No 2 (94) 2013
April - June

Technique as a Kind of Art

Julian Józef Antoniszczak (Antonisz), a film maker and visionary, has reached back into the roots of the cinema as it had been before "an unfortunate invention by the Lumieres brothers". He has given up a camera to make his experimental animations, proving that "technique is a kind of art".

Agnieszka Maria Wasieczko

B. in 1974. Art. historian, critic. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Agnieszka Maria Wasieczko

DADAIST IN THEIR CLIMATE, full of absurd humor, non-camera films by Antonisz (1941-1987) - a co-founder of the legendary Animated Films Studio in Cracow; a musician, constructor and inventor - shall be remembered by viewers due to their unique, handicraft like, rough, "coarse" aesthetics. They fascinate with their "visual noisiness": disturbing, vibrating animated pictures. The artist has achieved all these by means of drawing or painting on film frames. The movies offer hard to describe cacophony of lines, patches and blots that vibrate into the rhythm of their own music. All these are the background for the portrayed characters.

The vast output by Antonisz covers 36 films out of which a dozen or so have been displayed on the exhibition in the Zachęta. These works, in part or in all (both picture and sound) have been made noncamera; among them there are such well known pieces as: Phobia (1967), How a Little Dachshund Operates (1971), Sun (1977), What One Can See after Closing One's Eyes and Ears (1978), People Wither as Leaves (1978), A Sharp Involved Movie (1979), The Light at the End of the Tunnel (1986), and installments of the Polish Non-Camera Newsreels (1981-87) - an alternative to the artificial, pompous language of the official Polish Newsreel. Further, the exhibition offered an insight into nonetheless intriguing techniques applied by the artist.

Focused on a comeback to handicrafts and archaic methods, Antonisz has referred to the origins of the cinema approached as a folk, popular type of entertainment. Kinetic toys, optical machines and generally all inventions related to the beginnings of the cinema have appealed to him. He has been fascinated with magic lanterns, optical theater by Charles Emile Reynaud and the Anima Non Camera cabaret. Antonisz took an interest in visual and audio experiments and their impact on an audience. His movies apply optical phenomena, post images and hallucinations; thus he tested viewers' sensitivity and their ability to receive new stimuli.

As the artist observed, "cartoons ended at the moment when a movie camera was invented. A film has become a reproduction, it ceased to be a hand made piece". In 1977 on the occasion of the Sun premiere - the first film fully made in non camera technique, where the artist used a wood engraving directly printed on film tape - Antonisz formulated the Non Camera Artistic Manifesto. He has presented there his program and concept of the non-camera cinema. He has contrasted a "home", "hand painted by an artist" operation with the institutionalized production. In the artist's opinion the pictures drawn and painted by hand on 35 mm film tape offered clarity, contrast and strong colors "that cannot be achieved with photographic methods".

Collections of notes, "words of wisdom", newspaper clippings - the so called "lists of ideas" - have been an important element of the creative effort by the artist. He has been collecting these in notebooks and folders for many years. This specific archive co-vered all areas of life and oeuvre by Antonisz. He has made his non-camera movies and constantly experimented with a film tape applying mechanical facilities that he designed and constructed in the period 1968-83. Thus, he got independent from bureaucratic pressure and limitations. Closed in chests and suitcases "pantographs", "sound machines", "animating machines" and other bizarre devices have created a specific "interior design" and atmosphere of his atelier - a laboratory referred to by the artist as the "home non camera Hollywood", "non-camera center" or "machine park". As Danuta Antoniszczak, his wife remembers, the space of the Cracow mansion loft was organized to be "absolutely self-sufficient" so as he could work at any moment. "Every atelier or flat he had used to be a macrocosm of its own" - she said. It is likely that "techniques turned to be a kind of art" because of Antonisz.

Antonisz, "For Me Technique Is a Kind of Art", the "Zachęta" National Art Gallery, Warsaw, January - March 2013.