Józef Robakowski “Art is Power !”
August 16th 6.00 p.m. – The Centre for Creative Activities
ICONS OF OUR TIMES
Józef Robakowski belongs to the circle of the most outstanding Polish multi- and inter-media artists, while during the past two decades his creation has become the most recognisable flagship of the neo-avant-garde in Poland. In parallel with his strictly artistic activity, Robakowski has been engaged in curator and academic activity for many years, animating numerous actions and undertakings in the area of art and art theory.
Since almost the very beginning the artist has been connected with the State College of Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz, where at present he works as a professor. In the first period of his artistic activity (in the 60s) Robakowski has initiated and co-created many progressive actions, participating in such artistic groups as Oko, Zero-61, STKF Pętla and Association Krąg. At that stage his works and projects have been effects of rather formal investigations and aesthetical contestations which many a time have met with resistance, reserve or misunderstanding from the part of critical and artistic establishment. Hence no wonder that his works of the time – even though first of all referred to the medium of photography – were neo-Dadaist in spirit and rather polemic towards the then dominating art of narration and anecdote. In 1970, when the Film Form Workshop was founded in Lodz, Józef Robakowski has already been a fully shaped artist who focused very consciously on the problem of ‘new’ media; firstly photography, film and television, and then, after 1974, video. At the time the Film Form Workshop has become a unique (not only in Poland) platform for multi-media activity which on the occasion of meetings and symposia was accompanied by theoretical reflection inspired with thoughts presented by Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi–Strauss, André Bazin and Marshall McLuhan. In case of Robakowski this apparent double-track and interdisciplinary character of activity didn’t bear conflict, since his output should be treated complementary. Both his first experimental works in the area of photography, film and object art, as well as his manifestos, (self)critical texts and various comments have always been a contribution to critical and meta-linguistic reflection on medium, language of expression and particular context of articulation. In this context it’s worth adding that also various relations (technological, mental and biological) which appear between the artist and his medium or tool have soon become the important theme of Robakowski’s creation.
In result, the idea of art understood as a space of influence for energy transmissions has soon appeared in Robakowski’s texts. Within this area, as Piotr Krajewski commented, “an artist remains face to face with the camera and, thus connected with space, follows the character of energy left by humans and simultaneously the energy traces fixed in the camera recording “. With time this recording and the very procedure of recording has led Robakowski towards working out the conception of ‘own cinema’, what he does understand as the artistic expression that annexes the very originator and his closest habitus purposefully submitted by him to observation, recording and processing.
Looking at Robakowski’s output from the perspective of past five decades, we can see that it is an unusually consistent and coherent entity with regard to aesthetical, anthropological and semiotic values. In his early works he was concentrated on language and media problems, often referring to art history. With time he complemented this with themes taken from the iconosphere of unequivocally social and political provenience. In fact, Józef Robakowski doesn’t evade commentary discourse, even though he remarks that the obligation of every artist is “to build icons which represent t(his) time, starting from the zero point”.