The Enthusiasts: Outsider Cinema from the 1950–80s.
A selection from the Enthusiasts Archive Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw.
7:30pm 1st March 2016
Auditorium: Emilia Pavilion, Museum of Modern Art
Emilii Plater 51
Introduction: Łukasz Ronduda
Cineclub #1 will present a selection of Polish films made in the thirty year period between 1950 and 1980, specifically those produced in amateur film clubs supported by factories, mines and steelworks of the Polish People’s Republic.
The films present a Polish reality of the period as seen through the eyes of the 'worker', a perspective that differs from the 'official' position adopted by mainstream cinema, propagandistic newsreels, or experimental avant-garde film.
Directors such as Franciszek Dzida, Piotr Majdrowicz, Henryk Urbańczyk, or Engelbert Kral adopted a distinctive narrative style, boldly dealing with topics such as sexuality, consumption, and the relationships between private and public life.
They also experimented formally, self-reflectively defining their own position as filmmakers.
Cineclub #1 is based on the Enthusiasts Archive of amateur films assembled during the project Enthusiasts by Marysia Lewandowska and Neil Cummings (curated by Łukasz Ronduda), commissioned by the Center for Contemporary Art – Ujazdowski Castle and The Whitechapel in 2004–05.
The Enthusiasts Archive began with a chance encounter in 2001 with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s first popular feature film Amator (Film Buff) from 1979; the main character is a leading member of a factory based film club. Intrigued, Marysia Lewandowska and I began a research project in the summer of 2002 into the existence and remnants of amateur film clubs in socialist Poland.
There has been a spectacular transfiguration of Polish political and cultural life since the introduction of the market economy in 1989. It is as if Poland has played out in a lapsed-time film style, the economic and cultural changes of ‘western’ Europe.
Fifty years of social evolution –from a manufacturing to a service economy - has been compressed into just over ten years. Poland is a crystallization of the forces at play in the rest of Europe; it projects a service driven, consumer led future, while content to forget its industrial past, and hide its manufacturing present.
And yet, all the former state owned industries - for example those generating power, refining steel or producing chemicals - played a central role in contemporary economic and cultural life.
Clearly industry manufactures the goods and energy necessary to generate our material lives, yet also structure our experiences into ‘productive’ labour, and un-productive ‘leisure’ time. Although in Poland even before the economic changes, ‘leisure’ was itself organized through factory-sponsored clubs, various associations, sports facilities and even state holiday schemes.
Out of this regulated network, perhaps the most popular clubs were those that encouraged the production of amateur film. With 16mm film stock, cameras and editing tables supplied by the factory/state, a large number of clubs were created throughout Poland from 1950’s onwards.
By the late 1960’s there were almost 300 clubs in existence, out of this growing network film competitions evolved, prizes awarded, and festivals were organized on a local, regional, national and international level.
The passions of the amateur, enthusiast or hobbyist often reveal a range of interests and experiences generally invisible amongst the breathless flow of the State sponsored, or professionally mediated. The enthusiast is often working outside ‘official’ culture and its encouragements, frequently adopting a counter-cultural tone of tactical resistance and criticism.
It was clear to us that the film club enthusiasts often invert the logic of work and leisure, becoming truly productive when pursuing their passions, and using work for their own rather than the factory or states intentions. Generated by enthusiasm, the films simultaneously record, and offer resistance to the deep structures of contemporary material life.
These extraordinary films range from 2-minute animations, to short ‘experimental’ and ‘abstract’ films, from documentaries on family, village, city or factory life; to historical dramas and ambitious features. There is an astonishing range of material, beautifully crafted -because film stock was precious- and largely forgotten.
As a result of our research into the films, their makers and clubs, a huge selection of forgotten 16 and 8 mm material was found, usually in people’s houses, and sometimes literally under their beds.
Joined by curator Lukasz Ronduda at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw we embarked on cleaning, restoring and digitizing as much material as we could find money to support. And we worked on ways of exhibiting and sharing the results.
One of those ways was in founding the Enthusiasts Archive,
and there are two extensive publications.
Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
Emilii Plater 51