Agata Adamiecka-Sitek. How to Remove the Curse? Oliver Frljić and the Poles
Agata Adamiecka’s article is devoted to Oliver Frljić’s affective The Curse, a play of unprecedented social impact in the post-transformation history of theater in Poland. Adamiecka chiefly focuses on the closing scene, where a wooden cross is cut down and a noose is hung around a plaster figure of John Paul II, as the clearest acts of symbolic violence, through which the artists affectively work on the audience, simultaneously showing themes that are most powerful taboos in the public sphere. Turning her attention to the wave of violence that actress Julia Wyszyńska experienced after the premiere, as well as statements by the Minister of Culture and other representatives of the political right, the author demonstrates how The Curse reveals the structure of symbolic power in Poland, with the inextricable alliance between state and church powers, and the permanent marginalization of women in the public sphere and the restriction of their rights, particularly when it comes to deciding about their own bodies.
Grzegorz Niziołek. The Sacred as Censorship
Taking his cue from Marcin Kula’s article “Let’s Speak Like a Non-believer with a Believer,” Grzegorz Niziołek analyzes the agency of the sacred and other categories tied to the Catholic Church in Poland’s value system in shaping its public sphere. Using “symbolic violence” in Pierre Bourdieu’s sense of the term, the author shows the real impact of accepting an immanent link between the Catholic faith and the Polish identity. Niziołek discusses the abuse of the criminal code article that prohibits offending religious sensibility, the politicians’ involvement in Church affairs, and the saturation of the public space with signs pertaining to the sacred. Niziołek analyzes some articles by Father Andrzej Draguła on Artur Żmijewski’s Mass, Rodrigo Garcia’s Golgotha Picnic, and Oliver Frljić’s The Curse, demonstrating how Draguła manipulates the sacred to build a hierarchy of artistic phenomena and their significance in the public space.
Dorota Sajewska. An Archeology of Abortion Trauma
Beginning with Milo Rau’s theatrical version of Piero Paolo Pasolini’s Salo, or: 120 Days of Sodom of1975, Dorota Sajewska presents a brief history of the media discourse around abortion in Poland. Recalling, for instance, the homilies of John Paul II, she proves that abortion became a major stake in the struggle for the Church’s real power in Poland. Sajewska largely focuses on the role the film Silent Scream played in the debate on anti-abortion regulations, showing various aspects of its dissemination. Seeing Silent Scream as a primary image of anti-abortion discourse in Poland after 1989, she reconstructs an archeology of abortion trauma.
Marcin Kościelniak. Out of Solidarity: The Church as an Emotional Structure of Polish Society in the 1980s
Marcin Kościelniak analyzes the national-Catholic nature of Solidarity and Polish culture of the early 1980s, drawing from the contemporaneous teachings of the Church hierarchs, above all John Paul II, testimonials from the time, and sociological analyses. In the conviction that politics is more the domain of “human desires, fantasies, and passions” than “reason, moderation, and consensus” (Mouffe), the author explores the affective logic of culture: a less rational than emotional mode of perpetuating the “national-Catholic alloy.” The main proving ground is Maria Janion’s 1981 text Politics and Morality, as a testimony to the fascinating disappearance of Janion’s “critical sense,” which, Kościelniak believes, is a result of national affect in action.
Tomasz Fryzeł. Phantoms That Will Not Leave
Tomasz Fryzeł covers the play Phantom Sonata (Nowy Theater in Warsaw, premiere: 20.01.2017), which Markus directed based on Strindberg’s drama. The critic describes the monumental, yet ostentatiously kitschy set design, the forum layout of the audience surrounding the stage, and the solutions employed by the director (dressing the actors in grotesque masks, distorting their voices, using cameras). Analyzing the relationships between the drama and the performance, Fryzeł notes that the young protagonists subject to adults’ rites of initiation occupy a special place in Öhrn’s production. These rituals do not aim to transform reality, but to maintain the status quo of a society built on lies.
