts Council Ireland and Dublin City Council.