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Gdańsk: “Demon’s Brain” – installation
February 21, 2020 - April 18, 2020
The Gdansk City Gallery is pleased to present the large-scale video and sound installation Demon’s Brain by Agnieszka Polska. It is the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition in Poland. The work was created in the context of the “Prize of the National Gallery”, the most renowned art award in Germany, which the artist received in 2017, and was shown for the first time at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin in 2018/2019.
In four synchronized films, Demon’s Brain tells the story of a medieval messenger who is supposed to deliver letters to a certain Mikołaj Serafin, administrator of Polish salt mines, in partly real and partly animated pictures. The letters in Latin are real, date from the 15th century and provide information about early capitalist structures of lucrative salt mining within the framework of the then feudal Polish Kingdom. The messenger, a young man on his white horse, and the story constructed around him are fictional. The messenger does not reach his destination, his horse disappears on the way and he is left behind in an apocalyptic landscape.
But only superficially, the historical salt mining in Poland is at stake: an actually cute looking demon appears, consisting only of giant eyes and mouth, who tells the young messenger about the future decline of the salt industry and today’s conditions, turbo-capitalism, environmental destruction and exploitation that the industrial age has brought with it. He implores the messenger that he could still change everything, if only he would not deliver the letters: “You are the one, who can change the future. It’s not too late!“.
In Demon’s Brain, Agnieszka Polska thus poses the urgent and at the same time oppressive question of the responsibility of the individual towards society, but also of the fundamental scope of action that the individual has – still a very topical issue.
Whether in the end the messenger decides to burn the letters remains open. The dimensions and processes seem too large and complex to a single individual.
Agnieszka Polska captures the feelings of her generation and reproduces them with visual inventiveness in a poetic visual language that alternates between humour and threat. She regularly makes use of cartoonish cuteness scheme, Disney dramaturgy and techniques of ASMR and hypnosis to attract and captivate the viewer.
Agnieszka Polska was born in Lublin in 1985 and lives in Berlin. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, studying in Agata Pankiewicz’s photography studio (2005 – 2010) and from the University of Arts Berlin in the class of Hito Steyerl (2008 – 2009). She has presented her work at various international exhibition venues, including the New Museum and MoMA in New York, the Centre Pompidou and Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, and the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. She also took part in the 57th Venice Biennale, the 11th Gwangju Biennale, the 19th Sydney Biennale and the 13th Istanbul Biennale.