It’s the Political Economy, Stupid! Toward Progressive Forms of Participation
Jan Sowa reflects on the participatory possibilities of democracy. Referring to the historical essence of democracy, he reveals how far contemporary Western liberal democracies are from their Greek prototype while also examining the history of American democracy. He outlines the strategy of occupation as a form of opposition and a way to include citizens’ voices into the framework of the political status quo. He considers various models of workers’ democracies and participatory budgeting as blueprints for activating and empowering occupational workers and city inhabitants.
Patrycja Cembrzyńska. Profanization and Protests: Scenes in the Buff
An article on the motifs of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen. Taking a look at the bodies that appear in the public space and disrupt the prevailing order, the author writes of nudity as a form of cultural critique and a way to deconstruct patriarchal authority and masculinity. She shows that contemporary practices of political resistance draw from the carnivalesque script of a meeting between clothed bodies (representing authority, cultural norms) and nude ones (challenging the disciplinary form). We find out why naked protests enjoy such popularity and why they have become a political weapon of the opposition, and above all, pacificists. The text analyzes Artur Żmijewski’s film KR WP, the work of Baring Witness activists and the members of the Ukrainian group Femen.
Christel Stalpaert. This Body is in Danger! On Ecology, Protest, and Artistic Activism
The article scrutinizes deep interrelations between art and activism in the context of contemporary ecological paradigm shifts. Analyzing works by Benjamin Verdonck and Maria Lucia Cruz Correia, Stalpaert puts forward a model of art as eco-diplomacy of dissensus.
One More Thing: Monika Kwaśniewska and Piotr Raganowicz-Macina in Conversation with Benjamin Verdonck
Benjamin Verdonck talks about his wide-ranging oeuvre, starting from his interventions in public places, his collections of objects, and finally his theatrical and performance activities. He explains how he regards the tension between privacy and activism in the framework of artistic activity. Talking about his own education and writing practice, he explains meanwhile his reasons for forgoing developing his work both in the framework of reparatory theatre and collectives.
Katarzyna Fazan. The Photography Archive – A Machine of Memory and Death
The paradox of Tadeusz Kantor’s message in The Milano Lessons – “remember everything/ and forget everything…” – serves the author as a point of departure in situating the concept of the archive at the crossroads of phenomenological ideas and the concept of the trace. The unpacking of how to understand the notion of the archive (stressing the contradictions Kantor adored) allows Fazan to dramatize its function as a reservoir of the past and an empty place. The article reconstructs the process of creating the Living Archive within the Cricoteka, something Kantor saw as both a concrete place and a space for ideas. The material analyzed from the archives were the photography collections from the beginning and end of the Theater of Death. The article interprets a series of pictures of the mythologized work The Dead Class, which exists in a network of scattered photographic representations, making the “powerful” depiction dissolve and perish, and the photographs documenting Today Is My Birthday, which to some degree never existed in its final form, but survives in visual materials as an intact and complete work of art.
Katarzyna Waligóra. The Archive of “Failure”, The Failure of the Archive
“The Archive of “Failure”, The Failure of the Archive” analyzes archival materials on the play Blasted, directed by Maja Kleczewska, which premiered in 2007 at the National Stary Theater in Krakow. The performance was only held four times and was nearly unanimously declared a failure by the critics. The aim of this text is to supplement the official, institutional archive of the play with a conversation with people involved in the production and its audiences, to discover what caused the play’s highly negative reception.
Erwin Axer’s Library
Maryla Zielińska looks into Erwin Axer’s book collections which accompanied him at different stages of his life. She writes about two “missing” libraries. The first was associated with his childhood, the second with his first independent readings including both adventure novels and Polish romantic dramas. She also writes about books which Axer was exposed to as a student at PIST (the State Institute of Theatre) during the occupation, later as theatre director in Łódź and Warsaw, and those which he collected in his various apartments. According to Zielińska, Axer committed to memory books which were most important to him, thus compelled by life experience while not being tied to book collections which he had to part with.
Katarzyna Nowaczyk-Basińska. Cryonics – Immortality as a Language Performance
The twenty-first century is a laboratory for testing various ways of “immortalizing man.” Katarzyna Nowaczyk-Basińska delves into this issue, analyzing the activities of the Alcor: Life Extension Foundation – the most advanced research company with procedures to posthumously freeze human beings (cryonics). The author states that, given the latest technologies, questions of immortality basically concern subjecting the dead body to various experimental medical operations, changing its original form. Her point of departure is the semiotics of Charles Peirce; she claims that although immortality processes involve the transfiguration of the dead body, they in fact occur in signs (in language).
Dorota Jarząbek-Wasyl. The Bioarchive
This article presents the history of the acquaintance between Irena Solska and Stanisław Eliasz Radzikowski seen through the lens of their correspondence (held in the collections of the National Museum in Krakow, the Czartoryski Library). These documents not only record a relationship, but – through the personal items, intimate keepsakes, and single-sentence letters enclosed in the envelopes – they are an example of an archive that transcends traditional frameworks and classifications. The author suggests using the term “bioarchive” to describe the existential, material, and performative dimension of the biographical documentation.