Romuald Krężel. Notes from the Head
Romuald Krężel, assistant to Markus Öhrn, director of Strindberg’s Phantom Sonata produced at the Nowy Theater in Warsaw, describes the process by which the play was created; reflections jotted down after the play’s premiere neighbor notes made at various stages of rehearsal. The author observes work on the play in the context of Öhrn’s “black metal” aesthetic and links it to his previous performances (providing an in-depth description of the Azdora project for the Italian town of Santarcangelo). He focuses on the institutional aspect of the play’s creation, listing the works that inspired the ensemble and analyzing the concept changes and evolution of various motifs and stage solutions.
Katarzyna Tórz. Love in the Time of Cholera
Katarzyna Tórz covers the work of Markus Öhrn. Making reference, in part, to his trilogy (Conte d'amour, We love Africa and Africa loves us, and Bis Zum Tod) and Phantom Sonata, she analyzes the major issues raised by the Swedish director, primarily focused on the family and love. She demonstrates Öhrn’s particular interest in what is repressed, invisible, unwanted. She describes his aesthetic, with its dark, intense images, his approach to space (spare sets made of cheap materials), sound (often covers of famous songs), and new media (“the calibration of space” with the camera).
Jakub Kłeczek. “The Thinking Machine” – The Simultaneous Theater of Szymon Syrkus and Andrzej Pronaszko: Toward an Archeology of Digital Performance in Poland
This article is an attempt to revisit an unrealized architectural design for Andrzej Pronaszko and Szymon Syrkus’s Simultaneous Theater using media archeology. Kłeczek claims that the use of advanced communications techniques in theater, dance, and other performance arts can be seen from a wider perspective than the artists’ latest accomplishments. He argues his thesis by reconstructing the methodological bases of media archeology, as conceived by Siegfried Zielinski. Then he reads the titular project from a perspective of today’sperformance art theory – including its relationship with media, multimediality, and the cyborg.
Mateusz Chaberski. MU and the Hybrid Bioart
Mateusz Chaberski covers the Fluid Matter. Liquid and Life in Motion exhibition (MU Artspace in Eindhoven, 2.12.2016 – 26.02.2017). The author notes that the exhibition is the fruit of collaboration between artists, creators of new technologies, and scientists. It points toward a new kind of experience in the reception of art, redefining relationships between the human and the non-human. Chaberski describes 2.6G 329M/S. Bulletproof Skin (2009), a work by Jalila Essaïdi, who cultivated an extremely durable fragment of human skin. He also analyzes the Dynamorphosis installation by Lilian van Daal and Roos Meerman – the artists created synthetic human mechanisms of considerable aesthetic beauty.
An Actress Is an Artist: Dominika Biernat in Conversation with Monika Kwaśniewska
Dominika Biernat speaks of her education at the Krakow Lart school and the Łódź Film School, comparing how either equipped her with later stage experience. Based on her many plays and projects, she raises the issue of the role of the media in theater, the actor’s personal contribution to the performance, work with the body, text, costumes, projects involving non-professional actors, and the usefulness of acting techniques. An important subject of the interview is the way the actors work, both in repertory theaters and in ephemeral non-institutional projects. Biernat ponders the possible redefinition of the word “actor/actress.” She also speaks of how the government is threatening artists’ autonomy.
Patricidals: Anna Smolar, Anna Karasińska, Magda Szpecht, Katarzyna Kalwat, and Weronika Szczawińska in Conversation with Piotr Gruszczyński
A debate to accompany the Krystiana Lupa retrospective at the Festival d’Automne à Paris, organized by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute on 16 December 2016 in Paris, oscillating around the topic of female directors in Poland. Alluding to his book Patricides, Piotr Gruszczyński asks the directors about their relationship to theater tradition. He also suggests the thesis that each woman at the debate has certain things in common: they see theater as an independent discipline, they work collectively, undermining the position of the all-knowing God-director. The debate also tackles issues of theater economy, and production resources that an institution provides, as well as democracy in the theater.
