The Employees

Théâtre de Liège

21 & 22 March 2024

Performance-installation by Łukasz Twarkowski, one of the most interesting creators of his generation, 'The Employees' is based on the novel of a contemporary Danish author, Olga Ravn. 

The story of 'The Employees' unfolds in an undetermined near future, on a spaceship carrying people and humanoid robots. All crew members are subject to cold, bureaucratic discipline that is seemingly pointless. Under these extreme conditions, a closed community is forced to confront questions about the differences between the human and the non-human, and about the essence of consciousness.

Twarkowski’s The Employees, as well as many of his previous works, opposes the traditional understanding of theatricality; it makes the audience a part of his dystopian world, and not merely its passive observers.

In 2020, The Employees, a new title by Olga Ravn entered the library of dystopian science-fiction literature. In her book, the Earth has been annihilated. The story is told through fragmentary reports of the ship crew. The accounts begin and end at – seemingly – random moments and concern the everyday routine. From the scraps supplied by the author, the readers construct their impression of the reality in which people miss the Earth and rebel against the formalised rules in force aboard the ship, while humanoids, treated as entities devoid of typical human sensualities, demand the ability to feel and develop their senses. The ship carries strange objects, and artifacts of an ancient art exhibition which impact the crew in an unexplained way. Spaces described by Ravn are cool, white, resembling gallery architecture. At the end of the work, the ship as a form of a failed experiment, turns into a macabre museum.

Both Ravn’s novel and Twarkowski’s performance seem to pose one of the most fundamental questions about what human consciousness actually is. Are the brain and the mind the same thing? Science continues to find new neuronal correlates of sensory events. When we discover a simple and quick way to work out the functioning of the human brain, will we be able to build an artificial brain that, when inserted into a robot, will turn an android into a human being? What will AI algorithms do, equipped with a set of certain problem-solving tools, and learning from their own mistakes, when they exceed the possibilities expected from them by the programmer? Can a developing, constantly learning system of artificial intelligence cross this magical border beyond which it ceases to be merely an unbeatable chess master, and becomes a chess player who actually enjoys winning?



21 and 22 March at 8.00 pm,
Théâtre de Liège – Place du 20-Août 16, 4000 Liège - Belgium

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(c) Natalia Kabanow

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