Marcin Liber has been using the medium of theatre as a vehicle to explore mechanisms that rule the world of television quiz shows, reality TV programs. He scrutinized pop culture and dealt with Polish history and mythology. For feisty and punkish III Furie/ III Furies he received Grand Prix Konrad’d Laurel at XIV National Directing Festival Interpretacje.
Born in 1970, he graduated from the Cultural Studies Faculty at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Marcin Liber is a director, stage designer and playwright. He co-established the independent theatre Usta Usta in Poznań. As an actor he performed at Biuro Podróży Theatre in Poznań, and collaborated with Teatr Ósmego Dnia (Theatre of the Eighth Day), for instance, in its outdoor performance Sabat/ Sabbath (1996), and with the ensemble Porywacze Ciał (Kidnappers of Bodies) with whom he performed in Technologia sukcesu / Technology of success, Sztuczne oddychanie/ Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and Vol.7.
In 2000, Liber staged his first authored performance A in collaboration with Usta Usta Theatre. Inspired by Paul Auster’ New York Trilogy it was a peculiar criminal drama transferred on theatre stage. Liber offered his audience a very well structured intrigue as well as images and vibe of American metropolis saturated with dark humour, which on their deepest level refered to disintegration of postmodern identity.
Two years later, Liber collaborated again with Usta Usta Theatre on the production of The Cadillac. The performance was inspired by the medium of television. This, often appearing in Libera’s reflection means of communication, began to be used more boldly in most of his performances. In The Cadillac the director investigates into the mechanisms ruling the world of TV quiz shows and reality TV programs.
New media, audiovisual techniques
In 1996 Marcin Liber wrote the script for Autofobia/Autophobia. The performance was made after the tragic car accident that killed director’s friend who was also one of the actors of Biuro Podróży Theatre. Like many other shows directed by Liber, Autophobia was immersed in a mysterious, dreamy aura reminiscent of the aesthetics of films by David Lynch. The performance, in which no word was spoken, approached the subject of death with very suggestive and affective imagery.
In subsequent artistic projects Liber moved towards new media, audio-visual techniques, as well as elements of Dance Theater, which woven into the performances, became their integral components. For several years, the director has been collaborating with Polish Dance Theatre.
Liber appropriated the aesthetics of video clip, in which dominate quickly edited, rapidly changing, aggressive images. In terms of artistic genre, in recent years Liber is preoccupied with monodrama, many surprising possibilities of which he constantly discovers and presents to the theatre audience.
Liber covers his metaphor, hidden in charm, the dancers' movements and the melody, with a layer of literalism and roughness. All the elements are embedded in the cold aura of the screen, and they create absolutely unique aesthetics. The very common and universal interpratation of recent works made within the 2XU group says that the artist aim at considering human being's life in the drastic world ruled by pop culture. The characters created by Liber are often androgynous individuals revealing their nudity and intimacy in front of the audience. This video-clip aesthetics Liber's characters live in does not help to achieve the state of relaxation. When looking at the ubiquitous decomposition, social and moral decay, the spectator finds it hard to accept the vision of the world created by Liber. However, at the same time, he or she feels that this world is not only a part of the theatre reality, but somehow the spectator belongs to one of the world's dimensions.
A play in an old slaughterhouse
The most representative of the current artistic projects realized by Liber is the Triptych Sex, Drugs, and Rock'n'Roll. First part of the triptych - Erosion was staged in the hall of the old slaughterhouse, which Liber transformed into hypermarket. The second part – Rzeźnia lila róż/ Slaughterhouse lilac - rose was staged at closed down theater. The last one, Sympathy for the Devil refered again to the aesthetic characteristic of Lynch's films, however its literary layer was based on the poems by Allen Ginsberg. In the mysterious, exaggerated, baroque styled space, Liber created a terrifying circus, dark theater animated by naked devil accompanied by voluptuous dancers resembling prisoners in Auschwitz, who spoke out iconoclastic fragments of Ginsberg’s texts.