Magdalena Jiřička-Stojowska. Attempting an Anatomical Gaze: On the Work of Eva Kot’átkova
Magdalena Jiřička-Stojowska describes the work of Eva Kot’átkova, a Czech visual artist and performer. She goes over the tactics Kot’átkova uses, analyzing recurrent themes (such as children, animals, and books). She covers some of the artist’s work, such as the Za mezi nas pod v (Pokoj) [Behind between over under in (Room)] and Cesta do školy [The Road to School] projects. She focuses considerable attention on work done at the Prague Psychiatric Hospital in Bohnice: Kot’átkova organized the art brut exhibition Dvouhlavý životopisec a muzeum představ [The Two-headed Biographer and the Museum of the Imagination) and directed the play The Judicial Murder of Jakob Mohr.
“Getting through to the Body of Things”: Eva Kot’átkova in Conversation with Magdalena Jiřička-Stojowska
Magdalena Jiřička-Stojowska speaks with Eva Kot’átkova, a Czech visual artist and performance artist. Speaking of her strategies, the artist assigns particular significance to the installation and exhibition spaces that have an impact on the viewer’s body, compelling a certain sort of behavior. She speaks of her inspirations and how she processes and interprets them. She also describes the performance she directed of The Judicial Murder of Jakob Mohr – she analyzes the relationships between the theater and the visual arts based on her own experiences.
Freedom Is a Choice: Anna Turowiec in Conversation with Maryla Zielińska
Maryla Zielińska speaks with Anna Turowiec, assistant to Eimuntas Nekrošius on the play Forefathers’ Eve (Narodowy Theater, premiere: 10.03.2016). Turowiec speaks of working with the Lithuanian director and of various stages of preparing the presentation. She explains the evolution of the script, the ways the roles were assigned, the creation of the music and the set. She focuses on Nekrošius’ methods of working with the actors, how he conducts actors’ improvisations. She makes reference to her notes and drawings from rehearsals.
Zuzanna Berendt. Fears Lives Here
Zuzanna Berendt writes about The Call of Cthulhu directed by Michał Borczuch (Nowy Theater in Warsaw, premiere: 24.03.2017). The critic mainly focuses on the ties between the play and H. P. Lovecraft’s stories, which served as the foundation for the dramaturgy by Tomasz Śpiewak. There are also motifs from the author’s biography, which the artists used as a point of departure for diagnosing the reality of contemporary Europe, in which conservative tendencies are on the rise. Broaching the topic of fear as an emotion that effects the lives of individuals and the collective, Berendt analyzes how family relationships are depicted in the play, the arrangement of the space of the stage, and the director’s strategies.
Katarzyna Fazan. A Loud Wedding
Katrzyna Fazan writes on Stanisław Wyspiański’s The Wedding directed by Jan Klata (National Stary Theater, premiere: 12.05.2017). The author points out the differences between Wyspiański’s drama and the staging, showing that Klata has concentrated on the critical power of the text, not on the anecdotal or existential aspects. The author stresses the depressing, helpless tone of the performance, and analyzes the impact of current socio-political events and today’s pop culture on how the director has read the drama.
Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska. A Totally Normal Play
Reviewing Peasants directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski (Powszechny Theater in Warsaw, premiere: 13.05.2017), Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska surveys some contemporary interpretations of Władysław Reymont’s novel, mentioning the historically changing relationship between man, nature, and economics, and the critique of anthropocentricism that derives from this reflection. Thus, she charts out inspiring, unexpected directions a stage adaption of this work could take. She notes with surprise, however, that Garbaczewski has interpreted Reymont’s prose in an appealing, though quite “customary” fashion. Garbaczewski’s odd “eco-fantasies,” which she claims are the most interesting part, are a minor subplot, which, the author assumes, was meant to test out various ways of communicating through theater.
