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Peter Alwast

Andrew Frost

Peter Alwast's fascination with the connection between real and virtual worlds evokes the uncertain texture of dreams and faded memories. In his work across video, painting and installation, Alwast has dealt with the recognisable environments of urban living – houses in various stages of construction, gazebos and pergolas, parks and roads – and mixed them with fantasy towers, geodesic domes and the impressions left by a ghost-like population. The connections Alwast makes between these worlds suggest a universal unconscious of Romantic longing. 

Alwast‟s videos have often been seen in the context of detailed architectural installations that divide or rearrange the gallery space into forms reminiscent of a building under construction. In his videos Alwast creates virtual environments based on these real world reference points but free of the restrictions of normal space and gravity. In ShwAAA [2006], a giant construction of slender pole-like elements towers over a landscape of domestic houses, parks and roads. Globular forms move up and down the strands, occasionally spilling out over the landscape, each polished sphere reflecting an element of the overall landscape. The “viewer” moves around various features of the landscape finding small narratives unfolding; in a gazebo a voice is heard talking about the history of the development of the Gold Coast; in a park a giant, flesh-coloured construction reminiscent of a gargantuan play ground reveals the faces of four people in fancy dress staring at the viewer. 

In Alwast‟s video work ambiguity is fuel for speculation. In Night Sky [2006] a computer generated landscape is alive with the sounds of night: wind, crickets and distant, passing cars. After a few moments wandering in the countryside, the camera reveals suburban houses. Floating above the roofs of various houses are slowly turning fragments of text: “I am pregnant, single and on an island in the middle of nowhere”, “You want to do your own thing right now but don‟t forget to let others know your plans” and “Singing seems to help a troubled soul.” If there is a shared universal unconscious, and these fragments are the thoughts of a snoozing citizenry, then our collective dreams are transmitted via television. 2 

Janek The Cloud [2007] is Alwast‟s most unabashedly Romantic work and deploys a number of generic filmic conventions – music, titles, subtitles and sound effects – coupled with a dream narrative. After a woozily shifting sequence of shots of clouds the camera wanders over wintry computer generated landscapes. A subtitle appears that explains the nature of this story, and how the viewer is perhaps meant to interpret these ambiguous events. The text not only relieves the viewer of the responsibility of interpreting the artist‟s intention, it also goes a long way to explain the uncanny power of Alwast‟s work: “Sometimes the image itself matters less than the unseen or the associated.” 

b. 1975
Birth place
Warsaw, Poland
Period of activity 
from 1998

Lives and works

Selected works
Selected events
– from Relics, via d/Archive 
There There, – from There There, via Vimeo 
Everything, – from Everything, via Vimeo 
janek_the_cloud_production_still_01.jpg – from Janek the Cloud 
Night_Sky_Production_Still_2006.jpg – from Night Sky 
ShwAAA, – from ShwAAA, via Vimeo