Józef Robakowski’s retrospective “Der Linie Nach” showing at ?AK | BRANICKA Gallery is a fascinating look at a major artist’s repeated investigations into an artistic fundamental: the line. Reading between them, weaving them, projecting them or dissecting them – this collection from the iconic ’60s avant-gardist artist presents us with an intriguing line-up of linear exploration.
Throughout his decades long career, this simple motif has reappeared across different media and with a range of different but related focuses. The main ideas behind much of his work directly relate to his experiences as an artist during repressive Communist-era Poland. While much of his filmed work consists of playful forays into the rhythm and freedom of lines, there is also a strong sense of a “real cinema” – a reaction against the professional film environment that he saw as having fallen prey to the perversions of state administration.
“The moment finally came, in around 1975, when we had to bid farewell to all of socialist cinematography. Then we, workshoppers, were the only ones left, a ‘cinema of broad horizons,’ made at our own expense.” – Józef Robakowski
Robakowski’s work beathes a simplicity and elegance that is visually striking and also meditative. One work sees a series of rectangular papers jaggedly stuck together, in order to follow the course of a line that pierces each section. A glow of white outlines this thread, but it’s surrounded by black. It made me think of a brainwave, an idea being born and forging a path through darkness. On another wall, a single panel of this work is repeated, standing alone, suggesting a defiant individual escaped from the collective.
Erika Pinner and Katarryna Lorenc watch Robakowski’s video installation. Photo: Chris Phillips
But it’s Robakowski’s look at the building blocks of cinematography that keeps your attention: a projector stands in the center of the space, a white line scratched onto the film unspooling hypnotically in front of us. By stripping cinema back to its essentials with often childlike glee, Robakowski reclaims cinema from his oppressors. And what more symbolic way to dance around convention than to follow your own line, dancing from side to side, darting around, and avoiding the straight and narrow?
- ?AK | BRANICKA – Józef Robakowski’s “Der Linie Nach” – November 2, 2012 to January 12, 2013 [Free]
Article by Martin Shoo