ART OF LIVING
“Art of Living” is a radical stage attempt to achieve what seems to be impossible: to transpose George Perec’s legendary novel Life A User’s Manual into a theatre event. In this five-hour performance we balance between the need to write on the white sheet of paper, to recite certain words on stage, and to overcome the resistance and crisis that comes with this act of telling your own biography and history. In this particular case the very act of writing, set in motion by the author and dictated by the need to face up to your own life, tells a tale of cultural and identity exclusion.
In his metaphorical stories, Georges Perec has camouflaged a compelling image of the human being, obsessively searching for a place to call their own and yearning to salvage their biography.
“Somewhere, I am foreign to what is inside of me.
Somewhere, I am ‘different’; but not from the others, different from what is ‘mine’: I do not speak a language my parents would have spoken to each other, I share no memories they may have had—nothing that was theirs, that made them them, their history, their culture, their hope, was passed down to me.
I feel not as if I’ve forgotten,
but as if I never found out.”
(Georges Perec, Recits d’Ellis Island. Histoires d’errance et d’espoir,
Edition P.O.L., Paris 1980)
“His story anchors these lines in the eternal history of all refugees and nomads.”
(Claude Burgelin, Georges Perec,
Wydawnictwo Lokator, Krakow 2014)
Putting together the various pieces contained in the hundred chapters of the novel, like a puzzle, is therefore an act of self-preservation, of preserving the idea of a story itself and of preserving the existence of a community. Every run of this play is an attempt to reproduce Perec’s gesture, based upon the simplest of all the gestures: the gesture of co-existence and sharing one’s stories.
Katarzyna Kalwat is a Polish theater director, the author of interdisciplinary performances presented at the top stages in Poland and abroad. She studied psychology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and directing at the Aleksander Zelwerowicz Theater Academy in Warsaw. Her art is situated between theater, visual art, opera, and linguistics. Her work always starts with what is personal and private. Her most important projects have included: “Rechnitz: Opera—The Exterminating Angel” (TR Warsaw, 2018), “Staff Only” (TR Warsaw, Biennale Warsaw, 2019), “Holzwege” (TR Warsaw, 2016), “Maria Klassenberg” (Raster, Volksbuhne, TR Warsaw, 2020, 2021) and the many-hour-long “Art of Living,” based on “La vie mode d’emploi’’ by Georges Perec, created at the National Stary Theatre in Krakow (2023). She has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Olśnienia! for “Return to Reims,” based on the book by Didier Eribon (Nowy Theatre in Warsaw, Boska Komedia Festival, 2021). In their verdict, the jury stressed that the staging made brilliant use of new media, and that the role of Jacek Poniedziałek, based on personal experiences, plucked the viewer’s most sensitive strings. This work explores issues tied to language and the ways in which it shapes reality. “This intellectual trait (…) clashes with the animal element in humanity, as if we were observing the struggle between the Super Ego and the Id” (Gazeta Wyborcza, Magdalena Dubrowska). She has received a scholarship from the French Government, and the Cité internationale des arts Foundation in Paris.
Once more this season […] I’ve had the joy of watching a disinterested piece of art at the Stary Theatre. This time my hand will not quake before putting the prefix “master” in front of “piece.” […] The consecutive acts, the consecutive appearances on stage, usher in new styles, we go from lyricism to the grotesque, from pathos to clowning. Just as in real life? And how should life be? Like a play, of course. This is not life, after all, it is literature and theatre, a world artificially created for the viewer, but a world really being created in that viewer’s consciousness. The play happens by itself? If there are instrumental actors, as Bogusław Schaeffer once expected, if there does exist pure form in the human body, as Witkacy’s theatre anticipated, then we have before us a symphony for bodies and voices. […] The actors have a splendid sense of what to perform, though they are less inspired by the powerful characters than by their nebulous characteristics. This is enough, because a conductor’s hand and composer’s mind is in control of the orchestra. Everyone has their solo to play, but also a duet with every other character.
Artur Grabowski, teatrologia.info
Show presented during The Generation After Showcase.