Broadway 1602 presents:





I set up a ‘research station’ near the city of Radom, in the village of Oro?sko, 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 Jarzebina (‘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. The Mourners were issued 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.

I hoped to pinpoint and identify the typical ways of thinking and feeling; to determine the given norms, customs and common rules of the community. It seemed to me that I was in a privileged position; I was communicating in the same language as the women, being of the same gender and nationality. My method provided for the elimination of all stereotypes about rural women, for working without any predefined assumptions. I did not want to interfere, help, or consult the Mourners in any way, but only to respect their rules and customs and to remain an impassive observer behind the camera. Like Bronis?aw Malinowski a hundred years earlier – and with regard to his attitude of being an ‘active hunter’ – I set out to work spending four days with the women and my small film crew.

At first the Mourners fell into role and the theatricality of their initial gatherings was quite unbearable. They wanted to show their best side, – pretending not to know each other and appearing composed and elegant. This confirmed what I feared most: The camera’s presence completely determined their behavior. They moved helplessly around the empty space, unable to find their place, not knowing what their role was and what exactly they were supposed to do.

On the following day a mattress bed appeared at the greenhouse and it phenomenally united the ladies. They drifted in the empty space as if on a raft. the camera ceased to be the dominant element and our nocturnal conversations produced a surprising result. I saw an emotional sinusoid in the Mourners’ behavior. They could easily shift from joy to profound sorrow. They appeared as a close-knit team with a certain group hierarchy (not entirely clear to me), and they possess extensive folk wisdom. They believe in God as firmly as in Satan.

The most interesting motifs of their conversation were digressions about death and the evil. Death, according to the Mourners sometimes has feelings and is capable of taking pity on the individual. Evil is an embodiment of the devil and a very traditional one at that, complete with ‘horns, tail, hooves and a red rump’. You could always make some sort of a deal with the devil, win or lose. Sometimes the devil would assume as a human or animal form, such as that of a dog. It is Satan who persuades people to sin and is responsible for all their misfortunes. Unlike death, the devil has his humorous aspects. Death was something the Mourners never joked about.

A year later – inspired by a so-defined motif of death and evil – I decided to create a new work called Hecatomb. This work can function as a standalone piece or correlate with the semi-documentary that is Mourners. It was shot on 16mm film. The common thread between Hecatomb and the Mourners is the space of the greenhouse and the motif of the mattress in its center.

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. It is hard to say what are the main character’s intentions and what the foam in the film really is. In Hecatomb I wanted to highlight what could not be seen in Mourners, that which only made itself felt sometimes through a word, the atmosphere, the primal fear. The foam is a personal thing; 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.

In imagining evil, kitsch proved indispensable. I felt an intuitive need to zigzag the convention and create a not-entirely-serious situation, which may be implied by the protagonist’s costume. Tailor-made, it suggests the image of the knight errant by means of the pseudo-armor and the pants date from the 1990s when kitschy palm trees ruled the catwalk worldwide. Perhaps it is impossible to imagine evil while remaining utterly serious, which is why those cheesy horns and tail have survived to this day in the collective imagination.

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.

In my experiments I consciously confronted two forms by approaching the situation twice in a similar way – in neither case were there any retakes, arranged scenes or any form of mise-en-scène except small additions in the form of introductory passages. The crucial event was one-time and unique filmed in one take, although using multiple points of view (two mobile cameras in Mourners, five in Hecatomb).

In Mourners it was important for me to eliminate anything folk or ludic from the visual, because I wanted to see what would be left once I got rid of the ornamental. It turned out that the thing the mourners were most concerned with was the Devil and death. Inspired by an image of evil so stripped of anything folksy, I set out to make Hecatomb, which was to be a further distillation.

The actor took whipping lessons with an expert prior to the filming and on the filming day received a tight rigid costume that he additionally had to struggle with. He had no script and did not know what would happen except that he was to react to what was happening. He did not know when and how ferociously the foam would assault him. This made it possible to capture both the moment of expectation and that of surprise within the scale of the ‘disaster’.

Making Hecatomb I was already thinking about how it would be to make a film inspired by a film inspired by a film – whether there existed an even denser essence, the message of which would be universal and clear. Perhaps such a deprivation is a path towards abstraction. But it is also possible that another derivative will bring a powerful need for concreteness by making a circle starting with documentalism and ending – after passing through various stages – in the need for plot simplicity.

I am interested in combining things realistic with abstract. I think such a gesture can only be afforded by art, as otherwise the combination irritates, especially when we look routinely from the viewpoint of moviemaking conventions.

Anna Molska


BABETTE MANGOLTE is participating in the group show

Accomplices. The photographer and the artist around 1970.
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

Exhibition: November 18th, 2011 – January 17th, 2012

More information here

BABETTE MANGOLTE will be giving a lecture at Museum of Modern Art in Warsawin conjuction with the exhbition

“Collaboration or Improvisation: a Fine LIne?”
Friday, November 18th, 2011 6 PM

More information here


BABETTE MANGOLTE will also be part of the exhibition

Danser Sa Vie / Dancing Through Life
Centre Pompidou, Gallery I, Musée National d’Art Moderne,
Centre de Création Industriel

Exhibition: November 23rd, 2011 – April 2, 2012

More information here


Alina Szapocznikow, Sculpture Undone
WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels

Exhibition: September 10th, 2011 – January 8th, 2012

More information here


Solo Show

TEMPO RUBATO, Tel Aviv, Israel

Exhibition: December 13th, 2011 – January 14th, 2012

More information here


Solo Show

Szklarnie / Glasshouses
Foksal Gallery, Warsaw, Poland

Opening: September 12th, 2011



Double LIfe
Museum of Modern Art, New York Collection

More information here






Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.