Quentin Guisgand
Marta Górnicka: Requiemachine, Nanterre-Amandiere
www.inferno-magazine.com, 27.11.2014

There are 26 of them on the stage – all of different ages and professions – shouting, breathing, whistling and chanting a long poem by Władysław Broniewski, a Polish poet who once served the communist authorities. This text acquires dramatic new impact when collectively hammered out by voices and bodies on a tiered stage. By deploying this device, Marta Górnicka has created a work with metallic overtones, which oscillates between a poetic discourse and a political tirade with revolutionary connotations.

Human machinery

By attempting to work with sys- tems and ideologies based on the robot-man figure, the Polish director makes reference to the Great Depression and the Soviet occupation of her country. She disassembles the human machinery using the mechanisms of a chorus. Striving to create “a requiem for the world of the unemployed and the overworked”, she endows the voice with subversive power. Mouths wide open, foreheads frowning, eyes fixed on the audience, each performer is a combat weapon– both revolver and shield – disgorging onto the stage an abrupt language straight out of a former Soviet-bloc steelworks. The group reminds us of how the ancient [Greek] chorus functioned as something half-cathartic, half-tragically powerful. It also depicts how humans are capable of drifting into totalitarianism when man attempts to dominate man by means of complex and manipulative dehumanising systems.

Manipulation and domination

Marta Górnicka, the omnis- cient director, conducts while standing among the audience, controlling the group’s words, rhythm and movements. She leads the never-autonomous group, which allows itself to be kneaded into continued coop- eration, to the detriment of its own desires. The group effect is impressive from both a vocal and a bodily perspective, as it draws our attention to the words it incarnates. In actual fact, the chorus de- scribes the disenchantment of workers obliged to comply with labour discipline in order to fulfil sacrosanct productivity quotas. Framed in the historical context of the former USSR, these words ricochet, reminding us of how liberal our environment is. Freed from political constraints, how could we be sure that, inside our own businesses, we would not reproduce coercion mechanisms inherited from the authoritarian principles of yesteryear?

A submissive man; a dispossessed man;
a “depoeticised” man Frankly, the vision of humanity this performance conveys is far from joyous. One finds oneself feeling slightly anxious when faced with this black, white and grey-toned vision of reality. We refuse to believe it, trying to downplay the words by seeking counterexamples to reassure us that our place in modern society is valid. After This Is The Chorus Speaking and Magnificat, Marta Górnicka has presented us with a shocking work which cannot leave us unscathed. Allowing themselves to be carried away by the group’s distinct texture, the audience leave, having tasted the magnificent and guttural flavours of the Polish language. However, still not entirely convinced, they ponder, attempting to dispel the doubts the work has invoked. Consequently, RequieMachine is undoubtedly a truly avant-garde piece.

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