Architecture on Film: Rybczynski – Exploring Space + Introduction by Theo Lorenz

Thurs 23 January 2014, 7pm

  • Still from Tango (1980) by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Courtesy of Zbig Vision Ltd
  • Still from Swieto -Holiday- (1975) by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Courtesy of Zbig Vision Ltd
  • Still from John Lennon's Imagine (1986) music video by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Courtesy of Zbig Vision Ltd
  • Still from Steps (1987) by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Courtesy of Zbig Vision Ltd
  • Still from The Fourth Dimension (1988) by Zbigniew Rybczynski. Courtesy of Zbig Vision Ltd

Zbigniew Rybczynski is a pioneer of High Definition television technology, the moving image constantly tests, innovates and stretches the boundaries of his craft. The Polish film director, cameraman and multimedia artist, is known as a specialist in translating original artistic visions into the language of modern film forms and his famous experimental animations are a great example of auteur cinema. His works are praised for their ambiguity, visual innovation, deep insights into modernity, sophisticated humor and subtle irony.

After graduating from the Cinematography Department at The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School in Lódz, Rybczynski became involved with the Small Films Forms Studio ‘Se-Ma-For’ in Lódz, where he worked for almost ten years. During this time, he produced his debut, an animated music video called Plamuz (1973) as well as Tango, his most famous film, for which he received an Oscar Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1983. His subsequent films were made in the United States in Rybczynski’s own Zbig Vision studio. Rybczynski is also famous for filming music videos for musical luminaries such as John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Simple Minds and Yoko Ono. 

From his acclaimed short films made in his native Poland to his latest work with HDTV, Rybczynski has pushed film and video to new boundaries. He never uses state-of-the-art technology for its own sake, but rather to create visual symbols that provide epiphanies about contemporary reality. The technology is simply a tool for his extraordinary imagination. The screening will survey Rybczynski’s explorations of virtual space, where animation is used to transgress the logical boundaries of physical space.

A tribute to Zbigniew Rybczynski's work through the screening of a selection of his films from an architectural lens, accompanied by an introductory lecture by Theo Lorenz, architect, director at Interprofessional Studio (AAIS) of the Architectural Association School, and an expert in the relation of digital and physical space and the associations between subjects and objects.

Supported by Polish Cultural Institute
In partnership with Zbig Vision Ltd


(Total programme running time: 99 minutes + introduction by Theo Lorenz)

Kwadrat (The Square) 
(Poland 1972. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 3 mins and 30 secs)

Swieto (Holiday) 
(Poland 1975. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski.  9 mins and 38 secs)

Nowa ksiazka
(New Book) 
(Poland 1975. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 10 mins and 26 secs)

Oj! Nie moge sie zatrzymac!
(Oh, I Can't Stop!) 
(Poland 1976. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 10 mins and 7 secs)

(Poland 1980. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 8 mins and 10 secs)

(USA 1986. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 4 mins and 20 secs)

(USA | UK 1987. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 26 mins)

The Fourth Dimension 
(USA | Italy | France 1988. Dir Zbigniew Rybczynski. 27 mins)

UK 1968, Dir. Unknown, 50 min total running time

Programme Notes by Theo Lorenz
Architect, Director at Interprofessional Studio (AAIS) of the Architectural Association School

Transforming Space and Time

A spatial environment, be it a virtual space, a build architecture, an installation or the urban realm, is most exciting to us when we are able to explore it, discover again and again new details and if we can return to spectate its transforming atmospheres at different times. Zbigniew Rybczynski creates in his work such spatial environments. He is not telling us linear stories, as video and film often does, he asks his viewer to explore a multi dimensional space in any direction, backward and forward in time. 

When watching Rybczynski’s works we explore the space from his personal point of view (as it happens in Holiday or Oh, I Can't Stop) but at the same time he invites us to take these explorations further, to create new active combinations and transformations. Throughout his work, Rybczynski requires the audience not merely to be passive viewers of a short film, but he rather asks us to be present and experience it. As these active participants we can begin to orient ourselves within the digital space. One is no longer watching as an external "viewer" but is exploring and "looking around" the space within the projected field. We find ourselves always in more than one space at a time or indeed in more times in one space. 

Tango, the Oscar winning short from 1980, shows in a mesmerizing way the interaction of time, space and activity as well as the relation between personal and public space. The film is constructed from the outset as a spatial configuration over time. Zbignew Rybczynski carefully drew the movement of each character on the plan of a small, sparsely furnished room, creating in this way a precise choreography of short loops of activities that in their overlap never show the same scene as a whole. In this way one can discover new interactions and combinations within the space tempting us to spectate this sceneries and the short film more than once.

The earlier New Book creates this choreography of characters within an urban environment. Other then in the frantic journey of an individual camera view through a Polish town as in Oh, I Can't Stop Rybczynski here divides the screen into nine windows of interior and exterior urban scenes. The protagonists, such as a man with the book, a playing child an old lady or a public bus move in multiple directions through the screens generating a dense network of characters, objects and storylines that add up to a unique experience for each individual viewer, depending on where and in what order one looks at the split screens.

In Imagine, the first videos he made in the United States in High Definition TV in 1986, Rybczynski takes a slightly more linear approach. Instead of offering multiple views or multiple activities at one time, he shifts the spaces for us and transforms in this way the characters through an infinite sequence of an identical room in front of the New York skyline. The possibility of focusing on various elements of the screen as well as the transformation of the overall as a result of the relation of the individual components might as well explain the virtual and digital approach of Rybczynski, starting from an individual pixel and going to high definition television.

In The square a digital square transforms over time into moving figurative character and further into colourful pixel fields und thus predates already in 1972 at the time of his studies today’s way of how we see digital images: a multitude of flickering square pixels. On the other end of the digital spectrum Rybczynski transforms no longer the pixels and elements of the images but as in one of his later short films The Fourth Dimension the images themselves. Here characters and spaces morph them in a continuously movement of spiraling and folding into one another.

In light the relation of space, time and their virtual transformation throughout his films, Zbigniew Rybczynski current project, the Center for Audiovisual Technologies (CeTa) in Poland seems to be the ideal consequence of his work. Here, in and actual, precisely build theatrical environment, equipped with state of the art technology, one can explore spatial possibilities of the filmic and virtual world in detail.