Each generation has its uprising, its rebellious movements and the formative experience that comes with it. Sometimes it comes as a revolution; sometimes as an ecstatic riot. Other times, it’s a bit of both. Based on the first anthology dedicated to the Polish techno scene, Techno Rzeczpospolita brings us back to the early days of a movement that would span over three decades, from the spontaneous chaos of the beginnings to the present day. The spirit of resistance, the highs of a new subculture, its disruptive ideals and fragmented recollections all reinterpreted to honour the collective memory of Polish ravers, DJs, promoters, and dreamers of dreams.
30 Years of Polish Techno by veteran ravers and writers Artur Wojtczak, Radek Tereszczuk and Łukasz Krajewski–a 856-pages anthology and photo journal of Poland’s techno history published in December 2020–unexpectedly took on a new form: it is now the basis for a 90-minute theatre play that toured across several venues in Poland, with poems by Ilona Witkowska and the actors’ original texts created during rehearsals.
When the first anthology on the Polish scene hit the shelves in December 2020, no one imagined that it would become a phenomenon and that so many projects would spring out of it. It started with a fundraising campaign for the publication, and then, a dedicated SoundCloud page with mixes appeared.
The book quickly gained popularity: it was supported by the press beyond the realm of music magazines; the good word spread around the world, from the UK, USA, Spain to Germany and Korea. German legend Dr. Motte, founder of the Love Parade and Rave The Planet, also supported it as the third edition of the anthology came out.
The most unexpected development remains the theatre play Techno Rzeczpospolita (Techno Republic), inspired by the stories told in the book, shown on stage in Wrocław. “When, in June 2021, our publisher Krytyka Polityczna informed us that an email had arrived from the Office of Theatre Organisation AST and Promotion of the St. Wyspianski Academy of Theatre Arts in Kraków (Wrocław branch)–we were stunned. It was a request for permission to adapt the book for theatre purposes, and the director hired for it was the well-known and highly regarded Marcin Liber. We agreed without a second thought!”, said the editors.
Since the theatre play Techno Rzeczpospolita premiered on the 16th of September, it was performed many times, with every show completely sold-out–not only in Wrocław, but also in Poznań. The first performances in major cities like Warsaw will take place in early January.
The highly respected director Marcin Liber, one of the founders of the independent Usta Usta theatre in Poznań, has often turned to new media, audiovisual techniques, and elements of dance theatre. Those are woven into performances, becoming their integral components. His plays have both classical and avant-garde roots: Liber drew on the aesthetics of music videos, dominated by quickly edited, rapidly changing frames and images.
The author of the screenplay, Magda Koryntczyk, was born in 1983: she had her first electronic encounters as a teenager, as the only person in her small town to buy copies of Machina at her local shop. This music magazine came with promo CDs filled with new electronic sounds. When she went to university in Kraków, she started raving in clubs like Caryca and Prozak: from then on, electronic music became the companion of the most critical moments of her life.
She describes the unexpected beginnings of the project in the official press release: “In June this year, I went to TAMA club in Poznań to listen to the set of Berghain’s resident Marcel Dettmann. And somehow, two days later, I received a call from Marcin Liber saying that he was making a performance based on the anthology 30 Years of Polish Techno, and he wanted to do it with my participation. At first, I was scared because I knew the size of the book. But then I started reading it, and I got even more scared. It is a very good book, but very difficult for a playwright.”
Artur Wojtczak, co-editor of the anthology, caught up with her on the ins and outs of adapting the complex history and spirit of Polish raves into the screenplay of Techno Republic.
Artur Wojtczak: What was it like working on the script? How do you reshape a book of over 800 pages into the frames of a 90-minutes theatre performance?
Magda Koryntczyk: I’m an analogue girl. When I’m working, I like to take notes on paper, fiches, and that’s how I worked on this script. I read the book twice, once ‘loosely’, without notes, and another time selectively. When I had thematic blocks in my head–what I wanted to write about, what I should leave out–I filled these blocks with texts from the book. From the bunch of stories I took a paragraph, sometimes a single sentence, sometimes I liked a phrase. I was looking for common points to talk about techno as an experience of a generation, and on the other hand, I was interested in very individual events and persons. During the rehearsals, the screenplay usually “grows” with associations, other forms of languages and inspirations. Through our teamwork, unexpected discoveries, sometimes ingenious coincidences, this first version of the screenplay begins to breathe a different air.
AW: The play, which is the result of your and the actors’ work, quickly became a kind of phenomenon: the most important magazines on club culture in the world and abroad wrote news about it, tickets sold out immediately, and reviewers described the play as a “manifesto”. Did you expect such a response?
