Zbigniew Libera

Zbigniew Libera’s early work simultaneously investigated the distinction of existence and the distinction of art. Both of these were defined by cultural, religious, and aesthetical determinisms or the lack thereof. The artist’s radical “heresy” of the 1980s was quite a unique marriage of the spiritual and the critical. It oscillated between Kultura Zrzuty [Chip-In Culture], “embarrassing art,” gnosis and punk. Kultura Zrzuty was a Łódź-based artistic and anarchistic formation active mostly between 1981–1987; it was tied to the group Łódź Kaliska and maintained a close relationship with the Workshop of the Film Form. Chip-In Culture utilized the famous gallery-venue Strych in Łódź, where Libera began his artistic career with his first solo show in 1982. That same year, he was imprisoned for his involvement in Solidarity and the illegal printing of flyers during martial law. Following a year of imprisonment, he went to Zakopane to convalesce from an illness, and there he discovered the existence of the video recorder and the VHS format. Around that time, he also “inherited” American NTSC equipment due to the death of a relative in USA: he asked his family to buy him equipment rather than send money, and thus became one of the first Polish artists to use a video camera. Libera began experimenting with this new tool, testing the medium’s formal possibilities with reference to the Workshop of the Film Form (since he was familiar with work of Paweł Kwiek and Józef Robakowski). He combined this initial experimentation with his investigations on human beings’ existence, failure, annihilation of the subject, “Sein-zum-Tode” [“being-to-death”], and his own transitional experiences. Libera’s first videos ended up being his most famous: Intimate Rites (1984) and Mystical perseveration (1984) with his grandmother Regina, as well as How to train little girls (1987), which resulted from one of his family’s meetings. The “cemetery series” of short films (Me Aluś…, Spark II and Kakos Daimon / Bad God), shot in cemeteries in his hometown of Pabianice between 1988 and 1990, was the direct continuation of his existential and eschatological-gnostic interests; the filming work for these included shoots at a Catholic cemetery where members of his own family were buried. In the 1980s, Libera collaborated closely with Jerzy Truszkowski (including on their newly founded punk band “Sternenhoch”) and began a life-long artistic collaboration and friendship with Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek, at whose house in Dąbrowa he lived from 1988 to 1990. At that time, Libera acted as a model for Kulik’s famous photographic collages, which possibly framed his search for subjectivity during the 1980s-decade that concluded with his year-long trip to Africa.


1959, Pabianice / PL



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