Agnieszka Polska: Love Bite
February 15 – August 30, 2020
Agnieszka Polska’s computer-generated media works draw on language, history, and scientific theory to illuminate issues of individual and social responsibility. Combining original poetic texts with digitally manipulated imagery, her hallucinatory videos attempt to describe the overwhelming ethical ambiguities of our time. In this exhibition, the artist presents two immersive, deeply affecting audiovisual essays that address the urgent global issue of climate change and the specter of mass extinction.
The first installation pairs two videos, The New Sun and What the Sun Has Seen (both 2017), depicting a sentient sun that is witness to environmental and ethical collapse on Earth. The sun speaks directly to the audience in half-sung monologues, moving through a range of emotional states and modes of address, from professing love and telling silly jokes, to pondering the power of language to construct a new world order. Passages of the text refer to the effect in quantum mechanics in which the observer influences the event observed through the act of interpreting it. From this point of view, the sun character is seen to be both helpless witness to and cause of the transformation it beholds.
Extending from Einstein’s notion that space-time is dynamic and relative to the perspective of the observer, the second installation, The Happiest Thought (2019), takes us back to a prehistoric environment that might pre-figure our own: Earth’s biosphere before the Permian-Triassic extinction, which occurred more than 250 million years ago and annihilated as much as 90 percent of life on the planet. The piece offers a hypnotic exploration of this lush and alluring ancient environment while contemplating humanity’s potential to overcome enormous threats like the current climate crisis.
Incorporating online-video tactics such as emotional mimicry and ASMR triggers (heightened sounds and whispers that stimulate pleasant tingling sensations), Polska crafts a mesmerizing atmosphere to compete with what she calls the “environment of seduction” surrounding consumer marketing and organized religion. Through her work, the artist aims to create “a common territory of exchange, a territory for involvement in ritual,” in which we can confront our collective calamity.
Agnieszka Polska (Polish, b. 1985, Lublin, Poland) lives and works in Kraków and Berlin. She has presented her works at international venues, among them, the New Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou and Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Tate Modern in London, Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Polska also participated in the 57th Venice Biennale, 11th Gwangju Biennale, 19th Biennale of Sydney, and 13th Istanbul Biennial. In 2018 she was awarded Germany’s Preis der Nationalgalerie.
The themes explored in this exhibition such as climate change and mass extinction are distressing and complex. However, there are many ways that individuals and groups can get involved, take action, and promote hope for a better future. Explore a list of resources here.