Agnieska Polska’s dreamlike videos explore time and memory. Born in Poland, in 1985, while it was still a communist state, she is interested in obscured histories and cultural myths, particularly those of vanished artists. Using computer animation and live action she rescues, embellishes and re-animates events that are on the verge of oblivion, using a narrative style that is both serious and playful.
Her video Future Days shows the imagined after-life of a group of artists who disappeared from art history. It includes Lee Lozano whose conceptual work Decide to Boycott Women led to her complete withdrawal from the art world, and Bas Jan Ader, a legend of conceptual art, who was mysteriously lost at sea. Polska reunites them with artists from other eras in a heaven filmed on a Swedish island. Without the fear of death, they are incapable of creativity, left with only the imperfect memory of life on earth, diluting throughout eternity.
Polska’s work is informed by her research in historical archives. She sees an archive as a living organism that is “alive and subject to incessant change” History itself is constantly misremembered, imperfectly recorded, or reinterpreted after political change she suggests. Her work also alludes to Freud’s psychological reasons for forgetting. The hallucinatory videos in her exhibition fill in the gaps, accidental or deliberate, in both Eastern European art history, and the 20th century avant-garde.
They also explore the influence of the artist, and the subliminal power this implies. The pace and hypnotic quality of her work is sometimes similar to ASMR, (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos – a cult internet phenomenon. Polska invites viewers to have a similarly meditative, immersive response to her work. The video I am the Mouth II shows an animated red mouth – a reference to Samuel Beckett’s theatrical production Not I - half-submerged in turbulent water. Based on a scientific description of sound waves moving through different materials, the mouth “speaks” for the art work.
Polska has had solo exhibitions in Poland, Austria and Germany, as well as exhibiting widely in international group exhibitions, including in New York and Paris. Her films have been screened in Tate Modern and the ICA, and as part of biennials and film festivals internationally. She has created a new commission for Nottingham Contemporary, her first solo exhibition in this country. She will present a performance version of Future Days with her co-writer Sebastian Cichocki on 21October.
The exhibition is organised in partnership with Culture.pl