Review: Cloud Theater’s “Tech Is A being”

Last Thursday I had the chance to witness Cloud Theater’s “Technologia jest istotą/Tech is a being”, an unconventional spectacle that utilised a myriad of technology.

The play took place at the Audiovisual Technology Centre, more commonly known as CeTA (Centrum Technologii Audiowizualnych), which is located by the Pavilion of Four Domes. The performance itself certainly represented something out of ordinary, but does that mean it was a spectacle worth seeing? Read on to find out …

The performance was played out on a floor containing hanging curtains that dynamically moved while images were beamed onto the stage. At the side of the performance space a guitar player strung away while an array of people dealt with various gadgets including laptops and a drum machine. 

The aim of the piece was to explore the changing nature of the relationship between man and machine. Anyone not clued up on this fact easily got up to speed before the performance, thanks to a handout that was given to everyone in the audience. The paper also informed us that we didn’t have to turn off out mobile phones as “they want to see the performance too”, and it was written that these points were made through Google Translate.

The performance itself kicked off with a woman singing in an aggressive piece, accompanied by some hard rock guitar and song lyrics beamed onto the moving curtains (in different languages, again via Google Translate). This section represented the most 'human' part of the performance so to speak. From then on the individuality of the performers was restrained due to their similarly opaque clothing, which placed them in the shadow of the show's images and sounds.

Next up was a great number of scenes that contained little in the way of plot. Instead, the play gave its own portrayal of various scenarios related to the relationship between man and machine, be that at work, in nature or other parts of daily life. As a result of these pacey changes, there was little opportunity for reflection. These sudden changes, combined with occasional bursts of cacophony, gave the audience an uphill battle to keep up with developments. 

Hardly any words were spoken during this segment, and those that were uttered were neither in English nor Polish. In the place of words the play embraced a variety of images, movements and sounds. These last three mediums dominated the performance, which effectively left enough space for emotions and little more.

Among the feelings evoked in this piece were serenity (during a scene in a forest), paranoia (in a scene were people appeared to be shot, which sparked thoughts of sci-fi writers Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov), excitement (during a scene featuring space travel), and curiosity (whenever a new scene started). Given how many scenes there were, curiosity was inevitably the overriding emotion sparked during this part of the play.

The use of bodies during the play demonstrated a great degree of skill, especially in terms of self-control (such as movement in slow-motion) and the performers' interaction with each other. The individuals driving the play's music, sounds and images were also undoubtedly very skilled. 

For me, the only issue was that the piece was arguably overlong; the 1 hour and 45 minutes performance assaults the senses and offers little space for a rest-bite, and I noticed that others were fidgeting towards the end. I reckon that the piece could have been cut by 45 minutes while still retaining its goal.

I do believe however that this was largely a result of people being exposed to an unfamiliar art form. A city that is a former European Capital of Culture requires more than performances of Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz or blockbuster films. It also needs an injection of alternative art forms that can foster unusual, challenging and unconventional performances, and the likes of Cloud Theater certainly fit in the bill in this regard.

Ian Maloy

Ian is a singing teacher who has been living in Wrocław for several years. Dobrze mówi po polsku. Ian can often be found in town eating excellent vegan/vegetarian food, drinking beer from micro-breweries, bird-watching around Lower Silesia, jogging by the Odra, lighting candles in the Russian Orthodox church and banging his head in various moshpits to Polish metal/hardcore bands.

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