‘Office desks and even more office desks, wherever you look, a wonderful new world. This is the place where it happens, it simmers, it boils: the artistic life. These are the artists. They're the creators of art, the genuine art, the 20th century art that is soon to burst out with all of its strength, soon to finally dim all of the -isms...’ - read the initial lines of an off-camera commentary to this unconventional film. On the screen, following a short introduction featuring some office scenes, we are now presented with several dozen pieces on exhibition, featured - as can be gathered from the voice-over - on an annual office art biennale (sic!). The film concludes with the following ascertainment: ‘The artistic excellence of the pieces featured augurs high hopes for a further development of this zestful movement in contemporary art’.
Julian Józef Antonisz was an artist of pastiche. As he would often say, ‘There is no new reality to be found in art, for it is the reality that is unreal’. His works would evoke both laughter and reflection and always provide an exceptionally original commentary on the absurd and senselessness of reality.
There are a dozen or so animations to be found in the Cracow artist’s body of work that are considered pastiches of film: ‘In the Grip of Sex’ - erotic films, ‘Horror Film’ - horror movies, ‘Those Magnificent Bubbles in Those Pulsating Lymphocytes’, ‘A Few Practical Ways To Prolong One’s Life’, ‘How Come There’s a Bear On the Screen?’, ‘Out of the Woods’ and ‘How Does a Sausage Dog Work’ – children and adult-oriented educational films, ‘A Documentary Cartoon Non Camera, or the Director Krzysztof Gradowski about Himself’ - documentaries shot using the talking heads technique; ‘The Polish Non-Camera Newsreel’ – Polish Newsreel, and finally the ‘Film about (Office) Art’ – as an obvious pastiche of a typical art movie.
It is also worth mentioning that ‘Film about (Office) Art’, albeit screened during the Films on Art Festival held in Zakopane, was not awarded a single prize, yet in the year 1980 another film by Antonisz – ‘Old Man’s Blues Non Camera, or Feet First’ – was awarded at the same festival a prestigious Silver Pegasus Award, which was an honor held in high regard within the filmmakers’ and artistic circles of the time.
The ‘Film about (Office) Art’ comprises of two parts. The introductory one, shot in a directorial style which draws from documentary and educational movies, contains a commentary featuring some of the characteristics of this new art movement, namely an ‘office-ism’, which is accompanied by images drawn from quotidian office life and examples of unusual actions of artistic value which take place (e.g. sharpening a pencil with a jack-plane or sustaining a rolling paper with an arabic gum). What is essential is the feature on the annual Office Art Exhibition opening, shot in a formula drawn directly from a typical film on art, which had was dominating in Polish cinematography during the 70s. Here we are shown about a dozen more or less ingenious works, including a cuckoo stamp, a stamp cuckoo, a pillowy complainer silencer, a spectral-surreal repeller, an automatic self-stirrer of tea, a pocket desk cannon (equipped with a magazine that can hold up to 36 paragraphs), a plastic multi-use lemon slice, an alpine outdoor office travel desk attachable to suspenders (may come handy especially while mountaineering The Tatras), or even a faithful copy of ‘The Battle of Grunwald’, created using a typewriter. The exhibits' review concludes with a display of one ‘machine of definite denial‘ and the narrator's firm belief in a fruitful development of the aforesaid artistic movement that is to come in the future.
The movie, which was executed using a combined method, is a collage of various animation techniques (limited, cutout, puppet) and live action.
Antonisz managed to create a compelling plastic collage, which is even more attractive due to the witty commentary and the use of music (industrial in the initial part and whimsical in the latter). Both the commentary and the music are the work of Antonisz.
The ‘Film about (Office) Art’ is also a presentation of the artist’s prodigious creativity in engineering various machines designed to make quotidian life easier, which reminds me of my first meeting with the artist. Seeing me lounged on an armchair in his workshop, Antonisz pulled a toilet flusher, which caused the projector screen to unroll; stepping on a pedal seemingly disassembled from some dental machinery - resulted in the opening of a locker, from within which emerged a tray with a bottle of cherry vodka and a couple of glasses. And then we were all set to begin our conversation. Jerzy Armata