Performance-installation by Łukasz Twarkowski, one of the most interesting creators of his generation, based on the novel of a contemporary Danish author, Olga Ravn. The story of The Employees unfolds in an undetermined near future, on a spaceship carrying people and humanoid robots. All crew members are subject to cold, bureaucratic discipline that is seemingly pointless. Under these extreme conditions, a closed community is forced to confront questions about the differences between the human and the non-human, and about the essence of consciousness.
Twarkowski’s The Employees, as well as many of his previous works, opposes the traditional understanding of theatricality; it makes the audience a part of his dystopian world, and not merely its passive observers.
In 2020, The Employees, a new title by Olga Ravn entered the library of dystopian science-fiction literature. In her book, the Earth has been annihilated. The story is told through fragmentary reports of the ship crew. The accounts begin and end at – seemingly – random moments and concern the everyday routine. From the scraps supplied by the author, the readers constructs their impression of the reality in which people miss the Earth and rebel against the formalised rules in force aboard the ship, while humanoids, treated as entities devoid of typical human sensualities, demand the ability to feel and develop their senses. The ship carries strange objects, artifacts of an ancient art exhibition which impact the crew in an unexplained way. Spaces described by Ravn are cool, white, resembling gallery architecture. At the end of the work, the ship as a form of a failed experiment, turns into a macabre museum.
Both Ravn’s novel and Twarkowski’s performance seem to pose one of the most fundamental questions about what human consciousness actually is. Are the brain and the mind the same thing? Science continues to find new neuronal correlates of sensory events. When we discover a simple and quick way to work out the functioning of the human brain, will we be able to build an artificial brain that, when inserted into a robot, will turn an android into a human being? What will AI algorithms do, equipped with a set of certain problem-solving tools, and learning from their own mistakes, when they exceed the possibilities expected from them by the programmer? Can a developing, constantly learning system of artificial intelligence cross this magical border beyond which it ceases to be merely an unbeatable chess master, and becomes a chess player who actually enjoys winning?
Łukasz Twarkowski (1983) is a creator of multimedia performances combining theatre and visual arts. He places his projects in the context of extending reality through multimedia.
A crucial element of Twarkowski’s creative work is investigating the ability and limitations of theatre as a medium and tool of communication. By permanent deconstruction of narratives, questioning the fixed habits of the audience and by meaningful usage of new media, Twarkowski creates a new, original language of stage performance based on multimedia and, more widely, digital technologies. In using these, Twarkowski analyses and observes increasingly complex relations between the Real, the Symbolic and the Imagined. In this area his works are innovative and at times pioneering.
In 2017 his work LOKIS premiered in the Drama Theatre in Vilnius. The performance was nominated for nine Golden Crosses of the Stage, the highest award in the field of theatre in Lithuania, and was awarded the Golden Cross for the best director.
In 2019 he directed a performance in Schauspiel Hannover, based on the cult French fairy tale Once upon a life, that was nominated by nachkritik.de for the title of best performance of 2020.
His second production in Lithuanian Drama Theatre was entitled Respublika (2020), coproduced with Munich Kammerspiele. Respublica is a production of a remarkable breadth and form which draws the audience into action and into a closed commune; it is a very immersive play and a composition of multi-layered, alternating narratives. Łukasz Twarkowski is interested in the secrets of the contemporary mindset, as well as the changed ways of receiving and processing information, so to reach this contemporary viewer, Twarkowski chooses novel forms of theatre which merge video footage, acting, visual arts, and music. The latter is especially meaningful in Respublika.The production was already invited by numerous European theater festivals and institutions in 2022 and 2023, incl. the prestigious Ruhrtriennale.
His latest work Rothko (2022) won 11 nominations for the Latvian theater awards “Spēlmaņu nakts”, including Best Production, Visual Artist of the Year, Composer of the Year, Choreographer of the Year, Director of the Year.