Agnieszka Polska
The Thousand-Year Plan

Agnieszka Polska

Agnieszka Polska’s latest work, "The Thousand-Year Plan", will fill the eleven-metre-high exhibition hall of the Museum on the Vistula. Shown on two screens, the film talks about the electrification of Polish countryside in the years following WWII. On the one hand, it is a history of modernization and emancipation, and on the other – a poetic expression of anxieties resulting from the protagonists’ entanglement in a moment of technological breakthrough, in which “electrical current measures the new time.”

The impressive video installation features respected theatre and film actors, including Jaśmina Polak, Bartosz Gelner, Piotr Polak and Julian Świeżewski, and the voice of Antonina Nowacka, voice and sound artist.

The exhibition consists of a video installation, on show at the Museum on the Vistula until 19 September 2021, and a number of accompanying events taking place both at the Museum and online. Visitors will be able to take part in the Electric Summer School Symposium featuring the sociologist Benjamin Bratton, philosophers Mckenzie Wark, Bogna Konior and Katarzyna Czeczot, and watch “Iskra TV” [Spark TV] — a series of short films created by experts, such as the post-war energy engineer Jacek Szyke or the researcher of electrifciation Rafał Zasuń, introducing the history of electrification and its socio-political contexts.

Set in the 1950s, Polska’s film introduces four characters from the peasantry on two opposite screens: a couple of engineers working on the electrification of rural areas and two anti-communist partisans hiding in the surrounding forests. The dialogue reveals a kaleidoscope of emotions: hope for a better tomorrow, faith in progress, but also fear and a sense of loneliness. Although they all imagine the new world differently, they are united by an awareness of living through a turning point in history. Nature, time, and technology –emphasized via digital animations in the symbolic layer of the piece — are the film’s other, equally important heroes.

Agnieszka Polska’s film is an innovative look at the first post-war years. From its inception, electricity aroused both fear and delight. “Illuminating darkness” was seen as a supernatural driving force, or – as socialist electricians would have it – “the secret stolen from lightning.” In the interwar period, just 1 village out of 100 was electrified. It wasn’t until 1950 that universal electrification became an official objective of the central government. By embedding her protagonists in post-war history, Polska poses the most relevant questions: how is access to infrastructure empowering, and in what ways does its lack exclude from modernization? Which social groups and institutions control technology and impose the agenda for collective life?

Referring to the poetics of the exhibition, the curator Natalia Sielewicz proposes the term “magical socialist realism,” because Polska treats technology and modernization as fully fledged heroines of her narratives. She does not separate them from nature, but even strengthens this non-obvious association. The artist employs evocative imagery, powerful soundtrack and poetic narrative to convey the most universal emotions: longing, fear, hope, and the feeling of loss. In this way, she portrays technology as a sensory and spiritual experience adjacent to dream worlds, imaginations, supernatural phenomena and mystical rituals, thanks to which “night turns into day.” Following the philosopher Yuk Hui, the artist suggests looking at technology, the natural environment and human thought as a global, entwined system of interrelated elements and moving away from the linear understanding of progress and divisions between what is modern and traditional, natural and artificial.

Natalia Sielewicz

Project management
Paweł Wójcik

Key visual
Karolina Pietrzyk, Agnieszka Polska

Joanna Figiel, Piotr Szostak

Marta Bartkowska, Józefina Bartyzel, Aleksandra Długołęcka, Aleksandra Urbańska, Iga Winczakiewicz

Public program coodrinator
Paweł Nowożycki

Educational program
Paweł Brylski, Dominika Jagiełło, Marta Przasnek, Marta Przybył, Jolanta Woch i zespół edukacji „Użyj Muzeum”

Exhibition guide


Managing editor
Kacha Szaniawska