To describe these artists who, since the 1960s, have been energetically working on using advanced technologies to reunite the technical, science and art, Gene Youngblood, the author of Expanded Cinema (1970), coined the expression ‘new renaissance artists.’ I would describe Zbig Rybczynski as a TNRA, a ‘true new renaissance artist,’ as he represents, lives and celebrates this combination with a radicallity and consistency beyond any other inventor or designer in the field of illusions with moving images, thereby also paradoxically holding to a concept of the beautiful that is intertwined with the European Renaissance ideal - closer to the homogenous image worlds of Botticelli or Michelangelo than to those of contemporary visual art.
- SIEGFRIED ZIELINSKI, media archaeologist, professor of media theory at the Universitaet der Kuenste Berlin, Michel Foucault professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, director at Vilem Flusser Archive. (Excerpt from "State of Images – The Media Pioneers Zbigniew Rybczynski and Gabor Body", a publication of the Akademie der Kuenste, Berlin/Zentrum fuer Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe and the Polnisches Institut Berlin) Verlag fuer MODERNE KUNST, 2011
Nothing is more desirable than a ZR retrospective, in fact a retrospective of all his works, from his Polish films to his American music videos and high-definition television films,
and including his computer-generated works. Those who have not seen all of ZR’S films and videos will not comprehend what the art of moving images is able to accomplish today, nor
how profoundly this art has changed the way we experience space and time. To put this more succinctly, they won’t have a clue. To help the reader gain more insight, a few comments
on ZR are offered here.
ZR is the digital philosophy artist par excellence, in other words he is the most important artist of the digital age. The core of this philosophy is asserted through a famous
paraphrase of the Shakespeare quotation “To be, or not to be, that is the question.” In Shakespeare, we recognize an ontological essentialism. There is merely the choice between
being and not being. In this context, life can be nothing, but a “fatal disease” (Kierkegaard, 1848). W.V.O.Quine qualified this ontologism: “To be is to be the value of a variable.” This statement forms the central
theorem of the digital world view and digital aesthetic. An image is a field of variables. The possible values of the variables create the picture, which changes depending on the
variables. The status of a digital image is consequently not an ontological one, it is not an image of being, but is instead variable and hence virtual. Space and time are
dependent on the variables. The values of these variables are defined by the viewer. Space and time are thus relative; viewer-dependent. In all of ZR’S works, whether The New Book
(1975) or Tango (1980) or Imagine (1987) or The Fourth Dimension (1988), this variability of spatial and temporal vectors is visible. An image is a field of pixels, which can be
altered at any time.
ZR does not merely know every image construction technique - he also uses them all. I know of no contemporary artist who is so ingeniously technical and creatively artistic as ZR. This is to say that ZR is so creatively artistic, because he has incomparable technical virtuosity and bravura at his fingertips. Like the Croatian mathematician and physicist R.J. Boskovic, ZR’S works all demon¬strate precisely this: the viewer-relativity of space and time.
- PETER WEIBEL, artist, curator, media theorist. CEO and chairman of the ZKM/Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe since 1999. (Excerpts from "State of Images – The Media Pioneers Zbigniew Rybczynski and Gabor Body", a publication of the Akademie der Kuenste, Berlin/Zentrum fuer Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe and the Polnisches Institut Berlin) Verlag fuer MODERNE KUNST, 2011
A memorable touch of art begins the program, and though it predates Sept.11 by several years, it couldn't be a better fit. Zbigniew Rybczynski's short Imagine, set to the John Lennon's song, pans along a seemingly endless series of identical rooms as characters come and go, love, break up, give birth and live with the World Trade Center never out of sight of their center window. Lennon's call for a "brotherhood of man" has never seemed so poignant, or so pointed.
- Remembering September 11, 2001 attacks - films screening (altogether with Collateral Damages and First 24 Hours by E.Sauret) at Film Forum, NYC, March 2004
The Orchestra, a film by Zbig Rybczynski, where the music of Chopin’s Funeral March is “shown” at the same time through a series of grotesque figures that gradually appear, as they place their hands on a piano keyboard that runs on for a very long time, as if it were moving along the screen (or as if the camera were tracking along a sequence of keys of infinite length). We are certainly dealing with an attempt to render the source music in some way, because the gestures of the characters are determined by the rhythm of the piece, and the images, including certain things that appear in the background (a hearse, for example), are intended to convey a funereal effect.
