Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Narodowe Centrum Kultury
Cosmogonic is the first VR experience inspired by the Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem—known for investigating humanity and social justice through visions of faraway planets and mechanical beings. In Cosmogonic, we travel into the memories of the title character, a once-great robot engineer, to visit the planet of Actinuria. Here, the Pallatinids, a society of giant robots, live under the cruel King Archithorius. Fearing a conspiracy, he forces the citizens to wear suits of uranium armor, which cause an explosion if too many of them gather. But one Pallatinid—a bold, young inventor named Pyron—decides to use science and technology to inspire a revolution. An adaptation of a 1965 short story by Lem, Cosmogonic speaks perfectly to today’s world, where populism and disinformation threaten democracy. It is a testament to the importance of knowledge and community in the universal drive to freedom.
Cosmogonic is the story of an oppressed society and its path to liberation. I believe strongly that the basic drive to freedom is universal. Through a sci-fi perspective and a journey to distant, bizarre, and often incomprehensible places, I want to remove our everyday, structured vision of the world, and draw us away from the friendly, earthly environment we know all too well. By creating Cosmogonic’s uncanny world—diving into the origin of its universe, exploring the beginnings of life there, and experiencing the struggles of a developed civilization—I hope to offer a fresh perspective, one that will help us to look clearly at ourselves. Ultimately, the story is a fairy tale. In my opinion, it is one that asks us to face the driving forces of nature, politics, and technology that shape our world today.
When I first visited Poland more than a decade ago, I felt I had landed on a new planet. My great-grandparents immigrated from the U.S. to Poland in the 1920s, and I inherited their last name—so in some ways, I fit in. In others, I was like an alien, or more like a strange, grown-up child. In a sense, I had to learn to speak, understand, and move through the world all over again. While the experience was in some ways uncomfortable, it invited me to see the world for the first time again, to discover it anew. That’s also what drives me to explore storytelling in VR. Although the technology itself isn’t new, each VR film offers us a new world—and a new way to experience being in it. Childhood, after all, is a precious time, when our openness allows a certain freedom.
Paweł Szarzyński is a director, animator, graphic designer, and co-founder of the Kilku design collective. He previously served as the head of animation and post-production at Saatchi and Saatchi and has worked with companies such as Prodigious, FCB, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel. A winner of the European Design Awards and the Polish Graphic Design Award, he has taught at the Warsaw School of Photography and Graphic Design.
Lauren Dubowski is an American writer and producer based in Warsaw. She recently produced and co-wrote the animated VR documentary ANOTHER DREAM (2019), which was nominated for the Tribeca Immersive Storyscapes, Sheffield Doc/Fest Best Digital Experience, and Golden Calf for Best Interactive awards. Lauren holds an MFA in Dramaturgy from Yale School of Drama. She was a Fulbright fellow to Poland and a Luce Scholar in Indonesia.
Igor Żukowicz is a graphic designer as well as a 3D modeler and sculptor. He seeks to apply new technologies to traditional artmaking techniques and builds machines such as photogrammetric scanners, plotters, and 3D printers. He is a Graphic Arts graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate and teaches interaction design.
Marta Szarzyńska is CEO and a producer at Kinhouse Studio. Her producing credits include The Nixie by Julia Bui-Ngoc (2018; winner: European Cinematography Awards Best Director, Miami Independent Film Festival Best Short Narrative & Docs, Polish Film Festival Best Short and Best Music, and others). Her feature debut as a producer, SONGS ABOUT LOVE by Tomasz Habowski, will premiere in 2021. Her second feature, BALLADS AND ROMANCES by Julia Bui-Ngoc, is currently in development, with support from the Polish Film Institute. Szarzyńska is vice-president of the Young Producers section of the Polish Producers Alliance (PPA) and trained in Creative Development at the Wajda School.