Jakub Papuczys reviews the play “1946”directed by Remigiusz Brzyk, which premiered on 12 Dec. 2017 at the Stefan Zeromski Theatre in Kielce. Papuczys calls the strategy used by its creators in depicting the pogrom in Kielce “archival anthropology”. He notes that the director, together with the scriptwriter Tomasz Śpiewak, focuses on the traces, the scattered accounts, and the difficulties encountered in clearly determining the course of events. Papuczys welcomes the way the creators engage viewers in the performance and use archival materials like photographs and accounts by witnesses.
Katarzyna Lemańska begins her review of the newest play put on by the Polish Underground Theatre, “The Nation” (directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski), by referring to the history of the collective which was created around the Polish Theatre in Wrocław in an act of defiance against theatre director Cezar Morawski. Lemańska describes the formal tools and texts which are used in this production such as Virtual Reality technology as well as writings by Jerzy Grotowski.
The Theatre, That Is Something Worth Fighting for: Dominika Bremer in Conversation with Zuzanna Grajcewicz
Dominika Bremer speaks with filmmaker of “Cut-out”, Zuzanna Grajcewicz,about actors and actresses at the Polish Theatre in Wrocław. The conversation is about the process of creating the film, the circumstances of working on it, and the relationship the director has with the actors and actresses. Grajcewicz also talks about the present situation facing the Polish Underground Theatre, its status in the current political-cultural situation, and wonders if the existence of such an ephemeral composition as “Cut-out” is a symptom of a need for change in the cultural politics of theatre.
The Cursed Actors
The author interprets the play “Mephisto” directed by Agniewszka Błońska, which had its premiere on 9 Sept. 2017 at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, as an artistic manifesto on a Hungarian film by István Szabó and a novel by Klaus Mann. In light of the connection between“Mephisto” and Oliver Frljić’s “The Curse”, Karow analyzes actors’ statements regarding their situation in the face of a real threat. He notes the musical motif of the can-can being an important element towards building the narrative in Błońska’s production.
A Society in Need and the Pitfalls of Heroism
Zuzanna Berendt reviews “Superplay” directed by Justyna Sobczyk and Jakub Skrzywanek, a co-production by Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw and Theatre 21. It had its premiere on 11 Nov. 2017. The author pays attention to the way the play makes use of the figure of the superhero and its attempts at refashioning such a figure. She points out that its creators clearly situate the production in the current political and social context. In her opinion, Sobczyk and Skrzywanek formulate a postulate for conceiving a relation between audience and artists which can encourage real, critical discussion on the forms of cooperation in a society of people who possess different skills, views, and potentials.
Katarzyna Waligóra writes on Weronika Szczawińska’s play “The War of the Worlds”, based on Herbert George Wells’ novel. It had its premiere on 4 Nov. 2017 at Zagłębie Theatre in Sosnowiec. Waligóra observes that the director, together with Piotr Wawer (who collaborated with Szczawińska in working on the script and staging), altered the novel’s futuristic vision of the Martians’ attack on Earth into a reflection on how a vision of doom can affect 19th century bourgeois society. The author analyzes the way “aliens” are portrayed in the play and their impact on the seemingly stable world of social hierarchies.
Anarchy, Always and Everywhere
Piotr Dobrowolski reviews the play “K.” by Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski, which had its premiere at the Polish Theatre in Poznan on 4 Nov. 2017. It is a direct commentary on the current socio-political climate. He analyzes the significance resulting from giving characters the authentic identities of Polish politicians, typified by Marcin Czarnik and Jacek Poniedziałek’s acting methods in creating the roles of Jarosław Kaczyński and Donald Tusk respectively. Dobrowolski asserts that the play, set in October of 2019, is a forecast of the future, full of bitterness.
Women and War
In writing about operas based on the poetic novels of Ariosto and Torquato Tasso – Alcina and Armida – Natalia Jakubowa concentrates on their stylized gender roles. The author notes that while Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito dismantled stereotypical ways of perceiving the roles of women in their 1998 staging of Alcina, Ivan Alexandre’s staging of Armida and Adrian Noble’s of Alcina only rehash the theme of “feminine weakness” and do not confront how women are typically presented as sources of evil in operas. The author explains that the conservatism and the circumspection exhibited by contemporary directors manifest themselves above all in costume and choreography.
The Theatre – The Space of Identity
In describing the 57th International Theatre Festival MESS in Sarajevo, the author singles out three plays: Dorothée Munyaneza’s Unwanted, Mdlsx by the Modus Theatre Company, as well as Mai Pelević and Olga Dimitrijević’s Sloboda je najskupja kapitalistička riječ. She also mentions two Bosnian productions: Selma Spahić’s My Factory and Harisa Pašovicia’s Otkrivanje žene. In the backdrop of socio-political transformations and armed conflicts, she reads them as an attempt to define a country’s identity and notes the viewers’ reaction. The author wonders if the playwrights of Bosnian Theatre, which has been engaged with the past for the past two decades, should not pose new questions and look for different forms.
