Joanna Wichowska: A Clod of Earth, a Lump of Ice
A review of The Snow Queen directed by Michał Borczuch (the Jerzy Szaniawski Dramatyczny Theater in Wałbrzych). Wichowska feels that this play composed of Andersen fairy tales, describing the lives of polar explorers at a research site combined with the topos of the North as a territory carved out of ice, is ostentatiously anti-narrative, consistently incidental, dotted with many incompatible elements. Analyzing the characters of Kaja and Gerdy and their words, she proves that the artists depart from “fairy-tale magic,” a metaphysical aura, sentimentality, and Andersen’s didactic catechism. She also sees Borczuch’s Snow Queen, performed in a horse stable at the Książ Castle, as an example of site specific art.
The Most Important Thing in Childhood Is Being Fascinated by Mystery. Jakub Papuczys speaks with Michał Borczuch
Michał Borczuch explains his relationship to childhood as a condition marked by an unconscious and intuitive experience of the world, and an expansion of knowledge. The most important thing is being fascinated by the mystery of reality. The director tries to evoke this fascination in his plays, giving it to both the actors and the viewers. Speaking of his latest play, The Snow Queen, he notes that he sought to build a reality to communicate with the adult viewer, while maintaining a child’s sensitivity and the magic of the world present in Andersen’s text.
The Monopoly of the Repertory Theater. Jerzy Hausner, Krzysztof Mieszkowski, Agata Siwiak, and Bartosz Szydłowski in conversation
A transcription of the debate The Politics of Managing Theaters – In Search of the Source of the Illness and Complex Therapy, co-organized by the Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery and Didaskalia. The subject initiating the discussion was the reform proposed by Professor Jerzy Hausner during the Polish Culture Congress. During a stormy discussion, the participants unanimously agreed that the re-institutionalization of theater required a new regulation concerning cultural activities. This, however, would have to be based on general principles, and not on detailed prescriptions.
POLL: Bartosz Frąckowiak, Iga Gańczarczyk, Ana Nowicka, Monika Kufel, Joanna Wichowska, Ewa Wójciak
Commentaries on the debate on the theater reform in Poland. Bartosz Frąckowiak proposes that non-governmental organizations become an alternative route to the institutions, in which there would be place for those in search of their path as directors or experimenters, and for various kinds of interdisciplinary projects. Iga Gańczarczyk notes the lack of criticism with regards to the present structures. The creators of BARAKAH Theater comment on statements by Krzysztof Mieszkowski. Joanna Wichowska speaks of how difficult it can be to pass a new idea in Polish theater structures. Ewa Wójciak, in turn, says that one of the causes for this situation is the fact that Poland has yet to become a civic society.
Monika Żółkoś: The Voyeurism of the Zoo
Departing from the conclusion of Jonathan Littel’s The Kindly Ones, the author proves that zoos are an expression of the nature/culture dichotomy constructed by man. The author presents the methods of arrangement and the cataloguing of animals in zoos in detail, revealing the various power structures they contain: from the monarchic gaze of absolute power, through the dominating and subordinating gaze of imperial power, to the final definition of what is animal and what is human in the animal regulations created during the 3rd Reich. The way in which a culture looks at animals thus establishes the sense of the limits of humanity that it defines.
Kelly Oliver: The Right to Silence
A translation of a fragment of the book Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human –Kelly Oliver’s voice in the philosophical debate on the status of animals and their relationships with man. The discourse of human rights is based on the homo/animal opposition and the status of the Cartesian subject who denies animal nature. The author elaborates on the issue not only from a Cartesian perspective, but also from those of the Enlightenment and feminism, and the theories of Emmanuel Levinas, Peter Singer, Tom Regan and Jacques Derrida. In sum, Kelly states that there is no single opposition between human and non-human.
Filip Lipiński: Rosalind Krauss: Going Beyond Modernism?
