Franciszka et Stefan Themerson
Europa01 Dec 2021
The event is over
"Franciszka and Stefan Themerson made Europa between 1931 and 1932 in Warsaw. They invented neither the title nor the subject, but used the eponymous poem written in 1925 by Polish writer and poet Anatol Stern, basing their work on the text as though it were a film script. In the poem, we witness the destruction of Europe which, driven by the invasion of mechanical stimuli, devours itself to death. The Themersons present the tragedy and anger of Stern's poem in the form of fragmented images, wild caricatures and ceaselessly repeating discordant rhythms. There is a glimmer of hope when a single shoot grows between two paving stones and gradually cracks them as it grows into a tree.
This second film by the Themersons has not been shown in public since its screening in Poland in 1933. A critic writing at the time called it a cinematic poem, and it was considered the greatest avant-garde film made in Poland.
The Themersons made four films in Warsaw before moving to Paris in 1938. Fate and the Second World War brought them to London in the early 1940s, where they made two more films with the Polish Film Unit (both in the collection of the Musée National d’Art Moderne) and continued to use the “photograms in motion” technique developed by Stefan in Warsaw. All of the Themersons' films were deposited at the Vitfer film laboratories in Paris in 1940, where they were confiscated by the Nazis. Europa only reappeared in 2019 when the Pilecki Institute discovered it in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin.
But who were the Themersons, Franciszka (1907 - 1988) and Stefan (1910 - 1988)? Franciszka was mainly a painter but she also made drawings, lots of drawings; she also worked for the theatre and illustrated books. Stefan was a writer and poet; he wrote a play and an opera, including music. When the Themersons could no longer make films, they became publishers and founded a publishing house, Gaberbocchus Press, which they ran until 1979. They published numerous books including the first English translations of works by Jarry, Queneau, Pol-Dives and Kurt Schwitters, as well as books by young English writers and their own works. The Themersons always remained connected with France and were celebrated by the Collège de 'Pataphysique and adopted by the Oulipians.
The screening of the Themersons’ Europa will be preceded by two reconstructions of the film that were made when it was assumed that the original would never be found: the first made by Stefan with the London Film-Makers' Co-op in 1983, and the second by Piotr Zarębski in tribute to the Themersons in 1988 in Warsaw.
The screening will be introduced by art theorist and curator Jasia Reichardt, custodian of the Themersons' memory and work, and will be followed by a discussion attended by experts on the historical avant-garde. A facsimile of Anatol Stern's poem Europa, designed and illustrated by constructivist artists Mieczyslaw Szczuka and Teresa Zarnower, will also be on display to the public. In parallel with the screening, the Kandinsky Library (Museum, level 3) will be presenting the recently acquired Gaberbocchus Press collection, available for viewing throughout December 2021.
Acknowledgments: Jaisa Reichardt, Themerson Estate, Piotr Zarębski, Klaudia Podsiadlo (Common Room), Lux London
Stefan Themerson, Europa Reconstruction, 1983-1984, vidéo, noir et blanc, sonore, 9 minutes
Piotr Zarębski, Europe II, 1988, fFilm 35mm (numérisé), noir et blanc, sonore, 14 minutes et 19 secondes
Franciszka et Stefan Themerson, Europa, 1931-1932, film 35mm (numérisé), noir et blanc, muet, 12 minutes (avec un accompagnement musical de Lodewijk Muns)
19h - 21h
Franciszka et Stefan Themerson, Europa (détail) 1931-1932 .
© Themerson Estate. Courtesy the Artists' Estate and LUX, London.