In performance, film, and photography, Warsaw based artist, filmmaker Anna Molska examines cultural production and representation within political structures. In her most recent video installation Glasshouses Molska combines two of her recent films; the semi-documentary Mourners and Hecatomb that was originally shot on 16mm film.
“I set up a ‘research station’ near the city of Radom, in the village of Orońsko, famous for its sculpture center – a Mecca for sculptors in Poland. There I met a small community – seven women friends from a folk singing ensemble called Jarzębina (‘rowan’). My intention was to change their natural environment, to clear it of aspects and people they were familiar with: family, friends, duties, everyday chores and folk costumes were removed. They were provided with a set of rather neutral ‘working clothes’ – grey-brown winter coats –, and the cozy spaces of their homes were replaced by a greenhouse, which currently serves as a gallery. The ‘Mourner’ is an ancient profession. When summoned they wail professionally in the funeral room or by the deceased person’s coffin. Today’s professional mourners offer a wide range of services and skills. They sing during religious and secular ceremonies and at weddings or dancing parties. Some of the traditional songs have never been written down and have been orally passed on from generation to generation.
A year later – inspired by a so-defined motif of death and evil – I decided to create a new work called Hecatomb. In Ancient Greece, a hecatomb (Greek hecaton = 100) was a sacrifice of one hundred cattle. The term has also come to denote a sacrifice in general and is connected with a sense of loss. The film’s structure is based on cyclicality, the film starting and ending with an almost identical scene of entering the same space anew. It is an attempt to show what I fear the most, as well as – in a general sense – my vision of the fears of the Mourners. I decided to show ‘my evil’ not by using the phantasm of the devil or an image of death as a Grim Reaper, but by creating the atmosphere of, or describing in filmic terms the notion of ‘acedia’.
Acedia is defined as ‘an illness of the soul’ and its symptoms may include restlessness, lack of concentration and apathy. In Christian tradition, where it is also known, it has theological rather than philosophical meaning. If it is true that ‘everyone has their hell,’ mine is exactly acedia in the sense of spiritual emptiness. I wanted to move the viewer to create a situation that would suggest suspension, sensual anxiety and misapprehension. The foam is a personal reference; fever during childhood illnesses created in my mind images of masses of milk pouring from above. Foam creates associations of rage, fury, blunt unstoppable effort.
Hecatomb is half the length of Mourners. In this way I also show how variable image juxtapositions can be and what results from such connections. The scene in Hecatomb (the moment when the man looks straight into the camera and then around) is laughed off by the women in the first scene of Mourners but integrates perfectly in the second, because the women do exactly the same thing as the Hecatomb character. This is not purely formal – both works are about cyclicality, rhythm, repeated action, daily rituals or the seasons.”