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Warlikowski: Extra Ecclesiam

Translated by Soren Gauger


Grzegorz Niziolek

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s work stands among the most remarkable phenomena in post-1989 European theater. This book joins Warlikowski’s theater with the dynamic changes in Polish society following 1989, using strategies borrowed from psychoanalysis, theater anthropology, performance studies, and cultural poetics. This book is not only about an artist of the theater, but above all about the theater production as an object of the audience’s desire, an object evoking fascination, revulsion, aversion, and opposition. This is why the performances are analyzed as a series of flash-points, constellations with powerful affective impacts. It focuses on fragments of social rituals, material objects with major potential to spark audience emotions, and gestures of violence. The piecemeal narrative serves to cull out aspects of Warlikowski’s performances that could be read as symptoms of social drama.
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The Bacchae, Cleansed, and The Tempest begin with a monologue: a confession, an accusation, an attack, a comforting. These monologues are inscribed with the experience of suffering, wounding, injury; it is from this experience that human speech is born, along with inter-human relationships, acts of violence, attempts to forge bonds, bodily mutilation, provocation, and transgression. The damaged monologue is the source of Warlikowski’s theater, but not its horizon; this is not a theater of the ego, an oneiric theater based on a solopsistic world view. Warlikowski establishes the monologue as a social experiment, makes it part of a living relationship with the audience. The injury and wounds pertain to a real, though repressed, situation, begging for exposure, a return, a re-entry into human relationships, an attack on social routines. It is at this moment that Warlikowski’s theater begins, born where phantasm reveals a rupture between the real and the symbolic, the injury and the culture, the psychological and the social. For this reason he cannot leave the realm of extreme experiences, constantly pushing them to the foreground, staging them with glaring theatricality, though nor can he abandon the realm of the story, the monologue, human speech inflicted with the expression of a wounded situation.

This powerful presence of the wounded monologue in the structure of the performance leads to a clear sketch of the narrative situation. We discover an “I” who performs an act of confrontation: one story clashes with all the others, violently upsetting it...

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