Virtual value examination – Kommersant newspaper No. 85 (7286) of 18.05.2022

Lukasz Twarkowski’s play Rotkho by Lukasz Twarkowski was released in Riga at the Dailes Theater. The name of the new star of Polish directing is known to the Russian public: in the 2000s he collaborated with St. The theme of his performance is also with us – in it the fate of the artist Mark Rothko and the adventures of his works are intertwined with reflections on what is genuine in art and what is fake and how all this changes in the age of virtual reality and NFT. With details – Alla Shenderova.

The first thing we have to say is that we still exist in the same space as the European theater. Visually and aesthetically, Lukasz Twarkovsky’s new play approaches Savva Savelyev’s recent play “Take of your faces” (see “Kommersant” on May 17): in both, part of the action is transferred to split screens, rhythm and drives are created from the music, the plot branches out, disintegrates and reassembles. Of course, Tvarkovsky has less politics and slipping into the permissible, and more of the good old-fashioned urban ulcers that are manifesting themselves in a new way in the 21st century. But in the fortunes of the great artist Mark Rothko and the no less gifted, but early departure of Vlad Mamyshev-Monroe (he became the hero of “Take of your faces”), you can see something in common.

“Now I play the role of an actor standing in front of you”, a long-haired guy standing in a dark scene addresses the audience. This is a preface to an almost four-hour show in which the relationship between the fake and the original and the question “Can a fake be authentic?” become the same pattern as the disturbing one, borrowed from Gaspar Noe’s latest films, Light (by Eugene Sampalauskas) and the rhythms of composer Lubomir Grzelak. In fact, the theme is already set in the name of the show: in fact, the artist’s name is written in Latin “Rothko”, not “Rotkho”. So Twarkovsky and his co-author, playwright Anka Herbut, claim that their production is such a fake Abibas. On the other hand, in the synopsis of the work, the viewer is reminded of Graham Rawlinson’s theory: we can understand the text as long as the first and the last letter are in place, the rest of the series is not so important.

The actor from the prologue will become one of the characters of the New York art scene of the 2000s, which he preferred to meet in the Chinese restaurant that Andy Warhol once loved. Two cameras film tables on the left and right, separated by a wall and transmit the image on two screens. The usual quarrels between journalists and art dealers are interrupted by a strange incident: among the regular guests of the restaurant is the president of the company Tom Ford, Domenico de Sole, who is suddenly called to use an old telephone. On the wire is a certain Anna Friedman, whose image appears on the screen from above. “What?” Domenico asks, looking surprised in the dark: we see that Anna herself, only with a different hairstyle, is sitting in a cafe. “Was it original?” – the actor shouts on the phone either about a work of art unknown to us until now, or about the caller herself.

In 2004, Anna Friedman, owner of the Knoedler Gallery in New York, sold Rothko Untitled # 6 to De Sole for $ 8.3 million. The scandal associated with this story becomes the starting point of the plot: the pavilion, invented by set designer Fabien Lede, seems to be broken in two, now the tables are divided not only by many meters, but sometimes for decades.

On the left, an elderly Mark Rothko (Juris Bartkevichs) can sit at the table, who came in the late 1960s with his wife (Vita Varpina) for the same dinner at the luxurious Four Seasons restaurant, after which he changed his mind. to give a set of his paintings to decorate the restaurant – and returned to the owners a huge fee. And on the right, already in 2015, the actors who came to the casting of the play for Rothko meet at the table. He (the amazing actor Andrzej Yakubchuk) wants to take on the role of Rothko, and she (Erika Eglia) does not want the role of Mela’s wife, that is, “the role of a woman whose husband was Rothko”. “Why does no one do a work for an abstract artist?” – The actress complains about the conversation, which takes place in Polish and English. Feminism becomes another theme of the work, it is presented discreetly, but it is felt.

This large, bright, noisy performance-installation is categorically not imposed on the viewer and does not represent life in particular, but flows with almost the same naturalness. The actors hold the thought, but do not reduce strong emotions in the viewer. It is difficult to say whether Lukasz Tuarkovsky is familiar with Chekhov’s old phrase: “People eat, they only eat, and at the moment their fate is being judged”, but the people in his play are just like that. There is a lot of text, but the words are like brushstrokes that paint a clear outline – starting with one of the disagreements, you can start a long meditation. For example, suppose what is allowed for a creative person and what is not. Or to return mentally to the conditions of the artist’s suicide: to think if this very visit to an expensive restaurant provoked him, where he could observe the chewed consumers of art. Or remember another saying attributed to Rothko: “As an artist, you have to be a thief – and steal a place on the wall from the rich.”

The last scenes of the play are already taking place in our time: Rothko’s fate is somehow intertwined with the fate of the young Latvian artist Marta Zarinya-Gelze. The “Collection of Tears” installation was unveiled in Daugavpils, the birthplace of Mark Rothko, where there is now a luxury art center that bears his name. The report was posthumous: in 2014, Marta Zariņa committed suicide.

However, not all of these suicides are definitive. The show’s finale is replaced by a grand opening day, in which all the characters and all the stories are declared as part of the virtual environment and can be turned into an NFT – a digital cast of themselves. In fact, nothing changes on stage except the light. Only on one of the tables appears either a scene layout with copies of actors’ figures, or a laptop screen with a 3D layout. But for some reason you believe that everything that happens has become a digital cast and can be purchased for cryptocurrencies. The real becomes virtual, blurs in the eyes and you yourself gradually begin to feel like a digital copy. It only remains to be seen if digital copies can be perceived live.

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