Monika Świerkosz. In the Darkness You Shall Know the Truth
Monika Świerkosz reviews the play Nights and Days, based on the novel by Maria Dąbrowska, directed by Seb Majewski at the Wojciech Bogusławski Theater in Kalisz (premiere: 8.04.2017). Świerkosz’s point of departure is the classic position of the book and the cult status of the film by Jerzy Antczak. She points out that Majewski and Tomasz Jękot, the dramaturg of the play, primarily tease out the dark side of the novel and the fear of the impending war in this adaptation, focusing on the fates of the female characters: Barbara, Agnieszka, and Celina. Świerkosz notes that the play shows signs of being inspired by Maria Dąbrowska’s diaries, whose content affected the shape of the performance.
Tomasz Kowalski. Against Indifference
Tomasz Kowalski writes of the play The Painted Bird, inspired by Jerzy Kosiński’s book (Polski Theater in Poznań, premiere: 26.03.2017) and directed by Maja Kleczewska. The critic points out the links between the original and the performance. He notes that the director concentrates on the novel itself, but also on its reception – she thus observes aspects of the Polish debate on the Holocaust and reveals the “antisemitic codes of Polish culture.” Kowalski analyzes the multi-level, variegated structure of the play, which uses the symbolic, the literal, and exagerration.
Stanisław Godlewski. Visible and Legible
Stanisław Godlewski analyzes Katarzyna Szyngiera’s play Feinweinblein: The Devil Smokes in the Old Radio (Współczesny Theater in Szczecin, premiere: 8.04.2017) based on the text by Weronika Murek. The author points out the drama’s confused structure and how the director exchanges Murek’s difficult, eliptical language for concrete, sensual scenes.
Jakub Papuczys. Anatomies of Revolt
Jakub Papuczysz reviews the play Fuck... Scenes of Revolt directed by Marcin Liber (Łaźnia Nowa Theater, premiere: 6.05.2017). The author recalls the story of the actors’ revolt at the Polski Theater in Wrocław, and interprets the play in this context, as it features mainly actors fired by Cezary Morawski. Liber juxtaposes their revolt with Ryszard Siwiec’s act of setting himself on fire, the activities of the Fuck for Forest group, and the art of Olga Szałygina. Papuczys states that the choice of examples of revolts, coming from radically different contexts, has a negative impact on the play’s legibility, but the actors’ individual stories give it some power.
Jan Karow. “Jihad Means: Make an Effort”
Jan Karow reviews Katarzyna Szyngiera’s play “God in the House” (Polski Theater in Bydgoszcz, premiere: 25.02.2017). The author describes the method used by Szyngiera, Mirosław Wlekły, and Grzegorz Niziołek, creating a collage of texts from the Internet, taken from public statements and interviews gathered while working on a reportage piece for Duże Format. The play addresses Poles’ fear of accepting immigrants from the Near East and alludes to the social climate after the attacks in Paris in 2015. The reviewer stresses that its greatest asset is how it problematizes harmful generalizations in the discourse on immigrants and the fear-mongering in society by right-wing politicians and the Catholic Church.
Beata Kustra. Playing Cinderella
Beata Kustra reviews Cinderella directed by Anna Smolar (National Stary Theater in Krakow, premiere: 24.03.2017). The critic focuses on how Smolar and the script’s author (Joël Pommerat) clearly play on the popularized version of the fairy tale. She describes the protagonists of Cinderella, proving that the play’s characters are never purely good or evil. Her thesis is that the play’s creators emphasize people’s desires, imaginings, and expectations for themselves, which can be destructive. Anna Smolar’s Cinderella also features, she believes, a redefinition of the fairy-tale happy ending.