ANNA R. BURZYŃSKA
Truth, Truth, and Post-Truth
In her account of the International Theatre Festival Sirenos in Vilnus (28 Sept. – 13 Oct. 2017), Anna R. Burzyńska analyzes three productions put on by the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre: the play “Lokis” directed by Łukasz Twarkowski, “Three Sisters” by Yana Ross, and “Green Meadow” by Jonas Tertelis and Kristina Werner. These extremely different productions are associated by their examination of identity and the history of Lithuania, as well as the fates of its inhabitants from the perspective of contemporary life infected by the virus of post-truth and fake news.
Critical Theatre, War, and Affliction
Dorota Sosnowska writes on “UA Landing!” – A Survey of Ukrainian Theatres,which was held in Warsaw from 2 to 5 Nov. 2017. She examines selected performances juxtaposing them with the perspective proposed by the curators of the project Joanna Wichowska and Roza Sarkisian: with its critical and polemicizing potential, they believe Ukrainian independent theatre (contra the establishment) is an arena for radical voices and gestures of opposition against political oppression. Sosnowska proposes a different perspective, writing that the selected plays “enable us not only to inquire into the critical and political possibility of [Ukrainian] theatre, but also into the theatre’s unique identity rising out of the experience of war, trauma, and crisis.”
Kwaśniewska analyzes plays presented during the 22nd Konfrontacje Teatralne [Theatrical Confrontations] in Lublin, which took place from 6 to 15 Oct. 2017. They include Real Magic by Forced Entertainment, Death of the Pole Dancer by Eisa Jocson, three plays by Benjamin Verdonck, Still Life by Agata Maszkiewicz and Vincent Timarche, and Natten by Mårten Spångberg. As proposed by the curators, she places them in the light of fiction’s constructive and political potential, which enables one to think about what is impossible. In the second half of the article, Kwaśniewska writes on the status of the festival. After the end of this year’s edition, the organizers discontinued their collaboration with Marta Keil and Grzegorz Reske, curators who steadily shaped the festival’s singular identity, unique in Poland.
Outside the Community
The starting point of Olga Katafiasz’s account of the 10th Divine Comedy Festival in Krakow, which took place from 9 to 16 Dec. 2017, is the jury’s controversial verdict awarding the main prizes to Marcin Wierchowski’s “The Secret Life of the Friedmans” as well as Agata Duda-Gracz’s play “You’ll Be Pleased, Madam; or the Very Last Wedding in Kamyk Village”. Katafiasz appreciates Wierzchowski’s play, but strongly criticizes the image of reality presented in “You’ll Be Pleased…”. She also reflects on the absence of Oliver Frljić “The Curse”. In writing about the other plays shown at the festival, she asks if they in fact represent the important voices speaking on the state of Polish culture and democracy as claimed by the program.
Stories Written on the Town
Marta Bryś reviews the festival Genius Loci, which took place from 10 to 24 Oct. 2017. The author describes this year’s program from the vantage point of previous programs, pointing out interesting changes: this year, there were not only plays, but also installations, not to mention the fact that the events were held outside of Krakow. Bryś describes selected events, wondering among other things how their setup functioned onsite (e.g. the installation “School of Utopia” by Marcin Chlanda and Marek Chlanda) and how they affected the historical, memory-based perspective that was called upon (.e.g “Rabacja” [Armed Robbery] by Jakub Roszkowski and “W ogień!” [Into the Fire] by Wojtek Klemm and Mateusz Pakuła).
Little Great Mythologies and the New Theatre
In her account of the 4th New Theatre Festival – 56th Rzeszów Theatre Congress, which took place from 17 to 26 Nov. 2017, Justyna Wota analyzes two plays: “Bzik. Ostatnia minuta” [Kink: The Last Minute] by Ewelina Marciniak and “The Secret Life of the Friedmans” by Marcin Wierzchowski. Wota depicts the authors’ views which were integral to the play, examines the meanings of specific scenes, and highlights the role of the audience in constructing the world of the stage. She notes the attempt at defining the concept of a “new theatre”, an attempt that was devised in the course of debates and was also take up by the organizers in the previous edition of the festival.
Horizons of the Imagination
The author writes about the book Sztuczne natury. Performanse technonauki i sztuki [Artificial Natures: The Performances of Technoscience and Art] by Mateusz Borowski and Małgorzata Sugiera (Księgarnia Akademicka, Krakow 2016). Dobrowolski describes the authors’ main areas of research, refers to the concepts that appear in the text, and also focuses on examples made use of from pop culture. He concludes that reading the book “is an interesting adventure, allowing one to discover surprising connections and the interdependence between science and artistic fiction.”