Agnieszka Polska - The Demon's Brain

Artdirection, Exhibition Design, Book Design. With Alexander Papoli-Bawarati. Tag: Responsibility

The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger was asked by Freunde der Nationalgalerie to design the communication and exhibition design for Agnieszka Polska's solo exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Polska is recipient of the "Preis der Nationalgalerie" in 2017. The related exhibition/installation was running from September 2018 till March 2019. The catalogue, also designed by The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger, was published with Walter König Buchhandlungen.

The design features the horse of the messenger – both part of Polska's multi-channel video installation. The white horse, meme-like with it's huge eyes, became quickly iconic. The fantasy-touch of the portrait was contrasted with the use of a mechanical monospace typeface which points to the background of the story: an earlycapitalist polnish enterprise in the 15th century (see righten column).

Agnieszka Polska, The Demon's Brain. Exhibitionview Hamburger Bahnhof. Photo: Thomas Bruns

"Can individual action in fact have any influence on the complex processes in the world around us, and how do we decide which actions to take? Who can we trust to help us make this decision?
The wall of texts suggested a way out of this impasse. Excerpts from the historical letters to Serafin were interspersed with commentaries on the economic, ecological, and technological issues addressed in the work , taken from essays commissioned for the accompanying catalogue."
> About the exhibition. Preis der Nationalgalerie 2017

Agnieszka Polska, The Demon's Brain. Exhibitionview Hamburger Bahnhof. Photo: Thomas Bruns

Agnieszka Polska, The Demon's Brain. Exhibitionview Hamburger Bahnhof. Photo: Thomas Bruns

Exhibition catalogue. Published by Walter König Buchhandlungen

Used Tags

In “The Demon’s Brain,” a multichannel video installation created especially for this exhibition, Agnieszka Polska grapples with the ethical question of how individuals can assume social responsibility amid the overwhelming demands of the present moment.

The point of departure for the work is a collection of fifteenth-century letters addressed to Mikołaj Serafin, the custodian of Poland’s salt mines. At this point in history salt was a valuable commodity and represented an important source of wealth for the Kingdom of Poland. The extraction of the mineral was facilitated by an unprecedented arrangement that saw King Władysław III (1424–44) entrust the supervision of the mines to Serafin. Between 1434 and 1459 the network of mines functioned as an independent, proto-capitalist enterprise within the feudal order. The organization relied chiefly on wage labor, was financed by venture capital, and produced predominantly for a market which it attempted to control. Moreover, the salt extraction at the sites was organized in a complex division of labor akin to modern production processes. Yet it was only with the support of a tangled web of creditors and debtors that Serafin was able to keep the precarious operation functioning. The letters, written in Latin, attest to the rapid growth of the enterprise but also to a heavy toll on human and natural resources. An ailing and discontented peasantry, unsustainable deforestation, and the constant threat of plague are just some of the problems that emerge from the correspondence.

The large-scale video and sound installation “The Demon’s Brain” centers on the figure of the messenger. By interweaving his fictional tale with contemporary narratives and discussions around resource consumption, environmental destruction, data capital, and artificial intelligence, Polska focuses our attention on the possibilities for individual action to urgent problems within the context of larger, intergenerational structures.

> Introduction (excerpt). More Information: Preis der Nationalgalerie