Gabriela Jarzębowska: I look, I am. The videoworlds of Michał Brzeziński.
Original text 31.12.2008 http://www.obieg.pl/teksty/5894
Michał Brzeziński’s works are situated somewhere in between the lines of multidimensional dialogue of the interlocking levels of socio-cultural discourse. The themes recurring in his projects, such as national, ethnic and physical identity, cultural transgression, patriotism or media manipulation techniques, become the place of an intellectual debate on the state of humanity endangered by the postmodern deconstruction of identity. The visual and semantic confrontation of various image realities, which overturns the old meanings and creates the novel ones, is very characteristic of Brzeziński’s films. What enables such confrontation is a simultaneous use of the two video strategies: found-footage and direct cinema. The first of them is based on visual ready mades ? fragments of films, commercials and TV programmes, which are decontextualized through comparing them with other visual materials and showing them either in slow motion or in acceleration. Direct cinema, on the other hand, is based on the faith in objective reality recorded with a normal video camera in order to resemble a documentary. Brzeziński seems to be against the objectivity of the above techniques. He deconstructs the unquestionable image of reality proposed by the media. The public figures are unmasked, treated as visual icons coming out of the chaos of the ubiquitous media clichés. Such strategy is to be found in several works by Brzeziński e.g. “Unanamda”, but is most fully realized in “Krach 44” [“Crash 44”], where the speaking politicians are reduced to the amorphous animations or worked through pixelization so drastically that the subjects are barely recognizable. Such strategies remind us of Sherrie Levine’s project in which the greatest 20th century works of art were brought down to the minimal number of twelve pixels. Thanks to such treatment, the visual dimension of these works was toned down and the air of sensation, largely responsible for the huge power of their influence, dispersed. Whereas Levine engaged in the polemics against the functioning of artefacts in culture, Brzeziński replaces work of art with the artistically treated media reality whose objectivism and transparency are seriously questioned. In the work “Landschaft and Polish Interests”, the artist records a banal view stretching from the train’s window. Surprisingly, instead of the landscape, a window pane is brought into focus. Brzeziński’s strategy of unmasking the media channel of communication is realized in this way. What should be transparent and invisible is now in focus. And so are the manipulative media techniques designed to act as a catalyst of reality but, instead, obfuscating truth and disrupting the sender-receiver communication. If the media manipulative power makes objectivity impossible to achieve, then, can we find it in quasidocumentary films based on direct cinema principle? The naked, raw, unprocessed subject matter recorded by an artist and the media techniques can be perceived as polar opposites. Automatically, however, a question of the artistic creation pops out. Is it present in the case of such raw registration? It seems that the answer to this question may be positive, and the artistic objectivism is a kind of illusion or even refined provocation. Although pursued by so many avant-garde video artists, absolute objectivism, indeed, seems to be an elusive and unrealistic goal. Even the conceptual works of Ryszard Waśka or Józef Robakowski, which are seemingly free from any artistic interference, have the hallmarks of creativity (be it through the choice of the subject recorded). Similarly Brzeziński’s projects, brutally transform the rawness of recorded reality, mix it with the fragments of TV programmes or psychedelic closedeye visions and destroy the original message by the non-standard use of sound or editing. As a matter of fact, the artist experiments with the previously criticized media strategies of the message transfer. However, the subject matter of Brzeziński’s films is documentary and translucent enough to make us forget that what we see is also an illusion. We may wonder to what extent the generation of meanings can be credited to Brzeziński’s artistic activity, and to what degree the meanings, in compliance with Brzeziński’s idea of video identity, come into being of their own accord. The artist draws ideas from reality but confronts them with other visual means of expression and allows them to flow freely and smoothly in the direction shown by the viewer’s observation and reflection. Formally speaking, Brzeziński’s art is stretched between the two strategies of constructing images: the direct cinema and TV recycling which are poor in the aesthetic qualities, and closed-eye vision which is an abstract strategy combining video and animation. These two techniques are in a perfect balance and create a collage of realistic and abstract elements. Such cooperation of the seemingly exclusive entities is to be observed in the work “AV” in which the images are emerging from the background of geometric figures and flashing by with dizzying speed only to take on a graphically perfect form of mandala. In “Video ergo sum”, on the other hand, the chaotic, fuzzy, fragmentary images of the city panorama show the metaphorical sense of living in conurbation. The video camera turns down the role of the artistic tool and it becomes the substitute of a human eye. It moves chaotically, following the most interesting images, focusing on one subject for a second and immediately jumping to another. Willy-nilly, Brzeziński appears to be influenced by the postmodern condition, which has its reflection in the film’s fragmentary structure. The captured images revive, are equipped with novel senses which disappear when confronted with new contexts. Brzeziński’s artistry only appears to be fragmentary and chaotic. The feigned chaos is supposed to mock an oversupply of the information and images generated by the media. In reality, Brzeziński’s strategies and projects are surprisingly coherent. The artist consequently focuses on the field of interest, analyzing it and observing with the eyes of other people who witness vanishing reality and try to reestablish the old paradigms.