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Banner stills L to R: Somnambulists, courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum; Drawings, courtesy Vladimír Havrilla and Boris Kršňák;
Transformations: Potter's Bull,
courtesy DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Groping One's Way and Puppets

Oskar Hansen – Groping One’s Way (Po omacku)
Piotr Andrejew, Poland, 1975, digital file from 35 mm, 11 minutes 13 seconds


Still from Oskar Hansen – Groping One's Way, courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

In 1952, Oskar Hansen (1922–2005) took over the Planes and Figures Composition Studio at the Faculty of Sculpture of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, which since the 1920s had boasted a storied tradition. This began a new chapter in the history of a studio that even before Hansen’s arrival had offered alternatives to the regular sculptural curriculum dominant at the academy. Born in 1922 in Helsinki, educated in Vilnius and Warsaw, and trained at Jean Jeanneret’s architectural studio in Paris, among others, Hansen was a truly versatile figure. An architect, sculptor, artist, and theorist, he brought to the studio his own international and innovative perspective, which cut across a variety of media and focused on theoretical considerations of the language of forms, rather than purely material investigations. Proclaimed at the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Modern in Otterlo in 1959, Hansen’s seminal theory of Open Form proved inspirational far beyond the world of architecture and came to permeate Hansen’s teaching at the academy.

Democratic and non-hierarchical training at Hansen’s studio, which did away with the traditional divide between the master and his disciples, relied on a broad range of strategies and apparatuses of his own making aimed at exploring and shaping visual language in an open-ended manner. Among these strategies were visual games,  which were often held outdoors in the early 1970s. Grzegorz Kowalski, Hansen’s assistant at the studio and later head of his own innovative sculptural studio at the academy, has described these events as follows: “Outdoor practice was subordinated above all to the integration of the following elements: a selected portion of the landscape, a chosen time of day (or night), and a theme, such as ‘the marriage of water and air’ [or] ‘the blind’ . . . . The students then responded with scenes that introduced various elements into the natural environment. . . . This further led to the practice of games between selected groups of students, as well as Hansen and his assistants."[1]


Still from Oskar Hansen – Groping One's Way, courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

The director of Groping One’s Way, Piotr Andrejew (b. 1947) came across Hansen’s innovative teaching through one of the students of the academy, Jan. S. Wojciechowki, who showed him photographic documentation of one of the group’s winter plein-air outings. Andrejew approached Hansen about the possibility of performing some of the outdoor visual games in front of the cameras of his crew, which included Zbigniew Rybczyński as one of the cinematographers. Hansen agreed, and a group of artists played out in a rural setting three visual games, which determined the structural division of the film into three chapters illustrating each of them. The game played in the nearby town spontaneously incorporated local people, who participated in the games. The visually innovative form of the film, which tries to respond to the character of each visual game, testifies to the remarkable open-mindedness of the Educational Film Studio in Łódź, a state-run institution that still exists today and has boasted a string of noteworthy and even groundbreaking collaborations with both visual artists and avant-garde composers (the film Trace, shown earlier in the series, is yet another example of an innovative film about an artist made there).  — Łukasz Mojsak

The organizers would like to thank Wojciech Biernacki and the archive of the Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych (Educational Film Studio), Łódź; and Łukasz Mojsak, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, for their help in making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

Paweł Freisler – Puppets (Pajace)
Piotr Andrejew, Poland, 1971, 35 mm, 6 minutes 44 seconds


Still from Paweł Freisler – Puppets, courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

On the website of the Filmoteka of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, this film is described as follows: “Piotr Andrejew’s short film exercise from the Film School in Łódź pivots around the figure of Paweł Freisler—Warsaw-based artist active in the neo-avantgarde circles at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. The ‘puppets’ are self-portrait photos of the artist, which he cut, glued, and turned into moving toys, to sell them later in the street. Thus, Freisler could contact his audience directly, which [lay] at the heart of his artistic practice—now largely forgotten and functioning rather in the sphere of urban legends. The core of the works he made before emigrating to Sweden in 1976 consisted in the contact between the artist and other people, be it in the form of discussions and artistic actions, such as the white cube created at Oskar Hansen’s studio, which became a meeting place taken beyond the public space, or in the form of rumours spread about his own performances and the ‘art of plotting’ manifesto announced in 1973."[2]

The organizers would like to thank Weronika Czołnowska and the Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Filmowa, TV i Teatralna im. L. Schillera w Łodzi (The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School in Łódź) for their help in making a screening of this film possible in Washington.


1. Barbara Piwowarska and Magdalena Holzhey, eds., The Third Room: On Artistic and Pedagogical Spaces in the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw; Beuys, Hansen, and After (Warsaw, 2014 [forthcoming]), 142. (back to top)

2. The site cites as a reference Łukasz Ronduda, Polish Art of the 70s: Avant-Garde (Warsaw, 2009). (back to top)