My Century / Mój wiek' at the Miłosz Festival June 2016: Krakow
An amazing few days in Krakow to attend and present a brand new commissioned collaborative performance for the Miłosz Festival, thanks to the brilliant curator Justyna Jochym. The project came about thanks to the International Literature Showcase Fund and I was able to work with Tom Jenks and Weronika Lewandowska on the piece, which was a multi-part experimental response to the book My Century / Mój wiek, essentially a massive interview Czesław Miłosz conducted with Aleksandr Wat at the end of his life.
The book has been a favourite of mine for a very long time, I found it so extraordinary when I first came across it, learnt so much about the Polish avant-garde, Polish political history and developed such a powerful respect for Wat, his work and his character, that this opportunity, to connect to the Milosz Festival, was a perfect way to express my feeling that the work should get more attention.
Weronika was a revelation to work with, so generous and so talented. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Polish poets for some years now but rarely come across someone with what I might term truly innovative aesthetics but Weronika has that. And to work with Tom Jenks again, always such a great experience – so full of humour and humility and enthusiasm. We worked tirelessly to bring lots of material to bear in a matter of a few days, working with staged readings, new poetry and texts, performance art, conceptual texts and videoart. The whole process was such a pleasure and very generative.
On the night, in the program entitled Off Milosz, held at Kolanko No.6 in Krakow, we had a blast. From Weronika’s amazing technical skills, to Tom’s brilliant readings, to me stuffing bread into my face while holding a mirror. It was a perfect example of what I’ve been enthusiastic to do for so long – to travel and collaborate, and in so doing, build generous experience and new friendships.
From the festival program: -- In "My Century" the great Polish poet Aleksander Wat provides a spellbinding account of life in Eastern Europe in the midst of the terrible twentieth century, an account at the end of his extraordinary life that couldn't have found such iconoclastic form without it being led and coaxed by his friend Czesław Miłosz. A document of history, but also a profound collaboration.
For the 2016 Miłosz Festival, poet and artist SJ Fowler, founder of the Enemies Project, which pioneers collaborative poetry practise across the world, leads a group of four contemporary avant-garde poets in making a brand new work, commissioned for the occasion. Featuring Weronika Lewandowska, Tom Jenks & Fowler, this will be a reforming of Wat's story and myths - a piece of experimental literature, faithful to its source in its experimentation. *** Supported by the British Council in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich, UK as part of the International Literature Showcase: www.internationalliteratureshowcase.org.uk