We might suppose that, on watching the film with the volume switched off, following the gestures of the characters and the movements of the camera itself, one could reproduce a rhythm very similar to that of Chopin’s composition, and certainly the passage from that composition respects the funeral isotopy – in fact I would say that it accentuates it. So it can legitimately be said that Rybczynski’s work is a good interpretation of Chopin’s piece because it allows us to grasp aspects of rhythm and dynamics, and the fundamental emotional tension (the emotional content) better than we might manage to do, at times, during a less than attentive listening. But the director’s figurative choices are his own, and it is hard to trace them back to Chopin. Rybczynski’s film, therefore, is a felicitous example of use.
- UMBERTO ECO, excerpt from: “Dire quasi la stessa cosa” (To say almost the same thing), Milan, 2003
Zbig Vision isn't only the name of the company where Rybczynski realizes his applications. Under this name, he has been working on an integrated concept for the production of composite illusions of movement, a complex system with analogue, precision, optical and digital components. The most important reason for embarking on this project was his dissatisfaction with the the visual posibilities of central perspective, the geometrical principle of every camera and basis of all 3D software applications. Zbig is working on a lens with a zooming range of up to 180 degrees, as opposed to the usual 45 degrees.
- ZBIG VISION LTD. MINIATURE OF ZBIGNIEW RYBCZYNSKI, by Siegfried Zielinski, Massachussets Institute of Technology Press and ZKM/Center for art and Media Karlsruhe, 2003
He summarizes everything one last time. That in itself, is amazing. I have the impression a little bit of seeing the last film, the big film that one sees when one is going to die. The history of the World of Art that would repeat itself a full tilt. (...)
What seems to be the most interesting, is the fact of no longer being able to separate cinema, video and computer. From now on the point by point and line by line calculation is what will effectively measure and give form. It isn't the case that you have a computer graphics on the one hand and on the other, a series of video images: you now have a synthesis of images. It's the computer that makes us see: everything is there...
- THE RYBCZYNSKI PHENOMENON, by Paul Virillo, MIT Press and ZKM/Center for art and Media Karlsruhe, 2003
Steps is shot on videotape and uses keying; it also utilizes film footage and makes inadvertent reference to virtual reality. In this way, Rybczynski connects three generations of fake-reality technologies: analog, electronic and digital.
- THE LANGUAGE OF NEW MEDIA, by Lev Manovich, Massachussets Institute of Technology 2001
Zbig’s thoroughly practical and at the same time idealistic concept of a perfect technique to bring the visions of the mind’s eye to the screen, unrestricted by the physical limitations of lens mediation and material architecture, is fascinating and inspiring. The haunting image in his Orchestra (…) symbolizes fittingly the much desired embrace of art and science.
- The Marriagge of Art and Science in CINEMA & ARCHITECTURE, by Hennig Camre, British Film Institute, 1997
From his acclaimed short films made in his native Poland to his latest work with HDTV, Rybczynski has pushed film and video to new boundaries. He never uses state-of-the–art technology for its own sake, but rather to create visual symbols that provide epiphanies about contemporary reality. The technology is simply a tool for his extraordinary imagination.
- FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER, NYC, 1992
In Zbig’s new labyrinthian opus, Kafka’s characters mix and match. He explains that the project is as much an ultimate expression of the capabilities of high definition as it is of his creativity.
- TOUR DE FRANZ, HD - High Definition Production, 1992
Zbig Rybczynski, highly regarded within the film and video industry, a pioneering director of the moving image, constantly tests, innovates and streches the boundaries of his craft. He believes that people want to see magic and technology is the artist’s wand.
- Zbig Rybczynski, Art Futura, 1992
The combined effect of music and image in the Schubert/Chartres scene of The Orchestra is inspirational, spiritual even. (…) Rybczynski‘s soul seems to be at home with Renaissance painters, but the medium he chose to champion is HDTV, hi-tech hardware under serious development by a dozen electronics companies.
- THIS REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED, by Bob Groves, The Record, 01-27-91
The Orchestra mixes state-of-the–art computer technology with director’s fantastical vision to create an assemblage of six classical works that must be considered among the most successful marriages of visuals and classical music.