The author describes the work of Rosalind Krauss as a process of rewriting the history of modernism from the perspective of structuralism, post-structuralism, and psychoanalysis. The present text attempts a critical analysis of Krauss’ research approach and the strategies she developed, i.e. the negation of Clement Greenberg’s concept of modernism and the Cartesian non-corporeality of seeing, and the deconstruction of the great narratives of modernism (which she calls myths). The scholar makes a significant adjustment to the meaning of “medium” as a term – instead of a “material substance” that supports an image, she suggests “technical substance.” In conclusion, the author ponders the results of Krauss’ query: “Who are we?”
Rosalind Krauss: The Im /pulse of Seeing
The Im /pulse of Seeing is a critical appraisal of American scholar Clement Greenberg’s paradigm of modernism. Krauss is interested in the concept of the “corporeality” of seeing in discourse. The titular pulse, rhythm, or strike is the effect of the workings of the mental apparatus and the libido energy that affects seeing. Against Greenberg’s concept, the author selects a work “pulsing with life,” in which a libidinal transgression of the conventional system of representation occurs, by which we might describe the process of thematizing this phenomenon. Krauss draws from Freud and Lyotard, showing that visual perception is conditioned by both changing technologies of seeing, and by the complex temporality of the mental apparatus.
White Knights. Yve-Alain Bois speaks with Rosalind Krauss
An interview concerning the latest book by Rosalind Krauss, Under Blue Cup – a very personal publication, describing the author’s loss of memory and the stages by which she regained it. This private dimension is closely tied to the issue of the medium. The researcher analyzes the way the installation worked in the space of the “white cube” – the traditionally defined museum. She recalls works by Harun Farocki, Sophie Calle, Christian Marclay, James Coleman, Anselm Kiefer, and Marcel Duchamp.
Justyna Stasiowska: Right Here, Right Now – Performance Aspects of DJ Sets in Clubs
The author analyzes the performative situation of a DJ in a club, and presents how a remix functions in this situation. She sketches out the history of the DJ, who ought less to be called an artist than a performer. From this perspective, she also examines ways of manipulating the audience’s perception apparatus.
Monika Kwaśniewska: From Rebel to Expert. The Media Images of Jan Klata
The author analyzes Jan Klata’s strategies of self-representation, tracing his statements in the media. Kwaśniewska wonders what has led to Klata becoming the face of the new political theater, only to evolve into the “specialist on Polishness,” an “expert” of sorts on national issues. Following his statements, she indicates many contradictions and anachronisms. Ultimately she concludes: “Jan Klata’s images turned out to have equal media attraction, though neither was effective as a critical language.”
Łukasz Zatorski: Utopia in Action: Political Critique as Rhizome of Performances
The author analyzes the work of the Political Critique community in detail, situating it in the context of the performative. He believes that the performative aspect of Political Critique works on the basis of the rhizome described by Deleuze and Guattari. With these tools, Zatorski analyzes two kinds of Political Critique performances: substantial performances, aiming to imply the existence of a stable conceptual core and an internal ethos, as well as self-referential performances, revealing the performative nature of the movement’s activities, and aiming to convince people of the practical abilities and political efficacy of this community.
Łucja Iwanczewska: Marilyn Monroe – Dislocation
Łucja Iwanczewska ponders the phenomenon of the power of the visibility and physicality of Marilyn Monroe, which is constantly explored in many fields. She attempts to say whence the power of this image derives. Surveying the actress’s way of being in life and in art from the perspective of Pierre Legendre’s and Jacques Lacan’s philosophies, she proves that her staged behavior arose from her lack of a Father Figure, and from seeking to eliminate the alienation of her own body and image, creating a subjective constitution of herself. In the author’s opinion, Krystian Lupa successfully showed this process in his play Persona: Marilyn.
