Repetition, 2005
Single channel video, projection or monitor, 74.15 min., color, sound
Polish with German, English or Italian subtitles
Ed. of 3 (+ 1 AP + 1 EP)

“Repetition”, realized in Warsaw, is a documentary recording of a re-enactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment – a famous 1971 psychological experiment studying human behaviour under prison conditions, conducted by Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University in California. The purpose of the experiment, which consisted in isolating a group of volunteers playing roles of inmates and guards, was to analyse two issues. First, the patterns determining how people behave in a new situation. Second, the different perceptions of a given situation by people of the same background but forced to play different roles (here inmates and guards). Professor Zimbardo’s experiment, which was supposed to run for two weeks, had to be interrupted after just six days, as both groups began manifesting behavioural patterns normally regarded as pathological: sadism, violence, degradation. Thirty-four years later, the Stanford Prison Experiment remains a source of inspiration for psychologists, sociologists, and filmmakers alike.

The risk of reconstructing Professor Zimbardo’s experiment was taken up in early 2005 in Warsaw by Artur Zmijewski in a space equipped with one-way mirrors, and the course of the experiment was filmed by five humanly operated cameras and several night-vision enabled, industrial video cameras. Besides the “inmates” and the “guards” the experiment’s other participants included psychologists acting as experts and authorised to stop the experiment if things turned dangerous, a former prison inmate, and a sociologist involved in prison system reform. The experiment lasted seven days.
In making “Repetition”, Zmijewski referred, not for the first time, to the aesthetics of violence and segregation. Dramatic events from the past return in Zmijewski’s films deformed, processed by imperfect memory, rendered unreal. His works are often comments on the processes of victimisation, stigmatisation and exclusion – subjects also studied by social psychology. Reaching back to the Zimbardo experiment is a natural consequence of the artist’s interests. “Repetition” stands among the most complex and challenging works by Artur Zmijewski.

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