Warsaw

Pages from storyboard for Julian Józef Antoniszczak’s Jak działa jamniczek (How a Sausage Dog Works), 1971, ink, tempera, and marker pen on paper, open 16 1/2 x 21 1/2".

Pages from storyboard for Julian Józef Antoniszczak’s Jak działa jamniczek (How a Sausage Dog Works), 1971, ink, tempera, and marker pen on paper, open 16 1/2 x 21 1/2".

Julian Józef Antoniszczak

Zachęta National Gallery of Art

Pages from storyboard for Julian Józef Antoniszczak’s Jak działa jamniczek (How a Sausage Dog Works), 1971, ink, tempera, and marker pen on paper, open 16 1/2 x 21 1/2".

Julian Józef Antoniszczak (1941–1987), who signed his films Julian Antonisz, was a cofounder of the famous Studio Filmów Animowanych in Kraków, and known as an animator, a composer, and the inventor of multiple non-camera film techniques, to mention just a few of his creative pursuits. Walking through his recent show in Warsaw, which was the first retrospective presentation of his oeuvre, at times felt like being inside a steam engine. Gallery rooms pulsated to the rhythm of multiple animations and sound tracks accommodated by Paulina Tyro-Niezgoda’s industrial-style exhibition design, based on metal rods, wood, and plywood. The exhibition’s curator, Joanna Kordjak, presented a thoroughly researched selection of films, notebooks (what Antonisz called “idea books”), and the machines that he invented to create non-camera works on 35-mm film, as well as music records scratched directly onto a sound track. This was possible thanks to a close collaboration with the Antonisz family.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Antonisz specialized in animation, sometimes combined with live action, as in W szponach sexu (In the Grip of Sex), 1969, a prizewinner at the Tours Film Festival. Antonisz, seemingly unsatisfied with the transmission of one medium into another, spent years studying the techniques and tools that would eventually enable him to transfer all of his ideas directly to the film Słońe. Film bez kamery (Sun. A Film Without a Camera), his first production created entirely without a camera, which he made in 1977 by printing wood engravings directly onto the film. In his Manifest Artystyczny Non Camera (Non-Camera Artistic Manifesto), written the same year, he states, “Hand drawn and painted images on 35mm film offer sharpness and intense color otherwise unattainable by photographic methods. . . . These images are thoughts brought to life, the shortest path between the filmmaker’s idea and the viewer, undisturbed by any intermediaries.”

All of Antonisz’s works are enlivened by his whimsical and somewhat dark sense of humor, which emerges in his narrations. These use an unusual mixture of street slang, scientific terminology, and creative word formations. Jak działa jamniczek (How a Sausage Dog Works), 1971, offers fascinating insights into the complicated clockwork-like system that keeps a dog alive, portraying living organisms as sophisticated biological mechanisms. Dossiers offer further insight into Antonisz’s research, covering such subjects as electromagnetism and human perception. His interest in the latter drove him to create an apparatus to produce images readable by blind people, though his invention was never put into production. Perception was also one of the recurrent subjects of his animations, appearing, for instance, in Co widzimy po zamknięciu oczu i zatkaniu sobie uszu (What Do We See upon Closing Our Eyes and Covering Our Ears), 1978.

When Antonisz closed his eyes, he must have seen not only complicated devices animating the world but a quotidian socialist reality. He takes the latter’s often paradoxical rhetoric to the extreme in the series “Polska Kronika Non-Camerowa” (Polish Non-Camera Chronicle), 1981–87. There, he depicts imagined scientists providing solutions to such problems as the rising demand for labor, solved by the rejuvenation of retirees, or the desire to travel abroad, which might be satisfied with a set of instructions showing how to achieve a Parisian atmosphere in your own flat. These stories, and the machinery invented to convey them in the face of shortages of professional materials and equipment, stand today as arresting fables of the creation-triggering potential of socialist reality.

Sylwia Serafinowicz