German-Polish poet, essayist, translator, author of radio and stage plays and director. He founded the ‘Poza’ Video Theatre in Warsaw with Jolanta Lothe. Born on the 21st of October 1935 in Gliwice (then: Gleiwitz).
Poeta, eseista, tłumacz, reżyser, autor słuchowisk i utworów scenicznych.
According to the artist, the fault line in his life was the ‘head-on collision with Polish language and culture’ after his family accidentally avoided being resettled to Germany in the massive ethnic resettlement imposed by Joseph Stalin in 1945 when thousands of Germans were removed from Poland to Germany. In an interview with Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, he spoke of his experience:
As a German born in Gliwice, I didn't sense any hostility from my Polish neighbours. We managed to make friends with people from Lviv after the war. Varsovians kept their distance, and I was too young then to understand why.
The paradox of the Polish-German fate
After passing the Polish secondary school exam he enrolled as a chemistry student at the Silesian University of Technology. It was here that he made his debut as a poet. He was also a co-founder of the university’s satirical theatre, and in his capacity as writer and director, he observed the political upheavals of October 1956 in Poland that saw the rise of Władysław Gomułka and the thaw of Stalinist communism. He moved to Germany in 1958 to study courses in German, philosophy, theatre, and Slavic studies. He worked at a German radio station as a writer and critic and was an in-house reviewer and translator for major publishing houses. He lived in Cologne, Munich, Bochum, Berlin, and Radolfzell am Bodensee. Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz once wrote about Lachman:
One of the striking things in Munich was my meeting with Piotr Lachmann. He was a great person, yes – person. Intelligent, subtle, mature, and also reliable… An absolutely exceptional poet. Poetry gushes from him like from Gałczyński or Miłosz. He especially reminds me of Czesio [Czesław Miłosz].
Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, 'Dzienniki 1956-1963' (Diaries 1956-1963), Warsaw 2010
His poetry, which had been published in Germany in the early 1960s, appeared in Poland a short while later. He also published numerous essays. Through his poetic treatment of the paradoxes of German-Polish fate, he transformed his individual experience into a European dimension. The central theme of his works is memory. His poetry is a kind of vivisection that tries to break free of his traumas.
After Lachmann received the 2010 ‘Zarys’, awarded by a Polish-German periodical published in Germany, Piotr Roguski commented that ‘the “Polish writer” inside Lachmann can always look with ironic reserve at the “German writer”, or the other way round. Piotr Lachmann has been playing this game for years with huge success’.
In 1985, Lachmann took up permanent residence in Warsaw, where he and actress Jolanta Lothe founded the Lothe Lachmann Poza Video Theatre. As he once said of the experience:
My arrival in Warsaw was connected with the plans of my friend, Helmut Kajzar. He was about to take over a theatre and wanted me to be the literary director. We were thinking about staging The Bacchantes and travelling to Greece. These plans were interrupted by his tragic death. Then there was martial law. It was a breakthrough moment for me. I was totally confused as to what had happened. Though I had left Poland in 1958, I visited a lot and believed in the country’s huge opportunity as a civilisation – which Poland was not really aware of and which the West did not see. I saw potential here which slowly revealed itself, with its substantial capacity for surprise. Meanwhile, martial law caused time to stand still. In a state of shock, I wrote an account-settling poem about it, read out by actors from the Bochum theatre. My impression was that art in the West had become conventionalised, while here, in Poland, ferment was possible, something kept emerging all the time. Helmut Kajzar’s death gave me a reason to continue not so much his method as his words. I decided I would do my best to preserve what he had created, producing art that strangely blended Protestantism with Catholicism, and even with the Orthodox faith, because he got Jerzy Nowosielski, who had a unique attitude towards icons, involved in his projects. To Kajzar, images were sacred too, like words. Jolanta Lothe and I included the confrontation of these two elements in the ‘Poza’ Video Theatre.
The Video Theatre is an unusual theatre, experimenting with form while remaining consistent in its aesthetic quest. Its small-scale performances combine live acting with video projections. The video images appear on large screens and monitors processed by a computer that often produces extraordinary visual effects. Lothe and Lachmann’s shows, which draw upon the achievements of theatre, opera, happenings, installation, film, graphic art, and computer animation, create a new, original quality. The ‘Poza’ Video Theatre selects important texts from many sources – from authentic texts copied from ancient papyruses, through the Greek tragedians, to contemporary writers such as Helmut Kajzar or Tadeusz Różewicz.