This infernal spectacle is illuminated by few stars belonging to the world of pop culture: Marlene Dietrich’s songs are performed by a transvestite, Warhol's most recognizable work - a can of Campbell's soup is mocked by God-dwarf. Faeces and blood overflow the artistic past and seem to stain anything that wants to be conceived in the field of art. Religion stripped of metaphysics intertwines with clichéd quotes taken from pop culture. Liber goes through bins and pulls out of them the most awful, most trivial, most inane images to combine them with an eloquent text, saturated with many meanings. This characteristic for all of his stagings effect of contradiction, on the basis of which Libera composes his performances, makes the viewer feel aversion to the theater or art in general, and makes one distrust the content expressed by the actors. At the same time, however, the world presented by Liber is so disgusting and exaggerated that thoroughly convincing.
In 2005 at the M25 Art Centre in Warsaw, the director staged Iphigenia moja siostra / Iphygenie my sister based on the text by Paweł Sala, performer by Usta Usta Theatre in collaboration with Le Madame club.
Later on, in 2006, he directed Śmierć Człowieka – Wiewiórki / The Death of Squirrel Man, performance based on the text by Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk. It won the Main Prize in the competition for the play about Ulrica Meinhof organized by Rozmaitości Theatre and Usta Usta Theatre. It is yet another performance dealing with transgressing borders, lack of possibilities to come out of certain entanglements which are caused by violence and aggression. TVP Kultura, a Polish National Television channel, organised a staged reading of the play that was subsequently presented at the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Theatre in Jelenia Góra.
Liber has also created AV, a spiritual testimony of the ensemble, digital recording of its history. Liber asserts that “Music and Images transposed into digits” is all what will remain form his ouevre. In 2007 he produced Bóg/Honor/Ojczyzna / God/ Honour/Homeland, a play based on Katarzyna Medycejska / Catherine de' Medici written by Małgorzata Sikorskia-Miszczuk, that premiered at the City Festival organized by the Helena Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica.
In 2007 the director staged Rekonstrukcja zdarzeń / Reconstruction of events referring to drama Przemysł II by Roman Brandstaetter. It was produced by Polski Theatre in Poznań in collaboration with hip-hop musicians from Poznań, and male choir. A year later he made Rekonstrukcja poety / Reconstruction of a poet by Zbigniew Herbert. Subsequent performances written and directed by Marcin Liber include: ID (2008), Zawiadamiamy Was, że żyjemy. Dubbing 44 / We inform you we are alive. Dubbing 44 (staged at the Warsaw Rising Museum, 2009), Herman Hesse's Wolf (2009, Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw), Bożena Keff's Utwór o Matce i Ojczyźnie / On Mother and the Fatherland (2010, Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin), William Shakespeare's Macbeth (2011, Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin), Magdalena Fertacz's Trash Story (2012, Leon Kruczkowski Lubuski Theatre in Zielona Góra), and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie by Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière (2012, Tadeusz Łomnicki Nowy Theatre in Poznań).
In 2011 Marcin Liber staged two of Sylwia Chutnik's plays: III Furie / III Furies (written in collaboration with Magda Fertacz and Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk) for the Helena Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica; and Aleksandra. Rzecz o Piłsudskim / Alexandra. A story about Piłsudski for the Dramatyczny Theatre in Wałbrzych. He also directed several plays written by the world classics: including Antigone Sofoklesa (2013, Nowy Theatre in Łódź), Stanisław Wyspiański's Wesele / The Wedding (2013, Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz) and Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace (2014, Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw).
