In the years 1971 – 1987, Przemysław Kwiek and Zofia Kulik worked together as an influential artistic duet known as “KwieKulik”. Partners not only at work but also privately, they were famous as avid critics of the reality in the Polish People’s Republic and one of the most important avant-gardists in the country. After 1987 they split up leaving vast archives – a true treasury of information on their joint activity.

Anna Zakrzewska and Joanna Turowicz, the authors of KwieKulik, follow the two artists as they prepare a retrospective exhibition of their works. Nonetheless, it is not yet another film about art in which, one after another, “talking heads” (critics, historians, theoreticians) analyse and interpret the works of the duet. Zakrzewska and Turowicz decided to adopt a personal perspective. They talk about clashes between the protagonists which arise when they select works for the exhibition, and about their attitude towards the reality of today and towards everything the artist left behind. 

The past resurfaces constantly. What passed is elevated, sometimes works as a memory of better times contrasted with the present. At one point Kulik tells her ex-partner to ‘forget that he has achieved anything and to oppose that reality bare’. Przemysław Kwiek answers proudly, ‘I won’t’, but it is hard not to get the impression that this act of rebellion is streaked with hopelessness. Also the form of the film itself expresses the overlapping of the past and the present, a constant tensions between the two. Fragments of artists’ activity recorded by a camera were weaved into KwieKulik: sometimes because the protagonists remembered them, sometimes without any motives from the represented world. Lacking titles and descriptions, the archival fragments built into the structure of the film confront that what used to be  with the present moment, two different eras constantly interpenetrate. 

In KwieKulik, it is not always possible to separate the sphere of art from the banal space of routine. In a very representative scene, the artists, arguing about the understanding of the baroque, suddenly changed the subject to the gas bill (even though they are not together any more, they live next to each other and share the bills). The sacred, the feeling of loftiness and esthetical elation have to give place to obligations the everyday reality imposes on us. 

The approach taken by the authors allows to create new contexts around the works of the duet, but also makes us pose more general questions among them the ones about the validity of certain attitudes and the need to recreate ones approach towards the reality. From the extensive footage (both new and archival shots), Zakrzewska and Turowicz managed to edit an interesting story about the relationships with the past and the attempts to tame the present.

By Bolesław Racięski

(Translation by Olga Brawańska)