POZNAŃ: Close strangers

Meeting a stranger, inviting him to the table, singing a song with him or watching a play together from behind an intimate curtain… Everything that has been marginalized or even impossible in the theater so far becomes possible during the Bliscy Nieznajomi [Close Strangers] Festival taking place in the Polish Theater in Poznan.

Agata Siwiak, the artistic director of the Festival – inspired by the inscription on the frontage of the theater building reading “The Nation Unto Itself” – asks herself a question whether the theater/the nation/the community should really be only “unto itself”.

“(…) To be for others –  we have to be for ourselves. The boundaries of a community – the community that we create – have to be open and fluid, conforming to shifts and modifications defined by co-responsibility and the ethics of care for us to emancipate, meet people, evoke feelings, develop empathy, taste, feel, live, experience and be open to what’s non-normative”

says Siwiak.


The second performance, photo: Monika Lisiecka


That’s why, for the 9th edition of the festival, she has prepared a program that’s not only to be watched, but it is there to be lived, experienced, and created. During the festival, which was inaugurated on May 13th with a premiere of Drugi spektakl [The second performance] directed by Anna Krasińska, we will see remarkable and award-winning performances – Wycinka Holzfällen [Woodcutters] directed by distinguished Krystian Lupa, Aktorzy żydowscy [Jewish actors] directed by Anna Smolar or Michał Kmiecik’s Krakowiacy i Górale [Cracovians and Highlanders] among others.

We will also have a chance to experience two community performances prepared by artists in collaboration with people engaged in initiatives organized as part of the program Wielkopolska: Rewolucje [The Greater Poland: revolutions]. Dancer and choreographer Mikołaj Mikołajczyk takes to dancing with seniors from Chór Wrzos [Heather Choir] [The DECALOGUE Project - a farm imaginarium] while director Michał Borczuch engages children from a children’s home in Szamocin to take part in a theater performance [Stay, stay].

Malarnia will host Agnieszka Jelewska’s installation Post-Apocalypsis, which was awarded a Gold Medal in the Sound Design category at the 13th Prague Quadrennial 2015 – the world’s largest event in the field of scenography. Created by a group of excellent artists, programmers and architects, the installation, in a way, embarks on an interactive reinterpretation of the “voice” of nature. The viewers are surrounded by an audiosphere composed of current weather reports from selected places on Earth. Trees play the key role in the installation – when touched, they “quote” fragments of Polish Romanticism classical works.




Intriguing things are happening off the scene as well. Thanks to Siwiak, artists and activists from Poznan joined the festival and introduced the community of women and senses to the theater. Ewa Łowżył has discovered the witches of Poznan, the first one in particular – burnt at the stake in 1511 in the Chwaliszewo district. The theater will resound with a song in her honor performed by singer Ania Brachaczek, archaic singing female choir run by Malwina Paszek and experimental band Posoka.

What is the House of Women like? It is full of singing, conversations and simple gestures constituting the basis of everyday life. As part of the project run by Joanna Stankiewicz, women will prepare a dinner based on wild edible plants (together with Agata Bielska), create a performance under the supervision of artist Ola Kozioł [Oh, Mother!], and embroider a community, multicultural flag together with Monika Drożyńska [Flag no. 2].


Wild edible plants, photo Piotr Bedliński


What form will senses take in the Polish Theater? They will assume the form of a subjective experience that is the key to the conscious, emotional and emphatic experience of the world achieved through taste, smell, and touch. Curator Agata Kiedrowicz has invited artist Anna Królikiewicz who, in the main box of the theater, has created a multisensory installation Mnemozyne [Mnemosyne]. This is what the artist has to say about the work:

“Mnemosyne is the Greek goddess of memory, the mother of nine Muses, including Melpomene – the Muse of Tragedy. Memory – individual, based on a sensory experience, will play the role of a guide in the open-to-public space of the main box of the Polish Theater. Taste and smell – not sight – will be in the center around which the entire experience will revolve. The tension between visuality and sense, between everything and nothing, between the fullness of experience and the emptiness, allows the sharpening of senses devoid of the help of the eye. What is clear and manifest connects with what is borders on the impossibility of perception, what’s hardly tangible and volatile – what needs us to focus and listen carefully while experiencing.”


Mnemozyne, design: Joanna Jurczak


The installation will be open to public during the day, but also after the performance Krakowiacy i Górale from May 25th to May 29th.

Wspólnota Zmysłów [The Community of Senses] will surely engage our noses. Marta Siembab, the only Polish senselier (the sense of smell expert) – together with workshop participants: Theater workers and visitors alike – will perform a scientific and artistic process that will result in the creation of The Polish Theater fragrance. The course of the process as well as its results will be presented to a wider public, whose members will also become witnesses of the conscious creation of the sensory identity.


The Polish Theater Fragrance, photo Piotr Bedliński


Curator Agata Kiedrowicz herself will guide the audience through the unexplored spaces of the Theater and the multi-plot story about senses. The Community of Senses – a performative lecture will take place on Wednesday, May 18th at 7 p.m.

It is worth getting closer to strangers and close ones, who may be getting distanced from us in the rush of everyday life. The visit in the Theater seems like a perfect excuse to do that.


“Close Strangers” the 9th edition of Theater Meetings
13-29 maja / May 13-29
The Polish Theater in Poznan



The Community of Senses – a performative lecture, photo: Piotr Bedliński




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