Marcin Liber initiated Spring of death, a multimedia project created together with Paweł Dobrowolski and Krzysztof Skonieczny, and presented at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw. The performance is a compilation of performative reading, improvisation, images and music. Krzysztof Skonieczny wrote on his website:
Spring of Death is a dramatized collage of texts, sounds and images about people who are ready for death. The script was based on novels by Janusz Świtaj and Pernilla Stalfelt, and a repotage by Angelika Kuźniak and Anna Bedyńska. The news about Janusz Świtaj spread in 2007 when he wrote a letter to the president to ask for cessation of a persistent therapy, by tapping computer's keybord with a pen kept between the lips. He ask for the right to decide about his life and death – he requested to be disconnected from the ventilator as soon as his parents are no longer able to take care of him.
In 2013 Liber staged Być jak Steve Jobs/ Being Steve Jobs written by Michał Kmiecik, at the Helena Modrzejewska Narodowy Teatr Stary in Kraków. The play is a form of debate about changes that took place in Poland after 1989. Dagmara Olewińska worte:
The title Jobs is only an excuse to tell a story, he is not the main protagonist himself. He was created to considerate why Poland was not able to find such a state leader as the head of the Apple was for American society. Jobs fulfilled the American dream about improvement, innovation and leading the technical revolution. Poland after 1989 was supposed to be better and more colourful, but the only thing that remained are slogans about fighing for a new state. (Teatr Dla Was, 16.07.2014)
Liber staged also Jarosław Murawski's Na Boga! (2013), Carsten Brandau's The End Is Not Us (2013), Tadeusz Różewicz's Stara kobieta wysiaduje / The Old Lady Sits Waiting (2014), Magda Fertacz's Jak umierają słonie / How Elephants Die (2015), Marzena Socha's Media Medea (2015), Marcin Cecko's Fahrenheit 451 (2016), and Lars von Trier's Dogville (2016).
Magda Fertacz based her Jak umierają słonie / How Elephants Die on Anioły jedzą trzy razy dziennie / Angels Eat Three Times. A Day and Miłość z kamienia / Love Made of Stone written by Grażyna Jagielska.
The team who created Dogville was awarded with two Golden Mask Awards – for the best female leading role in the season 2015/2016 for Monika Buchowiec and the best stage design for Mirek Kaczmarek.
- 2010 – Woreczek Award from Jerzy Juk-Kowarski and Janusz Głowacki for the performance ID at the Festival of Directing Art “Interpretations” in Katowice; for an original adaptation of a poetical text, for the play On Mother and the Fatherland (together with Irena Jun and Beata Zygarlicka) at the 9th Festival of World Premieres in Bydgoszcz; the Bursztynowy Pierścień / Amber Ring Award for the best play – On Mother and the Fatherland from the Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin;
- 2011 – an award for the concept of the play III Furies at the National Competition for Polish Contemporary Play Staging, staged at the Helena Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica; an award for the best play at the 10th Festival of World Premieres in Bydgoszcz; An Award of the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation for On Mother and the Fatherland from the Współczesny Theatre in Szczecin at the Kontrapunkt Review of Small Theatre Forms in Szczecin; the Marshal of the Lower Silesia’s Voivodship prize for the best direction, for the play III Furies;
- 2012 – The Journalists' Prize for the best performance of the season 2011/12 for Trash Story at the Lubuski Theatre; an award for the visual form of Trash story (together with Grupa Mixer and Aleksandra Gryka) granted at the 12th National Festival of Modern Drama "Rzeczywistość Przedstawiona" in Zabrze; Laur Konrada – the main award of the 14th Festival of Directing Art “Interpretations” in Katowice;
- 2013 – Golden Mask Award for the best performance of the season 2012/13 for Antigone from the Nowy Theatre in Łódź; Grand Prix of the 13th National Festival of Modern Drama "Rzeczywistość Przedstawiona" in Zabrze and an award for direction for the play Na Boga! from the Dramatyczny Theatre in Wałbrzych.
Autor: Marta Jagniewska, grudzień 2008, aktualizacja, sierpień 2014r. AL, transl.GS, 17.10.2014; updated December 2016 ND.