The film by Maciej Sobieszczański and Łukasz Ronduda is a story about Oskar Dawicki, one of the most interesting Polish contemporary artists, and an experiment combining cinema, performance, and art exhibition. The film won the THINK: FILM AWARD at Berlinale 2015.
The story about the life and work of one of the most famous Polish artists is the first feature film produced by the Wajda Studio and one of the results of the Studio Prób (Rehearsal Studio) Feature Film Programme conducted by the Wajda School.
It started with an experiment. The art critics Łukasz Ronduda and Łukasz Gorczyca decided to write a novel about the Polish performer Oskar Dawicki entitled W połowie puste / Half-Empty. The script based on it qualified for the Studio Prób Programme organised by the Andrzej Wajda School, and the authors could develop their project under the supervision of experienced artists.
The leading character of Performer is one of the most unusual Polish artists associated with the Azorro group for years. Oskar Dawicki gave his work the character of an Ontological Show. As part of one of his performances he commissioned an unknown author to write a master’s thesis devoted to his own accomplishments (Praca magisterska / Master’s Thesis), and he also printed a copy of Gazeta Wyborcza with the title ‘Oskar Dawicki Exists’.
In 2007, he made an experimental film called Budget Story together with Jan Nowicki. Its length was defined by the small production budget amounting to 14 thousand Polish zlotys. During the nearly ten-minute film the dark screen shows only a ticking timer representing the depleting budget, and just before the end sounds the voice of the actor: we are running out of money. Another time the performer presented banknotes of 10 thousand zlotys in the Witryna gallery in Warsaw – the whole budget of the exhibition, while one of the exhibits at the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach was an ATM.
Speaking about the devaluation of art, Oskar Dawicki likes to joke – ‘I consciously choose the clown language. (...) Sense of humour can be a great vehicle for communicating deadly serious content, because when laughter is over, comes reflection’ – said the artist in an interview with Wysokie Obcasy. His cinematic portrait is to be another attempt at a semi-humorous conversation with the audience.
Contemporary visual arts and cinema are two completely different fields. Film is dominated by direct communication. First of all there is a man – the character who lives through adventures. There are emotions, there is a narrative, a story. These things are difficult in the field of contemporary art (...) Film communicates at the basic, emotional level. But of course the most interesting to me is what happens between these two worlds. The most interesting is the meeting – said Łukasz Ronduda in an interview with wajdaschool.pl.
Dawicki and Ronduda invited Maciej Sobieszczański, an experienced writer, whose Prosta historia o miłości / A Simple Story About Love, directed by Arkadiusz Jakubik is one of the most intriguing Polish debuts of recent years. Sobieszczański perfectly fit in the multimedia duo Ronduda-Dawicki. His short film Urodziny / Birthdays based on Etgar Keret’s story was a proof of his ability to link different fields of culture.
Performer which combines visual arts and cinema, is a bold attempt to break the barriers between media. It is meant to be a film installation of Dawicki’s works, but also a story about life seen through art.
The essence of this approach to the character is identical to the way in which Dawicki functions in the field of art. The film will show the last stage of his journey and the ultimate consequence of artistic choices, which is death – said Ronduda in an interview with dwutygodnik.com.
Dawicki and the other creators of Performer aimed high: they wanted to create a feature film about art and a creative documentary in one. They were mostly inspired by Przypadek Pekosińskiego / The Case of Pekosiński by Grzegorz Królikiewicz, and Wojciech Wiszniewski’s and Bogdan Dziworski’s films whose protagonists play themselves.
Dawicki faced a similar challenge, accompanied by the actors Andrzej Chyra in the role of Dearest, rival and friend of the performer, Agata Buzek, playing his lover and manager, and Jakub Gierszał. Beside them appeared Zbigniew Warpechowski, i.e. the Polish master of performance art, Anda Rottenberg and the artist Igor Krenz.
Performer is part of a new trend in Polish cinema, which is increasingly close to the visual arts. After Świniopas / Swineherd and Opad / Fallout, Anna and Wilhelm Sasnal filmed the famous Z daleka widok jest piękny / It Looks Pretty From a Distance about the difficult Polish-Jewish past. On the border between cinema and contemporary art is also Urszula Antoniak’s work, director of Nic osobistego / Nothing Personal, as well as the film Letnia miłość / Summer Love by Piotr Uklański.
The visual arts’ world owes much to the creators of Performer. Thanks to them every year one artist associated with the visual arts has the opportunity to take part in the Studio Prób Programme conducted by the Wajda School. Work on Popołudnie w barze Ozon / An Afternoon at the Ozone Bar by Zbigniew Libera is to begin soon, and other outstanding artists such as Joanna Rajkowska and Katarzyna Kozyra are already waiting with their projects.
Ed. BS, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, May 2015