Bogumiła Piotrowska

Oramics / 10 Feb 2019

Bogumiła Piotrowska is an art history graduate, creator of improvised visualisations based on feedback loops. Between 2005 and 2010 she was involved with the Polish VJ community, she was an active member of initiatives such as Warsaw Electronic Festival, Share Warsaw, BYOB. She co-created the visuals for Kalina Świątnicka’s project called “Out of Body Performance” in cooperation with Warszawska Grupa Gamelanowa. Since 2011, together with her sister Antonina Nowacka, she’s been working on her audiovisual project WIDT, which has performed at theaters, cinemas, galleries and festivals in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, Cracow and more. As WIDT they create original audiovisual publications, scenography, performance and workshop scripts. Since 2018 she’s been part of Teyas band – a collaboration between WIDT and Christoph de Babalon. Teyas is part of SHAPE platform in 2019.

1. Do you remember the moment when you became interested in the technology/gear that you work with now? How did you follow that path? Please tell us a little bit about what you do.

I remember the moment when I first met the old AV gear. I was finishing my MA dissertation on new technologies in the context of theory of vision and I worked as a VJ. At work I mostly used the computer and software, sometimes a camcorder for live image production. Me and my sister started the band, WIDT, and we were trying out different types of technology. We needed to do something different than recreating our score, we wanted to play live. I think it was a growing need for a deeper experience of what we do. When we tried using old equipment from the previous century, we continued without saying a word. I remember the feeling as if it was something waiting to be rejuvenated and I couldn’t let it go. I started nurturing it, something that seemed very delicate and fragile at the time, that thing that came out of those big machines. For me light is like liquid, and thanks to those machines I am allowed to form and change its intensity. The effect of mixing different gear is new in different situations and circumstances. Very interesting moments happen when the wave interference starts happening. That matter seems endless.

With WIDT we go on tour once or twice a year. Those are sacred days for us. Our improvised performances are something between an installation, a performance and a concert. It’s been called the “abstract opera”.

Last year we formed the band TEYAS together with Christoph de Babalon. We released an LP with original graphics and videos for each track. The videoclips were produced entirely on the computer. From the technological point of view this is a production of a completely different kind, the creation process was diametrically different from what WIDT used to do. One thing is common in these productions – there are no previously prepared materials except sketches, plans and exercises. The source is the content of hardware or software.

2. Have you ever had to tackle stereotypes in your head? Women very often say that in the beginning they had to fight with the inner conviction that gear is not for women. How can you deal with such a blockade?

One may as well say that for a woman a brush and canvas are inappropriate tools. Gear is a working tool.

Everyone finds their own way of overcoming those kinds of blockades. I tackle them by focusing on what needs to be done. Sometimes I need to calm down, to seclude myself, to be outside the daily routine. Support from people close to me is also very useful, for me it very often comes from my sister.

3. What’s your current obsession, what are focused on during your work?

Together with a programmer and interactive app creator Adam Błaszczyk we’ve been working on a device for live visualisations that would connect what I find fenomenal and unique in electronic images with digital quality. Of course, I can’t translate the most important thing – the organic matter – from analogue to digital language, but I think that new technologies have their own organic matter, which sounds fascinating.

4. What was the biggest inspiration for your work in 2018?

I think that WIDT’s collaboration with Christoph de Babalon allowed me to rethink some strategies. Despite the fact that the cooperation began in 2016, this year it acquired more intense colors, and now it seems to me, in retrospect, as a living organism. We released an album together and we spent two weeks on tour in different European countries. Working on the album was a long and laborious process. After releasing the LP TEYAS we went on tour and performed with improvised sets. We felt as if each one of us came from a different planet and every other day we decided to have debates in the evenings. That was very special.

5. What was the biggest obstacle or lesson in 2018 and how did you handle it?

Honestly, I do not know which obstacle was the biggest, each one seems to be the greatest when I come to face it and after that it becomes something abstract. Very often those are situations that affect personal life, and then difficult emotions emerge – sometimes those are very hard moments. There are also technical problems on the stage that are obstacles that must be dealt with. Such adventures are instructive. For example, when the stage is being rearranged before a performance the technical crew puts everything the way it was during the soundcheck and videocheck and one cable is pinned down by something – then the whole concert is different than usually.

6. What advice would you give to women who would like to follow a similar professional/artistic path as you? How to get started? Who to talk to? Where to get familiar with the gear?

Medium is an extension of a human as we know from Lev Manovitch. It’s difficult to answer how to start… I guess you just have to start, if you want to.

You girls organized workshops last year, among others they were led by WIDT. Biuro Dźwięku Katowice also organizes similar workshops. I think that in the framework of such events participants can check the equipment, watch it, listen to the host. This is a situation in which direct contact with people and equipment is possible, and this is of utmost interest to us.


Interview led by Justyna Banaszczyk in December 2018