In Man For Himself, Erich From deemed loneliness unbearable, while asserting that happiness depends on one’s feeling of solidarity with other people, and with past and future generations. Our relationship with the past and future was what inspired Piotr Hull to devise the REM project, now back on the stage of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera for two performances, on 8 and 10 May 2017.
REM brings together theatre, ballet, literature, video art, and music to explore tensions between two ostensibly different experiences: of death and of sleep. Both death and sleep are highly subjective realms, while symbolizing the cycle of life and different forms of absence from life. While dead or sleeping we are absent from the world, yet it goes on without our presence. Hull manages to discuss these two forms of absence using highly aesthetic and sensual means. The grammar of his language consists of sophisticated images, subtle soundscapes, and sensual editing. Sleep becomes here a tool to activate memory and imagination, also on the audience’s part.
The title is a reference to the phase of sleep associated with vivid dreaming and rapid eye movement. Psychoanalysts compare REM sleep to dialoguing with self in the subconscious. REM sleep allows the dreamer to clear their mind of all drivel except for the most important facts, memories, concealed desires and fears. It is both a mental state and a sensual experience governed by a specific, if difficult to penetrate, logic: irregular sequences of images, lightning, bits and pieces of narration, and spacial impressions. The dreamer tends to experience faster heart rate, low muscle tone, irregular breathing, and brain activation. These symptoms are reflected in the piece’s choreography, imaging, and soundscape.
The piece has the form of dream featuring events laden with symbolic significance, all crucially important to human emotions. Conceptually, REM reflects on how fugitive life is; as far as perceptions go, it focuses on the sensuality of experience. Hull discusses time being irreversible; memory’s mechanisms; inseparability of dream, waken states, desires, fears and the everyday; the utopian quality of imagination; and aesthetic pleasure. The past, present, and future are not arranged linearly in REM but form a mosaic of thoughts, apparitions, and visions that strongly stimulate the audience’s sensitivity and reflection about self.
Piotr Hull is a producer, director, owner of the hairdressing salon Wilcza 18/1 and co-owner of the Barberian Academy & Barber Shop in Warsaw. But above all he is a dreamer whose work escapes superficial definitions. A hairdresser who has become a publisher. A publisher who has produced projects staged on Poland’s most prestigious stage. A producer who has organised performances in urban spaces. An artist whose work has been recognized and appreciated by the public. What brings all of his activities together is Hull’s specific aesthetic style. Everything that he does is marked by the purity of form and mathematical precision. Piotr Hull’s collaborators on REM are actor Marcin Bosak, Marta Fiedler and Paweł Koncewoj, first soloists of the Polish National Ballet, Sofia Rudnicka, a dancer and lecturer of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, Marta Radian, a conductor, and Anka Herbut, a dramaturge.
When: 8, 10 May 2017
Where: Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera
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Pictured: Fragment of the playbill for REM, photo: Darian Volkova