Wilhelm Sasnal: The Other Church
11–27 April 2008, 66-68 Osborne Street, Glasgow
Angelika Kluk was a 22-year-old Polish immigrant found murdered under the floorboards of St Patrick’s Church in Anderston, Glasgow, in 2006. Wilhelm Sasnal’s 16mm film doesn’t set out to recreate the horrors of that event. Nor does it sensationalise it. Rather, even as it sets up its bare floor-boarded and claustrophobic context in the basement of a dilapidated shop-front, it makes it legend.
From the unlit gloom upstairs, the music filtering through from below sounds like it’s occupying some unlicensed punk hang-out, with all the boy’s club associations implied. Down a rickety step-ladder in an empty basement, a projector whirs in antique counterpoint to the music’s aggression. Again, there are hints of something clandestine, recalling the sort of grubby adult cinemas that proliferated down back alleys before porn went glossy.
Onscreen, Polish punk band 19 Wiosen perform the song that gives the show its title in a dank rehearsal room resembling a prison cell. The music is raw, and led by a gothic organ that conjures the spirit of The Stranglers. The lyrics sung by 19 Wiosen’s Marcin Pryt, however, are told from Kluk’s point of view, about ‘another church under the floor’. The song is sung again, this time by a young woman, who, onscreen, squats naked and impassive beside the speakers.
The film’s monochrome grit recalls the Super 8 verite of Richard Kern’s video for Sonic Youth’s 1986 collaboration with Lydia Lunch, ‘Death Valley ’69’. One thinks too of the serial killer’s room in The Silence of the Lambs, where Buffalo Bill’s victim is tied up in the cellar while The Fall’s ‘Hip Priest’ plays.
The Other Church deifies Kluk, giving her voice in the way of a folk lament or some sentimental MTV paean to gunned-down rappers. Both the blues and folk were founded on such life-and-death song-stories. Listen to Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ and Alasdair Roberts’ ‘No Earthly Man’ for contemporary versions of this.
Sasnal’s song from under the floorboards, though, suggests other, more recent real life slaughters. Prostitutes buried in English woodland; young women who disappeared into a big Victorian house in Gloucester; a Jersey care home full of skeletons; an Austrian woman and her three children incarcerated underground for 24 years.
Whether transients, outlaws or else just far enough away from home so to not warrant suspicion, these victims are remembered for all the wrong reasons.
So it is with Angelika Kluk, who, in this unflinching homage, has found accidental immortality.
Neil Cooper is an arts writer