The Video Theatre is based at the Szuster Palace in the Mokotów district. Lachmann has staged many innovative productions there that were also shown at festivals and arts reviews in Poland and around the world. He created the video-triptych Tadeusz Różewicz – Twarz Poezji / Tadeusz Różewicz – The Face of Poetry (1995-2005) in association with the poet himself, and the series E.T.A. Hoffmann w Płocku / E.T.A. Hoffmann in Płock, E.T.A. Hoffmann: z Płocka do Warszawy / E.T.A. Hoffmann: from Płock to Warsaw, and Hommage à Hoffmann / Homage to Hoffmann.
Lachmann once wrote:
Warsaw is a magical city, though its residents are not aware of it. Some find their own magical places at our Video Theatre at the Szuster Palace, during performances. For me, the magic of this place is also revealed when there are no shows. The first person who founded the Warsaw Music Society over 200 years ago was Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann. This was a meeting of Polish and German artists, despite all animosities and above any occupation-related divisions. The society was financed from the Prussian king's coffers. E.T.A. Hoffmann conducted Beethoven in Warsaw and was so familiar with his scores that he was able to write brilliant critical studies about him. Suddenly I found myself at the home of today's Warsaw Music Society, which rents us the premises. I constantly enter the domain of music, which unites words and images in our shows.
Bowed over the computer console, Lachmann controls everything in the performance. He is a contemporary demiurge of electronics transporting the audience into distant times and spaces, fantasy worlds, impressions, and images. No description of these performances would be complete without stating their most important quality: their aesthetic climate, their mood of taking part in something ancient, something more than theatre – a ritual.
Quotes from Piotr Lachmann were gathered during interviews with the author, Janusz R. Kowalczyk, who published this piece in October 2010.
lothe lachamnn videoteatr poza
- Junge Lyrik, 1960
- Deutsche Lyrik nach 1945, anthology, Berlin, 1965
- Doppelgänger in E.T.A. Hoffmanns Spiegel-Lachtheater / Doppelgängers in E.T.A. Hoffman's Mirror Theatre of Laughter distributed by Stiftung für Romantikforschung from the collection Hoffmanneske Geschichte. Zu einer Literaturwissenschaft als Kulturwissenschaft, Würzburg 2005
- DurchFlug. E.T.A. Hoffmann in Schlesien. Ein Lesebuch von Peter Lachmann, Potsdam (Kulturforum), a collection of Hoffmann's writings about the Silesia region, or written in Silesia with additional commentary and illustrations by the author
- Niewolnicy Wolności / Slaves of Freedom, Kraków, 1983
- Mniejsze Zło / Lesser Evil, Warszawa, 1991
- Wywołane z Pamięci / Recollections (Essays), Olsztyn, 1999
- Co-author, with Maria Peszek, of lyrics for her CDs: Miasto Mania and Maria Awaria
- Hamlet Gliwicki: Próba albo Dotyk Przez Szybę / Gliwice Hamlet: An Attempt or a Touch Through the Glass, Zarys Library, Messel (Germany), 2008
- Writing published in German and Polish magazines: Merkur, Du, Theater Heute, Tygodnik Powszechny, Twórczość, Teatr, Borussia, Przegląd Polityczny, Rita Baum, Dialog (Berlin), Śląsk, Gazeta Wyborcza, Zarys.
Translations into Polish:
- Leonce i Lena and Woyczeck by Georg Büchner (dramas)
- Poetry by Paul Celan
- Various works by Teodor Amadeusz Hoffman
Translations into German:
- Polnisch leben. Stimmen polnischer Katholiken (a selection of texts from Tygodnik Powszechny), Munich, 1987
- Vorbereitung zur Dichterlesung. Ein polemisches Lesebuch (a selection of texts by Tadeusz Różewicz), Munich, 1980
- Poesie der Welt: Polen (a bilingual anthology of Polish poetry with Renata Lachmann), Berlin, 1987
- Around 40 works, whose authors include: Jerzy Andrzejewski, Roman Ingarden, Helmut Kajzar, Tadeusz Konwicki, Jan Kott, Czesław Miłosz, Tadeusz Różewicz, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
- Akt-orka by Helmut Kajzar, Powszechny Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 22 June 1985
- Kajzar-fragmenty by Piotr Lachmann, Studio Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 27 March 1987
- Akt-orka II by Helmut Kajzar, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 23 June 1988
- Akt-orka III by Helmut Kajzar (images), Szwedzka Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 19 October 1990
- Operacja ‘Alkestis’ by Piotr Lachmann (photos), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 12 December 1991
