In-between spaces, contemplative reflection and stillness. Surrealist fantasies saturated with disorder and unreality. Tomorrow Was a Montage is a curation of works by Polish and Hungarian artists spanning across multiple generations – the result feels like a flashback from a half-remembered, vaguely unsettling dream. Timelessness implicit in the title, the worlds of animation, film posters and poetry merge like a montage themselves.
On entering the exhibition, you are confronted by several pod-like structures, each playing different short films ( Spoken Movie, no. 1 – 6, by Wojciech Bąkowski). The pods create a space of intense intimacy, each housing a single viewer, forcing you to become a part of the work. At first, these films appear harsh, even devoid of feeling. Abstract, geometrical drawings flicker to a backdrop of ambient noise that, on the surface, belies a raw humanity which is further amplified by Bąkowski’s narration. His thoughts are reflective, emotive, often unfathomable, yet still manage to weave a world of idiosyncratic abstractions without alienating the viewer.
Bąkowski’s other featured works are his animations: Making New Worlds Instead of Forgetting about It, and Construction of the Day. The former is dominated by a feeling of impending doom and entrapment, to the point of suffocation. Its aesthetic is reminiscent of an old-school Playstation game – with a deadly, hyper-realistic twist. “Hugs for the grandchildren. Run from here!” he demands. Innocence juxtaposed with fear recurs and horror video game sound effects screech throughout.
Construction of… is a narrative of the everyday, the poetry within the mundane. This monochromatic movie is constructed from geometric shapes, the black and white surface simplicity coming alive, again, through narration. One section focuses on a stream of consciousness on a bus journey: “I use personal experience only when everyone can identify with it. I’m not interested in individual problems.” By using commonalities of everyday life as a medium for introspection and philosophical thought, he breaks down broad topics of existence into poetry.
Contrasting with the minimalism of Bąkowski’s works, Tango by Zbigniew Rybczyński, plays upstairs. The film is set in a tiny room and, as time progresses, more and more characters enter on loop until the room is ridiculously saturated with action. In the gallery space, this is presented on a large projection screen, with three smaller televisions on loop. It’s a nod to the repetition of Tango, and the same repetition within omnipresent mainstream TV.
On the back wall, Labyrinth by Jan Lenica plays, creating a space reminiscent of an old cinematheque. Lenica depicts a world within a world, a vivid unreality. Though light-hearted in execution, with human heads superimposed onto animal torsos, he does not shy away from depicting hard-hitting themes like capitalist oppression. In a city dominated by a destructive ‘killing machine’, the spirit of creativity and freedom blossoms and the heroes of the tale resist.
The cinematheque experience is perpetuated by the film posters of graphic designer Roman Cieślewicz, which line the walls. In turns evocative and unsettling, his striking simplicity is calculated to create maximum visual impact. Utilising mixed media in both concept and execution, he creates dreamlike images responsible for shaping ideals of montage within art. Each poster serves as both an advertising medium and work of art in itself, demonstrating the power of a design mindset with artistic ideals.
Tomorrow Was A Montage traces a perfect line between the abstract and the intimate. Each artist employs vulnerability, whether through pioneering change within their art forms, or interweaving their own narratives into their work. This is what makes Tomorrow Was… so compelling; underpinning all of these works is real, raw humanity. By constructing an alternate world, Tomorrow Was… offers us insight into our own, challenging us to contemplate our roles within it.