Rafal Zajko: Wandering Monument I - IX
// 16 December 2015 - 3 January 2016 (EXTENDED)
Rafal Zajko (Poland, 1988) presents a selection of video-works for tank.tv, gathered from his expansive projects in the past five years. Known for his architectural environments wherein the moving image functions as a structural element in an installation, the exhibition ‘Wandering Monument I - IX’ strips away the interior setting of these works to perform them in the virtual sphere, forming a new and longer kompendium of moving image.
In this new contextualization, the 9 videos form a part of an investigation into the ‘monumental’, understood both as a sculptural and political performance of power. The opening Wandering Monument I (Portikus) deals with a kind of performed memorialism seen widely across Europe in the last 100 years. As a surtitle explains in the top-left corner, the monument Portikus in the German city of Braunschweig was built intentionally as an evocation of a ruin of Ancient Greece in the late 19th century. This bizarre simulacral construction extends the authority of the monumental, not just as a signifier of history, but as a performance of political power. But with the passing of time, Portikus became the site of erosion and destruction: the grounds were heavily bombed in the second world war and left to its own devices ever since. On this site, Zajko inserts a characteristic gesture of human subjectivity with a form of ritualistic dance, to make sense of this experience or truly liberate the monument to be an ever-wandering site of meaning and memory.
In PPPostia, a monument marking the death site of the modernist filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini becomes a main conceptual reference. The poorly-executed 1975 sculpture (funded mostly by loyal fans) was subject to a wholesome revamping after Pasolini’s acceptance in the canon of modernist cinema, yet was discussed widely in the attempt to pin the exact location of the iconic murder-scene. In Zajko’s film, this strange tale is re-imagined and extended in a videographic medium, as we see an equally ‘poor’ sculpture wandering and rotating the screen so as to display itself idiosyncratically to the viewer. In Rafal Zajko’s universe, monumental sites are in fact full of personality as they continue to obtain and lose value and signification through the passing of time.
Zajko approaches digital media with a distinct anachronistic, DIY and painterly trait. He eschewes software and re-purposes photographic processes in both the pre- and post-production of his works, eagerly applying super 8 cameras, stop-motion, iPhone photography and projection all at once. These gestures seem spontaneous and auto-didactic, applied only for the function they’re meant to serve. He traces this personal language of technology to his relatively late encounter with digital technology in his native Poland, leaving with him an aesthetic much that still seem unsynced with the current, high-resolution crisp image-production of today. But instead of attempting to master these technologies like many of his contemporaries, he embraces a blurry immatureness that result in a liberating playfulness:
Like modernist sculpture was once released from its idealist plinth, Rafal Zajko’s moving image attempts to assist the ‘monumental’ to transcend its own geo-temporal specificity by imagining where it might wander. The monument is a product of changing human subjectivity, but also has a life of its own: the challenge is to capture it and somehow translate beyond its own ontology.
Zajko’s extended embrace for the musical layer to video-based work connects these various concerns in his practice, functioning as a ‘supportive system’ to the visual. He handles sound with the same playful sensitivty as he does video, Zajko takes old Clavinovas and new ‘tapping’ sound apps for Iphone to mould something fresh. Sounds play over and over taking on ritualistic methods and reinforcing the process of the work itself. In Wandering Monument I - IX we are allowed a glimpse into the practice of Zajko, who's work playfully erodes at our precocieved ideas around video production and process.