- KaBaKai/RE-animacje by Piotr Lachmann, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 18 December 1993
- Powieść dla Hollywoodu / A Novel for Hollywood by Hanna Krall (script, stage design), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 18 November 1996
- Akt-orki by Helmut Kajzar (images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 30 October 1999
- KababaKai by Piotr Lachmann (stage design), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 2 February 2002
- E.T.A. Hoffmann w Płocku / E.T.A. Hoffmann in Płock by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (translation, script, images, video editing), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 29 March 2004
- E.T.A. Hoffmann: z Płocka do Warszawy / E.T.A. Hoffmann: From Płock to Warsaw by Piotr Lachmann, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre – Wielki Theatre, Poznań (Hoffmann Festival), premiere: 7 April 2005
- Hommage à Hoffmann by Piotr Lachmann, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre – Royal Łazienki Park (Cadet School, Grand Room), Warsaw, premiere: 22 October 2005
- firstname.lastname@example.org according to Euripides and Thornton Wilder (words, images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 19 November 2005
- Hamlet Gliwicki: Próba / Gliwice Hamlet: Rehearsal by Piotr Lachmann (images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 17 September 2006
- Wyspy Galapagos / The Galapagos Islands by Helmut Kajzar (images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 9 February 2008
- Warszawo, Gdzie Twój Genius Loci / Warsaw, Where is Your Genius Loci by Piotr Lachmann, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Szustra Palace, December 2008
- ZgrzYt by Piotr Lachmann (sound-images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 10 June 2010
- Ja Im Jescze Pokażę: Hommage à Różewicz / I'll Show Them: Hommage to Różewicz, based on fragments from Tadeusz Różewicz's play The Old Woman Broods, his poems Regio, First Love and Opowiadanie o Starych Kobietach / A Tale About Old Women, selected recordings with the author and fragments of Helmut Kajzar's play Gwiazda / Star, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 31 March 2012
- Sny o Mieście W. / Dreams of Warsaw by Piotr Lachmann, according to his 2004 play Opowieści Pani Hoffmannowej, ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, (playing E.T.A. Hoffmann: Adam Woronowicz, Misia Hoffmann: Jolanta Lothe) premiere: 20 May 2013
- Watogodzina based on selected texts by Aleksander Wat and Ola Watowa (screenplay, images), ‘Poza’ Video Theatre, Warsaw, premiere: 29 October 2016
- Bandyta / Brute (dir. Maciej Dejczer), role: Child Buyer, premiere: 1997
- Tadeusz Różewicz: Twarze / Tadeusz Różewicz: Faces, directed by Piotr Lachmann, documentary, produced by Media Kontakt and Odra-Film
- Moje Pojednanie: Różewicz i Niemcy / My Reconciliation: Różewicz and Germany, directed by Piotr Lachmann, documentary, produced by Odra-Film and Media Kontakt
- Szukamy Życia w Grobach: Tadeusz Różewicz, Powroty / Searching for Live in Graves: Taduesz Różewicz, Returns directed by Piotr Lachmann, documentary, produced by Media Kontakt and Odra-Film
German radio plays:
- Krönungsmesse (WDR), 1979
- Bis man sieht, wie plötzlich auf grüner See Gelb auftaucht (WDR) 1980
- Nachtzoo (SR), 1981
- Nun müssen dafür Worte, wie Blumen entstehen (NDR), 1982
- E.T.A. Hoffmann and Piotr Lachmann, Bożena Markowska's programme, Polish Radio Programme II
- Trwały Ślad / Lasting Trace, Bożena Markowska's programme, Polish Radio Programme II
- Two-hour live interview about E.T.A. Hoffmann in Płock, conducted by Andrzej Maluta with Piotr Lachmann and actress Jolanta Lothe, Polish Radio Programme I, 18 April 2004
- Jurzykowski Foundation in New York, 1981
- Paris-based Kultura Award, 1991
- Fringe First at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, 1992 (with Jolanta Lothe)
- Zarys Award, 2010
- Honourable mention for Ja Im Jeszcze Pokażę: Hommage à Różewicz, as well as the multi-year artistic experimentation with electronic visuals; 1st Rzeszów VizuArt Festival of Playwrights and Costumers, Rzeszów, 2012
- Fellowship awarded by the city of Warsaw to create Widmo z Freta, covering Hoffmann's years spent in Warsaw (1804-1807), 2019
- E.T.A. Hoffmann-Medaille, awarded by the Hoffmann Society in Bamberg, 2019
- Ich bin ein Spieler, der das Letzte auf eine Hoffnung wagt. E.T.A. Hoffmann in Warschau 1804–1807, a German book (on the same topic as Widmo z Freta) published on the 200th anniversary of E.T.A. Hoffman's death, 2020