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Banner stills L to R: 1, 2, 3...Cinematographer's Exercise, Open Form – Game on an Actress's Face, and Market, all courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

Open Form – Game on an Actress’s Face
(Forma Otwarta – Gra na twarzy aktorki)

KwieKulik and Jan S. Wojciechowski with students of the Film School in Łódź
1971, 35 mm to digital file, 3 minutes


Still from Open Form – Game on an Actress's Face
courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

This film is an episode from a series of short films titled Open Form that resulted from collaborations among the circle gathered around the Faculty of Sculpture of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, notably Przemysław Kwiek (b. 1945) and Zofia Kulik (b. 1947), the two members of the KwieKulik duo, as well as Jan S. Wojciechowski and students of the cinematography and acting departments of the Film School in Łódź. Led by architect Oskar Hansen, the faculty became a center of teaching informed by the theory of Open Form, which Hansen developed in 1959. Formulated for the field of architecture, Open Form became among Hansen’s students a guiding principle in the visual arts more broadly understood.

The mission of an Open Form architect was to provide backgrounds and frameworks within which human activity could flourish without being confined. In a similar spirit, the film project Open Form did not rely on a detailed script but merely supplied a range of strategies that could be used for making its episodes unfold. The strategy for the episode shown here was to play a kind of visual game—something that Open Form artists did often and of which Game on an Actress’s Face is a model example. The visual game played by the group involved individual “moves” made by several artists in succession. With every move, each artist had to relate to the move made by the previous participant and then make a statement of her or his own, bearing in mind that he or she was thus creating a context for the next participant to draw upon. Game on an Actress’s Face exemplifies this strategy, shooting step by step the “moves” that players behind the frame make as they place objects and substances on the “blank canvas” offered up by the face of acting student Ewa Lemańska.  — Łukasz Mojsak

The organizers would like to thank the KwieKulik Archive, Łukasz Mojsak, and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, for their help in making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

1,2,3…Operator’s Exercise (1,2,3... Ćwiczenie operatorskie)
Paweł Kwiek, 1972, 35 mm to digital file, 8 minutes


Still from 1, 2, 3...Cinematographer's Exercise, courtesy Filmoteka Muzeum

Before adopting a markedly spiritual approach to his art and life at the end of the 1970s, Paweł Kwiek (b. 1951) was highly active throughout the decade as a prominent representative of analytical approaches in Polish art. As a student and graduate of the Film School in Łódź, he was part of the Workshop of the Film Form, an academic club affiliated with the school that also included as its members such major artists as Józef Robakowski and Wojciech Bruszewski. The works that came out of the WFF are widely considered to be landmarks of Polish postwar art.

Kwiek also collaborated extensively with his brother, Przemysław Kwiek (who was one half of the KwieKulik duo), and fellow students at the Faculty of Sculpture of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, led by the artist-architect Oskar Hansen, whose influential theory of Open Form can be seen in practice in the film Po Omacku, shown elsewhere in the series [LINK]. These personal ties brought Kwiek into the Open Form circle at the academy, which included KwieKulik, among others. The works of the members of this circle were often mixed-media projects that explored human interactions and encouraged socio-political experimentation, and Kwiek’s 1,2,3 . . . Cinematographer’s Exercise captures that ethos. The film was in part a response to the events of the breakthrough year 1970, which witnessed a change in the leadership of the Polish Communist Party and opened a new chapter in Polish Communism. That year, the new First Secretary of the Party, Edward Gierek, declared that the new decade was to see improved communication between the authorities and society, with more sensitivity to the needs of the latter, as well as openness to modernity and innovation. In the aftermath of these changes in party leadership, the artists of the Open Form circle attempted to renegotiate in their practice the relation between art and politics, seeking forms of expression that would help establish more direct communication between the officials of the state and the members of society at large.

The artists were ultimately disappointed in their hopes, but 1, 2, 3 . . . Cinematographer’s Exercise shows the influence of the political edge fostered by the Faculty of Sculpture circle. The film is a study of the relations between the individual and socialist ideology as carried out in a loose, open-ended form, much at odds with the visual language of the official government propaganda. The work is based on a free flow of mixed imagery of various kinds, comprising acted sequences, animation, and documentary footage, such as images from a May Day Parade in which the artists took part in order to voice their demands.[1] Instead of conveying an unambiguous propaganda message, the film leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation in keeping with Kwiek’s attempts to focus in his art on the individual’s potential for self-determination.  — Łukasz Mojsak

The organizers would like to thank Paweł Kwiek and Łukasz Mojsak, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, for their help in making a screening of this film possible in Washington.


1. May Day parades, which were meant to highlight the accomplishments of socialist states, recur as a motif in amateur and experimental films from Eastern Europe with some regularity and almost always hint at the makers’ subversive intentions. For another example of a depiction of a May Day parade used for provocative ends, see Dušan Makavejev’s early documentary Parade, which is dicussed in Lorraine Mortimer, Terror and Joy: The Films of Dušan Makavejev (Minneapolis, 2009), 9. A May Day parade can also be seen in Péter Dobai’s 1975 BBS documentary Apartment Theater (Lakásszínház), which juxtaposes the lifestyle of a countercultural theater troupe with the official event. [KS] (back to top)