Katarzyna Fazan: Like a Dog. Coetzee/ Lens/ Kleczewska – A Crippled Opera
The author analyzes a performance premiered during the Malta Festival: Slow Man (Wielki Theater in Poznań), whose libretto was inspired by a novel by J.M. Coetzee, with music by Nicholas Lens, and directed by Maja Kleczewska. Her “crippled opera” oscillates between reality and a nightmarish dream. This study of the horror of solitude or anxiety toward people is fit into the precise logic of opera’s music/poetry construction. In conclusionthe author compares Kleczewska’s play with another novel by the South African novelist adapted for the stage by Kornel Mundruczó, Disgrace, which was presented at the same festival.
Aleksander Laskowski: The Music Draws out the Meaning of the Libretto
Aleksander Laskowski points out that Nicholas Lens – the creator of the opera Slow Man – brilliantly handled the proportions between the expressive and suggestive works by J. M. Coetzee used for the libretto and music by using innovative techniques in their composition and adaptation (e.g. splitting the characters in two: one that sings and one that speaks). Moreover, Lens enhances the characters emotionally, and lends the text new meaning with his musical ideas. The reviewer believes that in her staging of Lens’ opera, Kleczewska attempts primarily to emphasize this depth and the psychological complexity of Coetzee’s characters, while maintaining the tension contained in the musical layer.
Natalia Jakubowa: The “White Western Man” is Aging, but Still Has Our Sympathy
This interpretation of Luk Perceval’s adaptation of Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) is dominated by mannequins of the black residents of South Africa, which never leave the stage. These mannequins cling to the car during the scene of Lucy’s rape, the play’s various protagonists emerge from and disappear into them, they become silent witnesses of the story being told. To the reviewer’s mind, the director thus reveals the essential lack of balance in Coetzee’s novel, which, in spite of direct references to the relations between “white” and “black” people in post-colonial South Africa, dwells only upon what is found on his side of the demarcation line.
Maryla Zielińska: Knowest Thee This Land
A text devoted to two premieres at the Polski Theater in Bydgoszcz, presented under the tag line “Indignados”: The Country’s in a Bad Way: In the Wonderland of Capitalism by Weronika Szczawińska (scriptwriter and director) and Mateusz Pakuła (text),and Popiełuszko by Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk, directed by Paweł Łysak. In their play inspired by the trial of Tony Judt, Szczawińska and Pakuła speak of the generation born in the early 1980s, inquiring into the reality that surrounds them. The performance is hurt, however, by its short-cuts, roughness, and superficiality. Popiełuszko, in turn, pertains to the lost past and the community that once existed. The message of the play, both comedic and peppered with serious topics, is blurred by a stumbling execution.
Liberty Exercises. Marta Bryś speaks with Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk
Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk speaks of her work on the play Popiełuszko, recently staged at the Polski Theater in Bydgoszcz. The playwright says that in the figure of the priest she was chiefly interested in his drive for knowledge and freedom, which meant he could give sermons that strengthened the moral fibers of thousands of people. Sikorska-Miszczuk feels that this inborn sense of freedom was the main motor behind his actions and perseverance. She was also interested in the fact that Popiełuszko had both the Communist Party and the Church against him.
Another Reality Is Possible. Tomasz Kowalski speaks with Weronika Szczawińska and Mateusz Pakuła
Tomasz Kowalski speaks with Weronika Szczawińska and Mateusz Pakuła on the subject of their latest play – The Country’s in a Bad Way. They chose a childlike aesthetic to serve as a response to the language of experts and the closed discourses of power/knowledge. In their view, art should show an alternate reality, and prove that one is possible.
Joanna Targoń: A Hamlet that Is Not Like a Sponge
Recalling Jan Kott’s famous assertion that Hamlet is like a sponge, Taroń claims: “Maciej Englert’s Hamlet absorbs no contemporary culture, the play is essentially antiquated, though its costumes and set design gesture toward the present” (Współczesny Theater in Warsaw). In describing the play she devotes the most space to Borys Szyc (Hamlet), comparing his role with Mel Gibson’s in Franco Zeffirelli’s adaptation. The critic concludes by saying that the director’s aim to free Hamlet from the commentaries that have sprung up around it resulted in an illegible interpretation of the drama.