- International electronic cinema festival, Tokyo-Montreux 1990
The Orchestra is a startlingly original program of classical music videos. (…)
Zbig has used the most sophisticated HD technology to create this surreal visual fantasy. The result is an hour-long program of musical masterworks by Chopin, R–avel, Schubert, Mozart, Rossini and Albinioni interpreted in Zbig’s idiosyncratic style: entertaining, provocative, and completely unlike anything you have ever seen before. You truly won’t believe your eyes. And you will never hear this music in the same way again.
- Thirteen/WNET and THE CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING, an invitation of the Great Performances screening of The Orchestra at the Japan Society, NY, 04-23-90
Rybczynski has created a visual fantasy of six of the world's great musical compositions, including Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor and works by Schubert, Ravel, Mozart, Rossini and Albinioni. Interpreting these works, his video technique becomes a TV version of a Chagall painting.
- TUBE’S FUTURE IS NOW – FOR CREATIVE TYPES, by Jill Brooke, New York Post, 04-12-90
In the future, Zbig intends to make a feature film in HD, using Zbig’s pioneering work in multigenerational matting and electronic special effects. This film will combine the use of an HD production system linked to motion control and a 3-D graphics system.
- ZBIG OFFERS FULL SERVICE, by Stuart Samuels, TV Technology, Fall 1989
Rybczynski uses a rather light, erotic Adam-and-Eve motif to explore his surrealist ideas concerning time and space. Doors melt, bodies transform themselves into swirling corkscrews, and images fade into one another with an easy rhythm that uses new technology to achieve a fluidity that formerly seemed impossible to achieve. The graphics make George Lucas’ “Industrial Light and Magic” work seem as antiquated as a silent picture.
Rybczynski is obviously 25 years ahead of everyone else.
- THE BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE, by Michael Bowen, 08-06-89
Only someone with plenty of chutzpah would make a sequel to “Citizen Kane”.
- MOVE OVER, ORSON WELLES, HERE COMES ZBIG WITH HD, Ralph Tyler, Variety- HTDV, 10-05-88
In the beginning, Zbig Rybczynski seemed content merely to defy the laws of gravity: in his films, animals prance upside down, a cosmonaut attempts to imbibe schnapps in outer space, people materialize in a room out of nowhere, furniture falls from the sky in a topsy-turvy world.
- THE ART OF ZBIG RYBCZYNSKI, University Art Museum Berkeley, California, July 1987
An arsenal of video tricks was used to create this aesthetic and political comment on modern history. Three hundred fifty multi-image special effects takes were polished off in an eleven-day shoot, requiring only one day of post-production. (…)
Heavyweight rock groups seem to be gravitating towards his surrealist ideas more so than to the glitzy, choreographed product. Rybczynski sees video technology as a grand tool, enabling him to express himself as never before.
- VIDEO SPECIAL EFFECTS FOR STEPS, by Paul Mandell, American Cinematographer, 1987
To achieve the effect he wanted, Zbig had to blow up and hand paint stills from each frame of Eisenstein’s massacre scene. With these, and a video superimposition technique known as ultramatting, he was able to send an oddball assortment of American tourists up and down the movie steps, mixing and mingling the intruders with soldiers and peasant victims.
- VIDEO SAVANT, by Rob Baker, Vanity Fair, November 1987
His piece, based on John Lennon’s Imagine, is a rich, expressive scroll that unfolds before the eyes with oneiric grace. In congress with his brilliant artistry, however, is a mature sense of technology’s proper utilization.
- ONE SMALL STEP FOR ZBIG, by Gregory Solman, Millimeter, July 1987
Zbig is, in a way, talking back to Eisenstein. This is a way of making a contemporary statement using this imagery to create a dialogue with the past, as well as pushing technology to the next step. This has never been done before.
- TV’S OFF OFF BROADWAY, by Leslie Bennetts, NY Times, 07-19-87
Of course, he wants to make movies, but Hollywood is not in the picture. He prefers the indie route, where the equivalent of a $15 million studio job can be brought in for under $5 million…
- STEPS TO STEPPERS, by David Hershkovits, The Best of The Arts, 1987
HDTV allows Rybczynski to create stunning composite images that he shoots and edits right in the camera. Most videos require weeks of editing and postproduction after they’re taped. But when tonight’s shoot is over, this video will be complete down to its final special effect.