Karolina Habryło. Looking without Seeing, or Perhaps Seeing without Looking
Karolina Habryło reviews Weronika Murek’s Girls directed by Małgorzata Wdowik (STUDIO Gallery Theater in Warsaw, premiere: 10.04.2017). The author lists a range of concerns about the five girls’ involvement in this project. She describes the space in detail, the relationship between the stage and the audience, and the emotions accompanying the performance: mainly curiosity and disquiet, in her opinion. Habryło suggests that Marta Ziółek’s choreography perfectly illustrates the girls’ balancing act “between attempts to make contact with one’s own body, understanding and learning about it, and submitting to others’ objectifying gaze, replicating poses and gestures that might be attractive."
Agata Chałupnik. Encounters with Utopia
Agata Chałupnik writes up three performances in the Real Utopias series, created as part of the Komuna// Warszawa Future project: Make Yourself by Marta Ziółek, Contempt by the Kantor Downtown collective (Daniel Chryc, Jolanta Janiczak, Joanna Krakowska, Magda Mosiewicz, and Wiktor Rubin), and B.R.I.N. by Komuna// Warszawa. Recalling an essay by Thomas More and studies by Jerzy Szacki which show the shared premises of utopia builders, she attempts to show how the plays presented by Komuna// Warszawa make utopias. Ultimately, she states that all the plays “border on dystopias; in other words, they deconstruct the utopian projects they take up."
Polish as a Foreign Language: Adam Ziajski in Conversation with Piotr Dobrowolski
Piotr Dobrowolski speaks with Adam Ziajski about the play Don’t Tell a Soul (Robocza Stage – Theater Residence Center in Poznań), created by a group most thoroughly excluded from the language community: the deaf. Dobrowolski asks how the people hired for the production met. He also inquires about the presence of Ziajski on stage, the video projections, set design, costumes, and holi powders, with which the actors use sign language to sketch a topography of language on themselves. The interview is a chance to elaborate on the directors’ residency motto (“Freedom, Equality, Theater”) and the idea of a theater that demands social responsibility, which he would like to create.
Natalia Jakubowa. Psychoanalitic Journeys – At Your Own Risk
Natalia Jakubowa’s article is devoted to three operas directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov. The first part of the text covers Claude Debussy’s Pélleas and Mélisande (Opernhaus in Zurich, premiere: 08.05.2016). The director situates the story from Maeterlinck’s drama against a backdrop of psychotherapy, stressing the role of language as a medium for images of the unconscious. Jakubowa chiefly focuses on creations of the protagonists and the nature of Debussy’s music, weighted toward the uconscious. The second part of the text concerns Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók, which is shown as a prologue with Peter Eötvös’ Senza Sangue. In the prologue, based on Alessandra Baricco’s novella, the issue is the cause of the ambivalent relationship between a woman and her assailant. Jakubowa points out the usefulness of therapeutic categories in interpreting Bluebeard’s Castle and stresses how conssitently the director merges the characters in Eötvös’ and Bartók’s operas.
Łukasz Grabuś. Opera Cracoviensis, or: Commonplace
Łukasz Garbuś writes of the Opera Rara Festival, devoted to Baroque music (Krakow, 18.01.-10.02.2017). He stresses that directors Jan Tomasz Adamus and Robert Piaskowski expanded the festival program to include semi-staged performances and vocal recitals, thus aiming to spark listeners’ interest in early, Classical, and high music. Garbuś devotes most of his article to the two festival premieres: Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka prepared by Adamus and Cezary Tomaszewski, and the experimenal A Madrigal Opera by Philip Glass, directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski.
Natalia Jakubowa. Shakespeare an der Wien
Natalia Jakubowa writes up three operas in last season’s repertoire of Theater an der Wien: Anno Schreier’s Hamlet, Antonio Salieri’s Falstaff, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. The author outlines all three productions, showing how the operas have been changed from Shakepeare’s dramas, and proving the thesis that Shakespeare in the opera will always be a rewrite, a palimpsest of sorts. Analyzing the opera, Jakubowa shows that there are more operas that question their proverbial “father-figure” in Shakespeare than those which submit to him.
