Artur Żmijewski b. 1966
Singing Lesson (2001) / Our Songbook (2003)
Duration: 27 minutes

Singing Lesson 1

In “Singing Lesson 1” (2001), Mr. Zmijewski organized a choir of hearing-impaired teenagers and filmed them as they practiced ecclesiastical music in a Warsaw church. While a trained, hearing student plays the organ beautifully, the choir produces a cacophonous wall of sound. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The young singers are so earnest and so obviously having a fine time that it seems Mr. Zmijewski has done a good social deed regardless of the film’s value as art.

“Singing Lesson 1” is one of Mr. Zmijewski’s more sensitive and touching projects, but with his work overall he comes across as a kind of puppet master who uses people less sophisticated than himself as marionettes in a game whose point they may not fully understand.

Our Songbook

Zmijewski asks elderly Polish immigrants in a Tel Aviv nursing home and senior citizens’ centre to sing the Polish National Anthem and other Polish songs. The video is an examination of the effect a first language has on the shaping of identity regardless of intervening circumstances.