While a student at the Łódź Film School, Zbigniew Rybczyński was also a member of the Workshop of the Film Form, and he made The Square in 1972 as a contribution to the workshop. The film uses 35 mm technology but uncannily prefigures the coming of the digital age. “It was a mix of photography and animation and it took up my whole vacation - sixteen hours a day,” Rybczyński recalls. In that time, he “analysed, through a film camera, a loop of thirty-six squarish black-and-white photographs representing a [man] moving in a circle.” He photographed the loop on film and repeated it thirty-six times, with each new repetition dividing the film window into an increasing number of subdivisions and making the photograph appear “pixilated” using squares of black and white paper. Later in the film, Rybczyński also added color filters and combined different-colored iterations of the images.
The Square thus plays with the basic building blocks of digital imaging, much in the way that Grzegorz Zgraja’s Transformation would reflect on the raster scanning used in video by likening it to the halftone printing process. Both Zgraja and Rybczyński were interested in exploring the basic principles of image reproduction that allow the eye to reconstruct a familiar whole out of abstracted parts. “What is most important about [The Square],” Rybczinski says, “is that not being aware of computer imaging—it was 1970, in Poland—I manufactured my own ‘digital’ processing on film." — Ksenya Gurshtein