I chose Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf as the basic text because the experience of endless and wild California nature is close to the experience of the tropical journey that Witkacy made with Bronisław Malinowski before writing his play. The plot unfolds a journey of a neurotic boy and his family from New Guinea through Sydney to the desert, which, read in the vicinity of the California Death Valley becomes something real, at your fingertips. Witkacy, raised in the Tatra Mountains, believed that nature can be a source of metaphysical experience that gives a contemporary man a chance to protect his individuality from the soulless social machine of Western civilisation. Patricianello’s journey is also a journey into the depths of oneself. The intense colours of tropical flowers, a dead, black abyss of a night in the desert and the heat of the red sun rising above it are the manifestations of this journey. Aldous Huxley in his iconic text Doors of Perception describes the mind-opening experience after taking mescaline (extract from desert cacti). Under mescaline’s influence Huxley understood how limited and vulnerable is the so-called “civilised” man who is actually subservient to the rational, who looks only ahead and who is deprived of the metaphysical dimension. Such a man becomes an automaton, a mode in a system. In confrontation with what is inexplicable, starting with his own existence, he is doomed to depression and defeat. Indifference is his illness. It is the Kala-Azar plague from Witkacy’s play that destroys Western civilisation.
The cooperation between California Institute of the Arts, one of the most important American interdisciplinary art schools, and Studio Theatre Gallery, was initiated in 2017, during the visit of Travis Preston, the Dean of CalArts’ School of Theater and Artistic Director of CalArts Center for New Performance. Preston was attracted by the idea of accessing and revitalizing avant-garde traditions, a process commenced by Natalia Korczakowska, the new artistic director of Studio Theatre. Their discussions quickly resulted in a two-step project. In June 2018 the artists from CalArts Center for New Performance visit Warsaw and together with Studio’s actors work on several performative projects, installations, video shows and creative workshops. Those activities, supervised by Travis Preston, are an artistic response to Studio’s site and tradition and will lead to a three-day CalArts Festival, June 22-24. The collaboration will be continued in Los Angeles (Fall 2018) where Natalia Korczakowska will stage a performance based on the oeuvre of Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Studio’s patron and muse.
The collaboration of the two institutions, initiated by Joanna Klass and realised in cooperation with Adam Mickiewicz Institute, gives an opportunity to refer to their comparable, open artistic tradition, avant-garde sensitivity and artistic legacy, that come together today, after years of individual development.
Financed from the funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland, within the scope of the Multiannual Program INDEPENDENT 2017-2022, as part of the “Cultural Bridges” subsidy program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.