neil cummings

Into the Unknown

The Enthusiasts Archive is the result of extensive research amongst the remnants of amateur film clubs in Poland under socialism. It's a critical archive of beautiful amateur films found, restored and made available.

Access the Enthusiasts Archive

A selection of films form the archive are being exhibited as part of Into the Unknown at SALT BEYOĞLU, SALT GALATA in Istanbul MAY 28 – AUGUST 14, 2022

Love Cinema

Into the Unknown, organized by Salt in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, explores art’s ability to disrupt established historical and cultural narratives in a post-1989 world. While exploring the use of the documentary and the archive within art, the exhibition traces the tensions and contradictions between mechanisms of social power and everyday life, established history and personal memory, and between regimes of truth and the unconscious.

Into the Unknown offers a social insight into the former Eastern Bloc as well as modern-day Eastern Europe.

The exhibition features works by Diane Severin Nguyen, Nathalie Djurberg, Agnieszka Polska, Józef Robakowski, Duncan Campbell, Deimantas Narkevičius, Shana Moulton, Jananne Al-Ani, Oleksiy Radinsky, Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska.

The exhibition is programmed by Fatma Çolakoğlu (Salt Research and Programs Director) and Sebastian Cichocki (Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Chief Curator) in collaboration with writer and editor Eda Sezgin.

An accompanying public program is announced at

The Enthusiasts Archive is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw


Archives, like collections in museums and galleries are built with the property of multiple authors and previous owners. But unlike the collection, there is no imperative within the conventional logic of the archive, to exhibit, display or interpret its holdings. An archive designates a territory - and not a particular narrative. The material connections contained are not already authored as someone’s – for example, a curator’s or artist - it’s a discursive terrain where interpretations are invited...

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 - was 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, financial 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 the economic and cultural life of the nation. Clearly industry manufactures the goods and energy necessary to generate our material lives, and yet they also structure our experiences into ‘productive’ labour, and un-productive ‘leisure’ time. Although in Poland, ‘leisure’ was itself organized through factory-sponsored clubs, various associations, sports facilities and even state holiday schemes.

Enthusiasts camera person

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.

Eighteen months of research revealed an extraordinary range of films, 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.

As the exhibition evolved, an archive lounge - a space where we enabled visitors to watch films found, cleaned and digitised but not screened as part of the exhibition programme - continued to grow. Visitors loved the archive.

We realised an online archive would be a wonderful way to enable access the films, and here it is Enthusiasts Archive.


Related projects include Social Cinema and Open Cinema: Home and Collected


41.0238724, 28.9734736

SALT Galata
Bankalar Caddesi 11
34421 Karaköy /İstanbul

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