Closure of Conference project. Post-Conference Plans

Many many thanks to everyone who participated in the conference, to all those who presented papers, read their poetry or translations, contributed to discussions or just came to listen.

This blog will remain open as a record of the conference proceedings and will continue to include the programme, the abstracts of the presentations and the short biographies of the participants.

We have removed the conference papers from this site because we intend to include revised versions in a post-conference book. This book will not be a representation of the conference proceedings as such, however, but a volume of articles roughly reflecting the structure of the conference. The book will be edited by Ursula Philips, supported by a team of advisers (Urszula Chowaniec, Knut Andreas Grimstad, Kris Van Heuckelom and Elwira Grossman). It is expected that the volume will appear in 2013.

Should anyone wish to contact the authors of papers or read the original papers, please contact the conference organizer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bryce Lease, University of Exeter

Hidden in the Theatre? The New Archive of Queer Performance Activism
Though homosexuality was decriminalized in Poland in 1932, the resurgence in Catholicism and moral conservatism in the country that accompanied neoliberalism after 1989 meant that gays and lesbians have had to negotiate complicated relations with right-wing fundamentalist groups. Joining the European Union caused conservative politicians to modify or adjust openly homophobic public discourse, but gay couples are still not permitted to adopt and civil partnerships have not been legalized. A ban on hate speech against gays only began the process of formalization in May 2011. Combining recent queer theory with an analysis of the critical reception of relevant performances primarily in Warsaw between 2001-2007, this paper briefly outlines the politics of gay and queer activism in the country alongside theatre performances and gay-rights campaigns, such as the Campaign against Homophobia, in order to illustrate a change in public perceptions of homosexuality after EU ascension (2004) and the election of the conservative coalition (2005). I argue that the recent history of pride parades gives us an insight into a developing transformation in public perception of homosexuality. Although pride parades were banned in Warsaw in 2004/5 by the then mayor of Warsaw, and later President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, Warsaw became the first post-communist country to host the Europride parade in 2010. I will also consider a shift in queer studies elaborated by Robert Kulpa and Joanna Mizielińska’s De-Centering Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives (2011), which crucially points out that over the past decade this field has refocused its politics in relation to geolocation, critiquing modern scholarly divisions that position the West as civilized, secular, liberal and pro-gay and the East as primitive, religious, fanatical and universally homophobic. Aligning myself with this scholarship, I will analyze key performances that premiered over the past decade which dealt with Polish homophobia, depicted gay or deliberately non-normative relationships and contemplated Polish queer futures. These include some initial plays that touch on gay relationships, such as Ingmar Villqist’s Anaerobes (2001) and Bartosz Żurawiecki’s Sekstet (2005). A longer treatment of the relationship between urban and rural spaces and their impact on sexuality will be discussed alongside Przemysław Wojcieszek’s Cokolwiek się zdarzy, kocham cię (Whatever happens, I love you… 2005), Wojcieszek’s Darkroom (2006), Marek Modzelewski’s Dotyku (Touch 2005, dir. Małgorzata Bogajewska), and Wiktor Rubin and Bartosz Frąckowiak’s Terrordrom Breslau (2006, dir. Wiktor Rubin). A discussion of the impact of HIV/AIDS in Poland will be contextualized in conjunction with Maciej Kowalewski’s Miss HIV (2005) and Tony Kushner’s Anioły w Ameryce (Angels in America 2007, dir. Krzysztof Warlikowski). With specific focus on the latter, I will show how the production was in sympathetic dialogue with, and later considered a significant component of, the ‘rainbow revolution’, a manifestation of Polish gays who protested against conservative Catholic groups. Tomasz Milowski (2007) writes disparagingly about the homophobia and hatred generated by the builders of the Fourth Republic and the ‘yoke of socially and historically embedded resentment’ in Polish society that cannot simply be reduced to a fear of AIDS. Warlikowski expertly collides black humor with irony, fantasy and absurdism in his critique of modern sexual relationships. Piotr Schmidt (2007) isolates Warlikowsi’s performance, the most personal to date, as the bravest attempt to regulate the steep escalation of hatred against gays, and has been more stringent in its broader cultural influence than a parade, campaign or anti-homophobia organization.