MK: The shortest answer to this question: I did not expect it. It is a graduation performance of students, promotion of such events and their presence in the media looks different than theatrical super productions. This makes me even more excited about the whole positive feedback about Techno Republic.
AW: A very strong element of the play is the political aspect: the history of Poland since the economic transformation in 1989, when the first underground parties appeared, and the current situation: the rule of the right wing parties, social unrest. And rave culture in the background. How did you build up this combination of music and politics?
MK: It was natural, it didn’t require any intellectual volatility. From the very beginning, we felt this connection. Actually, it is also present in the title of the book. 1989–the first year of freedom in Poland–is the starting point of the story. Because it was also important to us that the young people on stage exist as characters from their parents’ generation, but also as themselves in contemporary Poland. So we quite naturally overlapped the layer of their social and political reality. We didn’t want to do just a kind of rave story, a reconstruction of the 90s, a kind of open-air museum or party-museum. Techno culture was both the hero of the story in the 90s and nowadays.
Watching the performance, I got real goosebumps on my body every few minutes–you managed to show real emotions, a generational portrait and proof that club culture is more than just music. How do you personally feel about it as a creative writer and… a raver?
You are in my opinion the ultimate model of a lifetime-raver, Artur! (laughs) I think I am not such a big party girl. And how should I describe my friends who go to parties every weekend and afterwards go to the after parties as well? Nevertheless, I’m glad that I managed to translate my “raving experience” into the language of theatre. The work of a DJ and a playwright are essentially similar. A good set has a good drama, just like a theatrical performance. If people have goosebumps, it means that it worked successfully! And I am very happy! I also didn’t know that the performance of Techno Republic would be something so much more than a students’ graduation event, that people would dance at it, cry, come up after and say “this is my life, thank you!”
Read below an exclusive extract of Illegal Places, lifted from the play Techno Republic by Magda Koryntczyk, based on 30 Years of Polish Techno by Artur Wojtczak, Radek Tereszczuk, and Łukasz Krajewski.
An abandoned hotel in Ciechocinek 90.
A shelter in Lodz ‚91.
An empty bathhouse in Warsaw 91.
A party at Skandal’s house. [editor’s note: former vocalist of the punk band Dezerter]
A greenhouse near Plock 94
Czerniakowski headland, Babilon student house,
A barge on the Vistula river, a barge on the Warta, a shelter on Jackowski Street, dancing at Adria, an abandoned Meratronik factory, floor in sawdust.
Płock, Szczecin, Poznań, Warsaw, Łódź,
Mythical islands of runaway children.
Enter the cities!
Jaworzno! Krakow! Nysa! Olsztyn! Tychy! Zawada! Jasterzbie-Zdrój!
And fuck it all!!!!
New sensations, new music, new ecstasy.
All around chaos, the country in transformation, no rules, all tricks allowed.
In a forest, in a field, in a square by a block of flats, in an abandoned factory or a shelter. A piece of street, or just a meadow—we take over community centres, discos, pubs, student clubs, swimming pools, sports halls, cinemas, fire stations, tenement gates, city funfair, even an airport and an ebonite-lined slaughterhouse. Homie, while sitting at home, you are hurting yourself!
The techno dance floor can be anywhere!
John Paul II is flying to Poland, Prohibition has been introduced!
The city died out, clubs and bars closed, in the middle of the forest over 1,000 people are having fun.
I got a map: “I got off at such a stop and then walked two kilometres along the road, then turned into the forest and walked another kilometre”… And so I walked and walked and walked, until I heard this POOF POOF POOF.
We’re the ones who were blasting the music at full volume.
The police are coming.
“So, you came to your friend’s party in the woods again, and the equipment was there, and you don’t know where it came from?”
The Citadel… The biggest illegal rave in the history of Polish techno.
No legitimacy, no structures. Free music for free people. Money is not our invention, this adventure must be possible without it. 100% DIY.
We make our own flyers and posters. Put ’em up and get the fuck out. Hit and run.
SMILEY SAJKODELIK PUNCH
I jam corporate printers to the bone. I work in the Idea- telecom-network. I very often work at nights, so I can print our flyers in peace.
Capitalism is our bitch. “Now I wanna be your dog!”
Choose a place.
Plug in the electricity.
Borrow the equipment.
We play from cassettes, we play from CDs.
It doesn’t really matter.
Soundsystem is not just columns of speakers, soundsystem is you and me.
Find information and tickets for the upcoming performances here.
Photos by Rafal Skwarek. Words by Artur Wojtczak.
Published November 24, 2021. Words by Artur Wojtczak, photos by Rafal Skwarek.