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March 20, 2014 - June 21, 2014
Franciszka and Stefan Themerson were central figures in Warsaw’s avant-garde film world in the 1930s. Their pioneering work in experimental cinema, photography, literature, theater and opera had a significant effect on the development of European visual culture. Of the five films they made in pre-WWII Poland – Pharmacy (1930), Europa (1931-1932), Moment Musical (1933), Short Circuit (1935) and The Adventure of a Good Citizen (1937) – only the latter remains. The others were lost or destroyed in France and Poland during the war. In 1938, the Themersons moved to Paris and later to London, where they experimented in visualizing sound and made two films that are screened in the exhibition. In 1948, they founded the avant-garde Gaberbocchus Press (named after the Jabberwocky poem in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There). They each followed remarkable and prolific careers: Franciszka was a painter, graphic artist and theatre designer and Stefan was a writer, poet, philosopher, composer and photographer.
The Adventure of a Good Citizen (the skies won’t fall if you walk backwards), Warsaw, 1937
Black and white, sound, 35 mm, 10 minutes, music by Stefan Kisielewski
An irrational humoresque following the journey of two people and a wardrobe, with an important part played by a mirror, often featured in the Themersons’ oeuvre.
Calling Mr. Smith, London, 1943
Dufaycolor, sound, 35 mm, 10 minutes
A propaganda film aimed at conveying to the average British citizen the truth about the Nazi atrocities in occupied Poland. It intertwines fragments of documentary films with photographs, posters and book pages. The score includes pieces by Chopin, Szymanowski and Bach as well as the Nazi Horst-Wessel-Lied. The film was a success, but the British audience did not believe the presented documents and facts.
The Eye & The Ear, London, 1944–1945
Black and white, sound, 35 mm, 10 minutes
An experimental film focused on rendering music into images; it analyses four songs from Julian Tuwim’s poem cycle “Słopiewnie,” composed by Szymanowski. Music, its melodic line, orchestration and the contents of the poem are all given a visual, graphic representation.
In collaboration with the Polish Institute