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. 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)