Piotr Olkusz: Before the Role
Paweł Passini’s Ancient Tragedies (Wojciech Bogusławski Theater in Kalisz, Jerzy Grotowski Institute, neTTheatre, Culture Center in Lublin, Artes Liberales Interdisciplinary Research Institute of Warsaw University, the Near East Artists’ Association), based on three texts by Euripides (Iphigenia at Aulis, Orestes, and Bacchae), is the first part of the “Dynamics of Metamorphosis” project devoted to the reconstruction of ancient acting technique. In Piotr Olkusz’s opinion, Passini chiefly inquires into the limits of metamorphosis, not of the actors themselves, but of the viewers, who are interested to know how the actor’s experience of “becoming someone else” transforms into shared human experience.
Agata Łuksza: On Seduction
The concept of seduction is, according to the reviewer, the central point in Radosław Rychcik’s Dangerous Liaisons (S. Żeromski Theater in Kielce). The director explores various ways in which theater can “seduce” the viewer. Agata Łuksza believes that Dangerous Liaisons is a theatrical experiment, a game, a ritual exchange with the viewer, rather than a performance with a thesis, containing a pointed diagnosis of human nature.
Piotr Dobrowolski: You Will Always Love Me
The Woman from the Past, performed at the Bałtycki Dramatyczny Theater in Koszalin and directed by Ewelina Marciniak, is a play whose success depends on the emotional participation of the actors. It focuses on rendering the psychological and emotional nuances contained in the drama. The critic believes that the director brilliantly managed to guide a four-person cast, whose emotional and physical commitment often goes beyond theatrical signification.
Ewa Bal: Silesia as a Terrain for Discursive Requirements of Polishness
The author analyzes the plays Love in Köningshütte by Ingmar Villqist, Cholonka by Korez Theater, and Leszek Sobieraj’s drama The Otherworldly Dwarf. She sees them as attempts to revindicate the Silesian identity and to find a language for expressing this identity isolated from the imposed cliches and dominant discourses. Through post-colonial theories, the author locates two tendencies. Villqist builds essential forms of cultural identity deriving from the survival of the community over time. The two other pieces attempt to grasp Silesian identity as an expression of cultural negotiation and performative staging. Thus conceived, this identity is fluid, hybrid, and short-lived, making it more akin to tendencies recognized in multicultural societies.
Monika Muskała: Documentaries, Sentiments, Politics, and the Swastika
The main theme of this year’s Wiener Festwochen was the economic crisis and the growing disillusionment with theater and theatricality. In most of the plays presented at the festival documentary film material dominated over the stage performance. The result was more chaos and numerous simplifications than new and engaging artistic forms. Simplifications were also found in the plays’ concepts. Cheap moralizing dominated the festival, using noble humanism to mask cultural colonialism – which was politely applauded by the bourgeois Viennese audiences.
Anna R. Burzyńska: In the Net
The author analyzes two plays of the ten best German-language performances put on during the Berlin Theatertreffen Festival. Macbeth, directed by Karin Henkel, had an ambiguous reception – some missed the fleshed-out Shakespearean characters, others admired the director’s bold interpretation. There was only enthusiasm, on the other hand, for Kill your Darlings! Streets of Berladelphia by René Pollesch, featuring Fabian Hinrichs. The author also notes that the festival performances were strongly rooted in the context of the current political events.
Magdalena Talar: What Is Thinkable
This report on this year’s 21st International Kontakt Theater Festival in Toruń is centered on an analysis of what the author believes to be the three most interesting performances: Firepit by the Dutch Theater Ro, Black Milk by Alvis Hermanis, and Bela Pinter’s Rag. The creators of these plays give the floor to the Other in a very moving manner, which to some degree diagnoses the state of the contemporary society.
