The eponymous “Champion” is a reference to a character created by Zbigniew Warpechowski in a series of performances towards the end of the 1970s. Dressed in a sports outfit and carrying a folded cross made of metal pipes in a special bag (akin to tennis racket bag), the artist performed actions that referred to the stations of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus. Warpechowski “hang himself” on the cross, drank Coca-Cola, scattered Marlboro cigarettes around in order to draw attention to the superficial character of religious faith in the Polish society and the emergence of consumerist attitudes as new forms of idolatry.
Małgorzata Potocka chose to show the figure of Champion “off the record”– to look behind the scenes of Warpechowski’s artistic activity. The formal origins of Champion off, which partly resembles a modern-day “making of,” can be traced back to the method of direct observation of the protagonist, characteristic of “cinéma-vérité”. Potocka perversely juxtaposed the documentary poetics, not far-removed from a reportage, with “found footage” – images that enter into dialogue with Warpechowski’s performances.
Potocka openly admits that she is fascinated by the artist. She reveals that she participated in many of his performances as a viewer and emphasises that their contacts were built on many hours of conversations about Warpechowski’s art. A testimony to that fascination is the second, interview-like, part of the film, in which the artist talks about his work and attempts to formulate his own vision of performative activities and their motivations.
Champion off forms part of a series of films by Małgorzata Potocka devoted to esteemed artists who are, however, lesser known to the broad audience, which comprises the film about Krzysztof Zarębski Contact Zones (1982) and Bogusław Schaeffer – Beyond the Scheme (1984).
© The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School in Łódź