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Agnieszka PolskaAgnieszka Polska

The Demon's Brain, 2018The Demon's Brain, 2018

Four-channel UHD video installation, 7:24 min, loop; sound, wall texts, dimensions variable, edition of 5 + 1 AP

Agnieszka Polska, The Demon’s Brain, 2018 | Four-channel UHD video installation, 7:24 min, loop; sound, wall texts, dimensions variable, edition of 5 + 1 AP | Patron edition acquired in 2018 by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie

In The Demon’s Brain, a multichannel video installation, 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. In her videos, Polska melds live action with animation to tell the fictional story of a young messenger tasked with delivering these letters on horseback. Along the way, the boy loses his horse and he gets lost in the forest. There he has an unexpected encounter with a demon, whose monologue fuses Christian theological ideas with today’s developments concerning resource consumption, environmental destruction, data capital, and artificial intelligence.

The installation, conceived for Historical Hall of Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, consists of four large-format projection screens and a wall of texts. The films show various scenes, which run in an endless loop but are synchronized so that they comment on each other. A low-pitched, subliminal rhythm additionally unites the scenes, helping to bridge gaps in time. After the demon has explained to the messenger how he himself can change the course of history, his recurring proclamation “It is not too late” reverberates through the hall, becoming an urgent appeal to the viewer.

In The Demon’s Brain Agnieszka Polska explores the possibilities for individuals to take personal action and assume responsibility for the problems facing the world. Although the messenger seems to heed the demon’s entreaty, we are forced to realize from today’s perspec-tive that he was evidently unable to change things. 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?

In 2017, Agnieszka Polska (b. 1985 in Lublin, Poland, lives in Berlin) was the recipient of the ninth biennial Preis der Nationalgalerie.