Aleksandra Kamińska: The Capacity of Small Forms
The author states that the 47th KONTRAPUNKT Review of Small Theater Forms in Szczecin was remarkably successful. The causes of this were both the high level and variety of the plays, and the impressive formal and thematic scope of this year’s edition. Most of the performances oscillated around the possibility of art having an effect on reality. The most interesting play addressing this subject was Verkommenes Ufer Medeamaterial Landschaft mit Argonauten / Mommsens Block, based on texts by Heiner Müller and directed by Dimitr Gotscheff.
Thomas Irmer: Reality Theater. The End of the Matthias Lilienthal Era at Berlin’s HAU
This article begins with a brief outline of the activities of the HAU Center in Berlin, the site of many alternative and bold plays and the debuts of many presently recognized German artists. The author describes the center’s latest project, directed by Matthias Lilienthal: an adaptation of the controversial Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, created as a sort of urban parcour, where every station is a different director’s attempt to create a fragment of the novel. This tactic is meant to strengthen the strand of the novel that seeks to disillusion and is critical of Western culture.
Jolanta Łada: The Flying Businessman
A review of The Flying Dutchman rendered by Jan Philipp Gloger for the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. Łada begins her text by describing the scandal that accompanied Yevgeni Nikitinov’s resignation from the main role, owing to the swastika tattooed on his chest. Regardless of these circumstances, the author anticipates success for the performance, because: “Although Gloger’s staging intensifies the pessimistic mood of Wagner’s opera, it is fairly legible to the contemporary viewer.”
Friederike Felbeck: “If Something’s Going to change, We’ll Have to Live Through It!”
A review of Maria based on the drama by Isaac Babel, directed by Andrei Breth (Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus). Maria is a merely eight-page drama concerning the effects of the Russian revolution, sketching portraits of the transformations of St. Petersburg’s society circa 1920 in short scenes. While maintaining detailed precision in the staging, the director managed to insert an air of the contemporary and the problems we now face. This gave the play the sense of a fascinating and passionate travel through time in which the viewers arrive at the conclusion that we need only one more financial crisis, one more step toward the breakdown of Europe, or a protest, and history could repeat itself.
Joanna Braun: The Real and the Virtual in the Puppet Theater
The author describes a few plays performed at this year’s 25th International Puppet Art Festival in Bielsko-Biała, including Klaus Obermaier, Frank Soehnle, and the Finnish WHS group. She takes the concept of the matrix as a shared point of departure – she describes plays that build parallel worlds, so that the illusion they create captures the viewer in a multimedia network. The puppet shows described are not only based on animating dolls, but cross into the present day, as represented by the new media.
Paweł Dobrowolski: Animations
Reviewing Krzysztof Bieliński’s BTL – Puppets photo book, Paweł Dobrowolski notes that the innovative perspective visible in the layout of the photographs, the manner of framing, perspective, and the choice of plays, are great aspects of the book. Bieliński’s strategy is to break down stereotypes in how we think and see: arranging together several photographs of the same scene, his montages demolish the illusion of stage presentations, ignoring chronological development.
Beata Guczalska: Occupation or Collaboration?
In an essay inspired by Dorota Sajewska’s latest book, Occupied by the Media, Beata Guczalska shares reflections on the subject of the social significance of theater. Guczalska believes that the most important issues that emerge from the book concern how theater is capable of heralding social transformation. The author believes that the theater artist, who long ago lost his/her status of the prophet leading the masses, is always to a greater or lesser degree interwoven in the mechanisms of various systems and ideologies. This is why, Guczalska believes, we ought now to inquire if instead of producing plays we ought to be debating the idea of theater – its collapse and lifelessness on the one hand, and the capacity to function in a different, radically changed form on the other.
Joanna Jopek: One Slogan: Make Room
The author reviews Dorota Sajewska’s Occupied by the Media. Our modernity is suffering the titular occupation. Sajewska has written a strident work, an attempt to salvage the category of the community, or even plurality. After a few sketches to outline the issue, a range of interviews are provided, which situate the book in a polemic role against narratives that appeal to the community experience. Sajewska’s book makes room for something new in the debate.