- MICK MEETS HDTV, by Phoebe Hoban, New York Magazine, 08-24-87
Rybczynski will bring his unconventional work mode to the forefront, have no doubt about that.(…) He is putting the future of filmmaking to the test.
- Rybczynski’S LIVE EDITING SHOOTING INTRIQUES AND INTIMIDATES MUSIC VIDEO PRODUCTION INDUSTRY, by Brooke Comer, Billboard Magazine, 1987
With its eye-popping special effects and funky editing style, “Candy” proved to be the perfect vehicle with which to introduce HDTV to the movie industry. Will it be a seminal moment in the history of film? Rybczynski certainly hopes so.
- HIGH-DEFINITION TELEVISION, by Lewis Bale, LA Daily News, 12-17-86
A daring new approach to the production of a music video was successfully pulled off. Using Ultimatte technique, an “instant video” has been made, eliminating the need for post-production work. The dream of staging a complex visual idea Monday, and walking out with a finished master on Wednesday, has become a reality.
- LATEST TECHNIQUES IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING FIELD, by Paul Mandell, American Cinematographer, 1986
A unique “instant video” process, using a new multilevel Ultimatte technique that allows a director to shoot and edit simultaneously, has been used for the first time by director Zbig Rybczynski on the clip for Simple Minds’ All The Things She Said.
- NO POST-PRODUCTION FOR SIMPLE MINDS, by Jim Bessman, Billboard Magazine, 05-10-1986
At irregular intervals in artistic history, reckless talents emerge which can only be defied as genius. Since his defection to the West five years ago, Zbigniew Rybczynski has been widely regarded as one of the greatest forces working in the photographic arts today.
- VIDEO: VISIONS OF TOMORROW – ZBIG RYBCZYNSKI, by Mark Matousek, Interview Magazine, December 1984
The brilliant film and video work of this Oscar-winning Polish artist is a formidable blend of technological mastery and ideological fervor.
- RYBCZYNSKI’S TRICKS, by John Canemaker, Print, September 1984
His films incorporate an astonishing rage of styles from animation to live-action, with dozens of ultramodern technical shadings in between. All were made in Poland, but language is not an issue: these are audio-visual testaments to invention that transcend any need for translation.
- FILM BEYOND LANGUAGE, by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 05-18-84
Many observers believe that Rybczynski is already at the forefront of a revolution in visual media. Since 1973, when he completed his first film, Plamuz, the works of the Polish artist have been the subject of discussion and controversy.
- HI-TECH FILMMAKER AHS A GLOBE-GIRDLING VISION, by Charles Solomon, LA Times, 02.08.84
It is a celebration of video technology and all its uses, with its striking examples of multiple imagery and the fragmentation of dancer and musician. This short work is a clear example of a performance that could only exist on video.
- Exhibition, Independent Curators Incorporated, 1984
The result is a technical masterpiece, but the real magic comes in the whimsical interplay as the towering Mangione interacts with the model. He taunts her and turns to follow her around the room, whispering and teasing.
- MANGIONE DIVIDES AND CONQUERS IN NEW MV, by R. Bataille and D. Hyslop. On Location, December 1984
Now Rybczynski has joined the music video revolution, making Close to the Edit for the Art of Noise. Loaded with the bizarre imagery that become the young director’s stylistic signature, the piece is a delightfully surreal fantasy, where a trio of pranksters, armed with power saws, destroys an array of traditional musical instruments.
Everyone has praised Rybczynski’s striking editing technique, which gives the video an odd rhythm by shooting the piece with the music at half-speed, then cutting out frames to make the movements fit the action.
- VIDEORGY, LA Times, 07-29-84
His films are surreal, brilliantly funny, gravity-defying and equally disturbing and memorable; they display an irreverent and unique creative imagination at work.
- New slants on animation: an evening with Zbig Rybczynski, Catalog of Seattle Film Festival, May 1984
Surprisingly, very little of his previous work is animated in the traditional sense; he’s more the special-effects technician than the animator.
- Hypnotic surrealism comes to life at fest, by John Hartl, The Seattle Times, 05-13-84
Tango is an almost hypnotically complex work that requires several viewings to grasp completely. (…)
By awarding the Oscar to Tango, the academy provided somewhat belated recognition of the increasingly complex array of frame-by-frame filmmaking techniques that have come to be included in the definition of “animation”.
- Tango, a Polish Dance of Alienation, by Charles Solomon, LA Times, 04.19.83