Katarzyna Lemańska. “There is no I, and I testify to it”
Katarzyna Lemańska covers the Polish Dance Platform held in Bytom 1-4 April 2017. Although this year’s edition had no main theme, the author singles out the productions that thematized the body of the performer. Lemańska takes a closer look at three productions: Witajcie/Welcome by Aurora Lubos, Noish~ by Maria Zimpel, and Karo Tymiński’s solo This Is a Musical. Describing Lubos’ piece, she contends that he creates political choreography, oscillating around the topic of indifference, of Europeans’ disregard for Syrian refugees. In Noish~, Zimpel focuses on the body’s response to various intensifications of noise, and in Tymiński’s solo he sees a choreography that explores various experiences – from pain to elation, concentrating on the video that shows the choreographer having sex with another man.
Joanna Braun. The Material of the Circus
Joanna Braun describes the fourth edition of the Materia Prima Festival in Krakow (8-25.02.2017). She sees the festival as having met the expectations of a contemporary audience who wants a theater as “primal as the circus, as spontaneous as the dance, as refined as music, subversive as pantomime, as creative as dolls and masks.” Braun describes four plays in detail, focusing on their space, set design, and themes: La verità by Compagnia Finzi Pasca, Horror by Jacop Ahlbom, Pixel by Compagnie Käfig, and bODY-rEMIX/gOLDBERG-vARIATIONS by Compagnie Marie Chouinar.
Dominika Bremer. The Classics Done Conservatively
Dominika Bremer describes the 42nd Opole Classics Touch You Theater Confrontations. She notes from the outset that the performances chosen by the commission are taken from the Polish literary canon. Describing selected performances and comparing them with the jurors’ verdicts, she wonders what sealed the success of The Marriage directed by Anna Augustynowicz or The Card Cataloguedirected by Andrzej Majczak, and why such plays as Michał Kmiecik’s Cracovians and Highlanders or Paweł Świątek’s Constant Princewent unnoticed. The author concludes that “all efforts to update the content of the classic texts, to see them as a pretext for making political and social diagnoses” were undesirable, and the “key to staging the classics […] was a conservative one.”
Katarzyna Dudzińska. From Amnesia to Amnesty?
Katarzyna Dudzińska reviews BetweenHeroes’ Square andRechnitz: an Austrian Reckoning by Monika Muskała (Korporacja Ha!art, Krakow 2016). The author outlines the two spaces of the Austrian repression of World War Two history fundamental to the book – the Vienna’s Heldenplatz, where Adolf Hitler declared Austria’s accession to the German Reich in 1938, and the town of Rechnitz, where around 180 Jewish workers were murdered during an Austrian party in 1945. Dudzińska observes that Muskała gives the floor to testimonies that are “explosions of the past,” revealing what has been repressed, invisible, or consciously forgotten. The critic notes the variegated, polyphonic nature of the book’s materials.
Agata Siwiak. The Factory of Creativity and Subjectivity
Agata Siwiak covers Bojana Kunst’s book The Artist at Work: On the Relationships between Art and Capitalism published in Polish in 2016 by the Zbigniew Raszewski Theater Institute and the Theater Confrontations / Culture Center in Lublin. Kunst’s main premise is to rethink the entanglements of critical art and political involvement in an economic system that imposes hyperproduction on artists’ work, which remains precarious. Siwiak stresses the publication’s value as an important voice in the discussion on institutions, the state of the artist, the curator, and the viewer in the era of cognitive capitalism. She does point out, however, the radicalism of some of Kunst’s theses, which might put the reader on guard.
Jakub Papuczys. Normalcy in Capitalist Times
Jakub Papuczys reviews Magda Szczęśniak’s book Norms of Visibility:Identity in Times of Transformation (Bęc Zmiana Foundation, Polish Culture Institute, Warsaw 2016), which fills a major gap in visual research of the Polish transformation. The critic states that Szczęśniak’s book proves that “the absence of a thoughtful intervention strategy in the visual space or the sphere of image production brought about the absence of the working class and the leftist community in those times.”