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A conversation with Wojtek Ziemilski

Wojtek Ziemilski performed his “Small Narration” on Saturday evening. The audience seem to love it. Non-Polish speaking spectators, on the other hand, had troubles following the text, as it was impossible to read the translation of the script in a dark room. However, the visual part succeeded to convey the idea. The following day was marked with an expectation of two performances: Leszek Mądzik’s ”The Mirror” and Ziemilski’s second piece, “Poor Theater”. After the second, I had a brief conversation with Wojtek about his work.

When we met, you first mentioned that you’re a multimedial artist. To what extent does (if it does as all) the creative process differ for each medium?

WZ: The process changes with every single project, not just with different “media”. For example “Small Narration” was first a text, then an idea for a solo performance, which I kept working on in my apartment, inviting different people for work-in-progress showings. It’s a personal piece, and the process needed to take that into account. The one issue which needed some time to solve was what type of presence I needed to have onstage. It ended up being an exercise in restraint.

“Remiks: Poor Theatre” was first the idea for reframing a performance to bring out the question of culture as an overpowering heritage. Kids are the perfect performers for that, as they are shaped by the culture which surrounds them and is taught to them. The question was – can I create an on-stage relation with the kids which won’t turn them into “good performers” or “amateurs”? Instead, I wanted to showcase the struggle of young subjects who are beginning the process of adapting to the culture which surrounds them. It’s a tricky game, very risky, and the process is still ongoing – we’ve performed it in three different places with three different casts of 7-year-olds, and every time we change something, develop the performance further. We are letting the kids be our guides – there are parts which are fixed, where we want them to say a text or make some action, but other parts depend on how they act and what they bring us. We incorporate their games and ways of acting, so it’s a rich (and for me as director- extremely difficult) process. The division between manipulator-director-ancestor and manipulated-performer-descendant is much more blurred than it may seem.

What excites you about performing “Small Narration” and “Poor Theater” at this year’s edition of the festival?

WZ: I’m very excited about showing the two pieces together. They investigate questions of heritage and memory in different ways. At the same time, they both frame the question of performing as agency, representing someone or something, but also – gaining the status of subject.

What do you hope the audience will come away with after seeing “Poor Theater”?

WZ: I’m not an audience maker, I’m a performance maker. I create objects, or events, but leave the experience up to the spectators.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to see at the festival?

WZ: I can’t wait to see Xavier Le Roy’s “Low Pieces”. I’ve heard a lot about it, and Le Roy is an artist I greatly admire. Some of his shows I enjoyed more than others, but each and every one of them is the fruit of his genuine interests and current investigations. The research is never victim of the spectacle.