Klimowski’s graphic novel, Robot, was commissioned by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw to mark Poland’s Presidency of the European Union’s Cultural Programme in 2011. Self Made Hero and Timof Comiks published the book simultaneously in the UK and Poland. Klimowski adapted and translated Stanisław Lem’s short fiction ‘The sanatorium of Dr Vliperdius’ (1977), aiming to develop a new position for illustration and the graphic novel aside from mainstream graphic novels and literature, and a new approach to visual bookmaking. The project proved to be an artistic challenge: Lem often proclaimed his disapproval of adaptations of his work, dismissing even Andrei Tarkovsky’s film adaptation (1972) of his novel Solaris (1961).
Produced in collaboration with Danusia Schejbal, Robot features a diptych form, counter-pointing (both formally and conceptually) two contrasting stories. The first is a colourful parable describing a totalitarian and autocratic regime that must be vanquished, the second a monochromatic dialectic on philosophy, humanism and mechanisation. Klimowski and Schejbal’s publication is intended to challenge stereotypes and established styles and formulas associated with the production of graphic novels. Much emphasis was laid upon the depiction of space and location, artificiality and realism. Silence and the suspension of linear time were also strong features of the artists’ investigations.
These qualities were recognised and discussed by the media, in particular by a panel of critics on Polish Television’s Cultural Channel, in the most respected comics blog, Zeszyty Komiksowe (http://zeszytykomiksowe.org/recenzja_robot, 2012), and by Monika Malkowskain in the national newspaper Rzeczpospolita (2011). The artists gave a special talk at the Science Museum, London, during the Robot Festival ‘Robotville’ (December 2011). Lem, one of the world’s leading writers of science fiction, was featured throughout the year in the UK on stage, cinema and in literary events (Barbican Centre London, British Library, Science Museum London).