Łukasz Twarkowski authors theatre plays, performances, installations and movies, and is a member of the interdisciplinary Identity Problem Group collective whose aim is to combine visual and performative arts with literature, architecture and sound art. In addition, he’s a director at Polski Theatre in Wrocław and National Stary Theatre in Kraków.
Łukasz Twarkowski (born 1983) is a creator of multimedia performances combining theatre and visual arts. He places his projects in the context of extending reality through multimedia. Twarkowski made his debut in professional theatre in 2011 as the director of Farnielli, written by Anka Herbut and starring Bartosz Porczyk in the role of the legendary opera singer. However, at this time Twarkowski was already known to the theatre audience of Wrocław as the author of Lila Negr, a musical performance narrating the story of a Russian actor, Alexander Vertinsky. Twarkowski invited various artist to cooperate: sculptors, painters, video artists, and creators of electronic music. The viewers were invited to a completely different sort of encounter with theatre. The performance set Vertinsky’s work against the sensitivity of a contemporary artist and the possibilities offered by audiovisual art. As Paulina Chrzan wrote in Dziennik Teatralny:
In the theatre space of Dworzec Świebodzki, a scene with movable walls was set up. The white canvases surrounding its interior looked like an incubator, a shelter, or a place of hiding. Only the shifts of the wall fragments reveal what’s hidden from the viewer’s gaze. And so, first we see a man (Paweł Wenderski). He stands on a platform, singing a song in Russian. (…) The viewer gets acquainted with the character’s reality by means of music, concert performances of Vertinsky’s songs, visuals, film projections, and sliding walls which in some sense fragmentize the view of the main character. The moving canvases allow for a confrontation between the images displayed on them and the directly present performers.
Lila Negr was part of the Vertinsky Project, which was awarded main prize of the OFF Stream during the 30th edition of Stage Songs Review in Wrocław.
A theatre stage or a film set?
In September 2012, another project by Twarkowski premiered in Wrocław. Kliniken/miłość jest zimniejsza niż śmierć (editor's translation: Kliniken/love is colder than death) is a play based on the drama Kliniken by Lars Norén and Traumgruppe by Anka Herbut, a work inspired by German cinema of the 60s and 70s. The artists made the film set and a theatre stage merge again, boldly linking the two worlds and two different ways of thinking.
Paweł Soczyński wrote in Dwutygodnik:
The sudden change of plans, using both the micro- and macroscale, a rapid leap and slide – in this performance, just like on a tablet screen, zooming in, hyperlinking the content and reloading of images is fluid and natural like a finger movement. It’s real and virtual at once, natural and artificial, organic and binary, it’s both a real and a fictional act. The boundary between the two is transparent like an aquarium glass, separating the viewer from the scene.
Wyspiański, pixels and silicon – Akropolis
Akropolis _ TRAILER from Spectribe on Vimeo.
Twarkowski further continued his attempts at finding an innovative, audiovisual theatrical language in his next performance – Akropolis by Stanisław Wyspiański, staged in the National Stary Theatre in Kraków. According to the director, every generation should reread and reinterpret this text. ‘I think that this reality of ours is pixels and silicon’, Twarkowski said in interviews. Multimedia are critically important in the play. A computer and a speech synthesizer were used during improvisations. The effect of these extemporized conversations between man and machine was recorded and the video became a part of the performance. The director emphasizes that Akropolis is the most complicated undertaking of Identity Problem Group in terms of technology. As he further explained in Reflektor magazine:
Working on Akropolis has been like walking through a maze from the very beginning. One cannot be faithful to both the author and the text, which lost much of its communicativeness over the past hundred years. Nevertheless, every of its levels contains a huge vision and a provocation. I’m not even talking about what Wyspiański wrote in each of the stories, but of the surprising montage of the text – perhaps the first remix in our culture which was this radical. This kind of writing could have only emerged as a result of Wyspiański’s biography, as his illness and the awareness of the proximity of death made him indifferent to the expectations of others. We build our performances by connotatively joining the plots. We don’t construct them relying on the usual scheme: the beginning, the middle and the ending. We don’t create cause and effect relationships. Our way of constructing the world is based on close and distant associations which form new wholes. This work is a kind of a labyrinth leading from attempt to attempt and from performance to performance. It’s a perpetual conversation with the actor and constant linking of the senses during shared explorations.
The play has attracted a lot of attention from the critics and the audience. Michał Centowski (dwutygodnik.com) appreciated the latitude and the immense staging abilities of the director, and Aneta Kyzioł wrote in Polityka:
The design, the costumes and video projections create an atmosphere akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. Apparitions/memories/avatars/programmes stroll through this world/non-world. They enact and repeat the past in various variants. They have no future. It’s an utterly melancholic vision of a looped contemporary civilization driven by the past, constantly recycling and archiving.
Twarkowski’s play was appreciated by the jury of the 53rd edition of Rzeszowskie Spotkania Teatralne. The director was awarded the young artist prize (2014).
Technological fairy tales
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Two years later, in collaboration with IPG, the director squared up to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. In the play Grimm:czarny śnieg (editor's translation: Grimm:black snow) the virtual reality technologies were used in a theatre play for the first time in Poland. Thanks to this, the actor could simultaneously perform on stage and in the virtual world. The viewer had an opportunity to both watch the actor ‘live’ and follow his behaviour in the virtual world. Michał Centowski noted in Newsweek:
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The scene is inundated with the colour white - perhaps it’s snow, or maybe candy floss? Neon bonfires burn around, in the corner a mysterious, black cabin shines drearily. A glass coffin, perfect for a sleeping princess, is also here. This beautifully lit, minimalist world resembles an art museum more than a fairy land.
In 2017 LOKIS premiered in the Drama Theatre in Vilnius. The dramatical text, written by Anka Herbut, places three stories side by side: a short story by Prosper Mérimée, the titular Lokis; the life and work of the photographer Vitas Luckus; and the story of Noir Désir's singer, Bertrand Cantat, who beat his partner, the French actress Marie Trintignant, to death in one of Vilnius's hotels. The performance was a huge success in Lithuania – it was nominated to nine Golden Crosses of the Stage, the highest distinction of the national Ministry of Culture, winning four, including a Golden Cross for Twarkowski.
Sources: Polski Theater in Wrocław, PAP, dwutygodnik.com, Polityka, Reflektor, Gazeta Wyborcza, Radio Wrocław, Dziennik Teatralny Wrocław, written by AL, translated by NS, update April 2019 NS.