Józef Robakowski is an artist, art historian and academic professor, and the creator of films, videos, photographic series, installations, objects, performances, multimedia actions and conceptual projects.
Born in 1939 in Poznań, he earned a degree in art history and museum studies from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Nicolaus Copernicus University University in Toruń, and majored at the Faculty of Cinematography of the Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź, where, from 1970 to 1981, he taught and ran the Photography and Visual Advertising Unit. In 1995 he returned to the Łódź School, and ran the Studio of Multimedia Actions there until 2017. He also taught at the Faculty of Cultural Studies of the University of Łódź (1982–1983), and at Łódź College of Humanities and Economics (2001–2006).
Co-founder of a number of artistic collectives, e.g. Oko (1960), STKF Pętla (1960–1966), Zero-61 (1961–1969) and Krąg (1965–1967). Co-founder of the Workshop of the Film Form (1970–1977) and Telewizyjna Grupa Twórcza Stacja Ł(1991–1992). In 1978 he founded (with Małgorzata Potocka) the Exchange Gallery (Galeria Wymiany) in Łódź, which he runs to this day. Initiator of numerous artistic events, curator and co-curator of several dozen exhibitions, publisher, author of texts and publications. He lives and works in Łódź.
Robakowski’s film practice dates back to the 1960s and experimental productions, including found-footage films. His pioneering 1970s analyses of the structures of filmic language are today considered classics of structural cinema. In the 1980s, often using video, he developed the concept of ‟one’s own cinema”: personal, often autobiographical recordings and performative practices. At the same time, he pursued a critique of media politics and the mechanisms of viewer manipulation by the ideologised mass media. He is the creator of videos documenting his (often improvised) performances over the last two decades. Video documentations and films on contemporary art and its avant-garde traditions form an important part of his practice.
Since the late 1950s, Robakowski has practiced photography, experimenting with the medium, and has made photo-graphic objects. His analytical-conceptual series of works from the 1970s reflect his preoccupation with the ontology of perception and the potential of photographic representation. In the 1980s he produced various photographic series by taking pictures of TV images. In recent years, he has been making monumental compositions of his own images found on the Web, a project called Fotomania.