Agnieszka Polska – The Demon’s Brain

Agnieszka Polska – The Demon’s Brain

The Demon’s Brain is a space-consuming video installation with picture book aesthetics. In 2017 Agnieszka Polska was awarded the National Gallery Prize. The artist was showing her resulting multi-channel video installation The Demon’s Brain at the Museum Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Can art be cute?

Four huge projection screens and a text wall, placed on a large area of the historical hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof. In the middle of the room, foam mats are stacked. Visitors can sit down or lie down there to contemplate and view the artwork. The monitor at the one end of the hall shows a rider riding a white horse. He rides through a forest landscape that looks meagre – cut down. All the projection screens share a sound play whose subliminal, threatening rhythm which unites the four films. The screens show different scenes, played in an endless loop and synchronized in such a way that they comment on each other.

What are your skills? Horse riding, sir.

In a mixture of real film and animation Polska tells the fictional story of a young dispatch rider delivering documents. His horse’s eyes are unnaturally huge. Overdrawn. The Demon’s Brain expresses shows cuteness and grotesqueness. On his way the dispatch rider’s horse trails away and the rider gets lost in the forest.

They call me a demon, because I run as a background process, not controlled by the user.

In the forest, the young man has an unexpected encounter with a demon. With his monologue Agnieszka Polska focuses on developments and states of raw material consumption, environmental destruction, data economics and artificial intelligence. The demon tells the confused boy that he is the one who can change the course of history. “You are the one” – seems to refer to the “The Matrix”, then the recurring proclamation “It is not too late” sounds through the exposition space like a proclamation.

White horse with huge eyes - The Demon's Brain - Video art
The Demon’s Brain 2018 (c) Agnieszka Polska

Another screen shows close-ups: Fire, the face of the crying rider who had lost his horse and burning papers. The demon also appears as a computer animation, black, but with cute round saucer eyes. On the opposite projection screen: a never-ending tracking-shot through an old mining tunnel. A flower designed in the Emoji style flies towards the viewer. In the fourth projection at the other end of the hall, the picture book/emoji style is taken to extremes. The depicted animals – horse, birds – appear distorted.

Misery is the condition for growth.

The starting point of the artist’s work have been letters from the 15th century addressed to Mikołaj Serafin, the administrator of the Polish salt mines. At that time salt was a precious commodity and an important source of income for the Kingdom of Poland. King Władysław III. (1424-1444) transferred the mines to Serafin, who ran them from 1434 to 1459 within a feudal social order as an independent, early capitalist enterprise. The letters written in Latin indicate that the mines experienced rapid economic growth at the expense of human and natural resources.

On the text wall, between excerpts from the historical letters to Serafin, there are commentaries on economic, ecological and technological aspects, taken from essays. It is about active action, reflection, the communication and the recognition of long-term patterns as first steps to overcome the powerlessness of the supposed ineffectiveness of personal action.

Agnieszka Polska, born 1985 in Lublin, Poland, studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and in Hito Steyerl’s class at the University of the Arts in Berlin, where she now lives and works. The solo exhibition and an accompanying publication are part of the award. Since 2000, the Prize of the Nationalgalerie has honored important young positions in contemporary art. The video installation The Demon’s Brain in the historical hall of the Hamburger Bahnhof is a stimulating spatial, acoustic and visual experience. Video art with an unusual aesthetic that can open new doors to debate.

Agnieszka Polska: The Demon’s Brain
27.09.2018 – 03.03.2019

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Invalidenstraße 50-51, 10557 Berlin

7. September 2019 Off