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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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Warlikowski’s plays attempt to create a shared space for actors and audiences, for the characters on stage belonging to various plots, for the outer and inner world, for theater and life. This shared space is born through reduction, extraction, and retreat. This is visible in the set design itself, and in the way the relationship between audience and stage is composed. There are a great many transparent glass surfaces or half-open, cracked walls, closed spaces which are only provisionally marked, which always have the potential to be universal spaces in the Shakespearean sense, capable of evoking various worlds, allowing them to intersect, open to new plots, characters, and experiences. This sort of space is doubtless the effect of many years of study of Shakespeare’s dramas and the ancient tragedies. The space of the stage needs to have a structural logic to facilitate the smooth unraveling of the narrative, it must use multifunctional symbols, and use mental shortcuts, reductions, and simplifications. Yet there is something beyond pure functionality at work here, for it is also proposes a living space – exposed, open, clear, and honest. Moreover, it is a design for social space that tends toward transformation. I read a very discreet allegiance to the constructivist utopia here, an art that reveals its rational rules to the viewers in order to incite them, to teach rational attitudes, to encourage people to change the world. The composition of the space of the stage is subject to the rigors of Classical art,...

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