From My Window 1978-1999
by Józef Robakowski
2000, 16 mm transferred to video, 19’09”, black / white, sound, 4:3 | From the collection of the n.b.k. Video-Forum
From My Window 1978–1999 is the most popular work by Polish artist Józef Robakowski. It is a long-term documentary project filmed from within the artist’s apartment. Starting in 1978, Robakowski shot small episodes of everyday activity that occurred within the 20-story high rise complex where his apartment was located – a building ironically called the “Manhattan of Łódź.” With this visual diary, the artist surveils Poland’s transition from post-war socialism to the time of Solidarność in the late 1980s, the Third Polish Republic, and Poland’s entry into a market economy. In a 20-minute long montage, the commentary of the first-person narrator guides the viewer through small episodes of everyday activities by way of observing and imputing, connecting, and arranging. In this way, the images of a few moving cars become the story of his wife’s penalty for a parking violation. A scene with two young girls walking between buses turns into a commentary on the booming tourism industry. The narrator attentively notices slight changes to public space, of social and political events, or to the appearances of people frequenting the square beneath the window. After the city granted building permission for a five-star-hotel in front of Robakowski’s window in 1998, the artist concluded the series after 22 years in 1999.
Józef Robakowski is among Poland’s first generation of video artists. Born in Poznań, he lives and works in Łódź. He studied art history at the Departement of Fine Arts of Mikolaj Kopernik University, Toruń, and cinematography at the National Higher School of Film, Television, and Theater in Łódź. After having worked with still images, he started experimenting with video as early as 1974. He founded the collectives Zero 61 and Warsztat Formy Filmowej and has run the Exchange Gallery in his own apartment in Łódź since 1978. Within his work, he combines performative and conceptual tendencies as well as references to Polish Constructivism of the 1920s and ’30s. In opposition to a literary construction of narrative reality, Robakowski is interested in a specific phenomenology of film where works such as Test I/II, 1,2,3,4… or Attention: Light! focus on the projecting beam of light.