We listened to many songs about war (the title wojna) – by The Beatles and Beethoven, Joanna Newsom, Bajm, Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello, The Clash, Black Sabbath, Kate Bush, Elton John, Rage Against the Machine, U2 and Dezerter. Songs against the war in Vietnam, war in Iraq, Wold War II and the Gulf War. Do we really know them? Aren’t we used to them so much that they all sound the same? Are songs written against war still anti-war songs? Do we know what we listen to?
It is not a coincidence that Komuna Warszawa is present at this year’s Malta. As its members claim, the theatre is a “follower and inheritor” of Komuna Otwock, one of the most interesting and distinctive independent art groups from the end of 20th and beginning of 21st century. Komuna Otwock operated from 1989, teetering on the edge of art and social activism. Founded by Grzegorz Laszuk, in 1990s it ran Galeria Miejsce in Otwock and then Dom in Ponurzyca – a community culture centre, tourist hostel, workshop and education centre, taking part in grass roots initiatives for local communities. It organized concerts, lectures, debates, social and environmental campaigns, e.g. advocating for the protection of fur-bearing animals, protesting against building an incineration plant in Warsaw or closing down Tęcza, a cinema and theatre. It perceived art means of opposing capitalism developing in Poland at that time, a tool for broadening the limits of freedom, tolerance and social sensitivity. Social themes also often defined Komuna’s art endeavours, which combined theatre, performance art and music. Malta’s older participants may remember a music and visual performance titled Bez tytułu [Without title] presented at the festival in 1998 whose key element was a survey – questions and the possible answers were displayed on white canvas. The group received Offeusz, Malta’s press award for the best alternative performance, for it. The award was funding for the production of a new performance to premiere in the main programme of the following year’s Malta and led to the creation of Deklaracja [Declaration].
The year in which Malta presents a performance by Milo Rau and in a series of meetings and projections we discuss his vision of theatre as an area of opposition against capitalism, practicing solidarity and emancipation; the year in which the Forum is tiled Ruchy Oporu [Resistance Movements] while Generator Malta, an activist part of the programme, is devoted to the earth’s social context, we could not fail to include in the festival, a theatre which for years had dubbed itself “an anarchist community of action”, promoting solidarity as the foundation of coexistence.
It is true that Komuna moved to the capital and in 2009 changed its name to Komuna Warszawa. Its belief in an anti-capitalist revolution gave way to coming to terms with the world (since the system will not change in the near future, we need to start negotiating with it). Yet still, Komuna’s present-day activities are driven by community-oriented thinking, believing in social, grass roots actions that are to lead to social gains and personal satisfaction, rather than profit, a desire to create a space for independent thinking and artistic expression.
Right now, Komuna is both a theatre and a production house. It organizes curated thematic series, supports artists who search for new forms and means of expression, not only mainstream ones (e.g. Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski, Anna Smolar, Cezary Tomaszewski), but also younger artists of the Polish performance stage (e.g. Marta Ziółek, Ania Nowak, Wojciech Grudziński).
The programme of Malta Festival Poznań 2021 includes five performances produced by Komuna Warszawa, including Morderstwo (w) Utopii [Murder of (in) Utopia] made by Grzegorz Laszuk in Tear Polski in Poznań.
concept, direction, script: Agnieszka Jakimiak
II director, space and visuals: Mateusz Atman
music: Łukasz Jędrzejczak, Jakub Ziołek
video production: Julia Taczanowska
starring: Natasza Aleksandrowitch, Klara Bielawka, Łukasz Jędrzejczak, Jakub Ziołek
premiere: 4 October 2019
production: Komuna Warszawa