Zaady na Zycie
collection centre pompidou


‘Zakłady na Życie’ (‘Plant-Life’) is a performance and installation environment exploring Poland’s industrial past. In English, ‘ Plant-Life ’ is a play on words, as a plant can be as much a photosynthetic organism as a factory, power-station, or other large industrial complex. It is in this sense the piece attempts to achieve as much as state of David Attenborough as it does anthropological glance into the life of factories across Poland.


Using relics gathered from both functioning factories and industrial ruins around Poland, the stage environment is a series of re-creations, inspired by actual workplaces and even museums, reviewing the past-times of both company and state. The experience allows one to zoom-in, from the larger level of infrastructure, down to the single product of the factory itself, such as a toothbrush. The tangible nature of this experience attempts to connect to histories through these found objects, in much the way a museum does with its artifacts of purported significance.


With performers lulling secular mantras in Polish, a visitor is able to follow English subtitles, as the fringe economy of the East reveals itself as a true giant, – manifest in the factories of chocolate, speedometers, cement and canned meat.

The piece begins in fictitious factory space, a 25-minute performance. A man read outs text and occasionally holds up portraits of works and walks up to the front of the stage. Slowly woman are introduced into the environment, who as secretaries, walk in the shapes of various letters, and eventually introduce various subjects from the stage.

“Man stands left whilst a woman walks in a “U” shape”

Incomprehensible Polish phone call at length.


Loosely translated to English as such:


Hello, this is Asja Lamtiugina from the offices of the Ursus Steel Foundry. I am calling in reference to the daily supplies of casting sand to our location from your company. Yes yes. Ok, right: Ryszard Bacciarelli? Yes in a few minutes. No I’ll call back, thanks. Bye.


Hello, this is Asja Lamtiugina from Ursus again, yes… Ryszard Bacciarelli please.


Hello mr Bacciarelli, yes, the Ursus Steel Foundry, that’s correct. … This is a little bit of an unfortunate call to be making, but it is in regard to an internal dispute of our firm. By extension, it is the daily supplies from your firm to ours, in particular the casting sand. If I calculate at present, I come to around 30% of contents being sand. Yes, yes….


Well the problem is one of over-supply, and the effect a lack of storage and hence disposal of these,  around 100 tonnes of sand per day. … Yes.


Well yes, that’s correct. In former years the production had equaled that of the foundry in Warsaw, hence national delivery was set at 300 tonnes in total, for sand alone, – although Ursus had fallen well below 50% of its former out-put since March. Yes, yes…


Well the drop in production means we have over-supply and lack of storage. Mr Skotnicki simply proposes a re-calculation of requirement and supply. The effect is a slowing of our production, even though Warsaw still foots the national bill. (pause)…. Yes, yes, … no.

“Powerless in a Dubious System” (Translation from Dutch to English)

REVIEW, Karin Veraart on May 26 ’10 Volkskrant (The Times of the Netherlands)
TheaterFestival a / d Werf
Plant-Life more than a curious collection of stuff. Utrecht.
Rating Four out of Five Stars: *****
You have the time to incorporate the installation that is part of Plant-Life, theater and visual artist James Beckett (South
Africa, 1977). It is a beautiful, while most curious collection of things, from Polish industrial complexes.
Some devices look dangerously explosive, others quite clumsy. They are placed in a greenish complex corridor behind
the stage, but it is not until the end of the show you’re carried past it. You tend ‘simply’ to walk to the exit, which is a pity.
The special display is worth it and an essential part of Plant-Life (Zaklady na Zycie), a performance presentation in the
Festival a/d Werf in Utrecht.
It all begins on a central stage. There’s a man with a hopeless look behind a desk with papers. He reads texts repeatedly,
in three sections, concerned with the emergence of a large industrial venture: detailing a factory, complete with worker’s housing, its own brass band, and a banking system.
But something is not right. There is state interference in the wrong way, of cronyism, -bureaucracy. You know exactly
how it is. The man speaks in fragments, whilst his attitude and tone become insignificant, but apparently significant
things are pronounced, giving just the appropriate surreal and helpless feeling that you, as an individual in a totalitarian
regime, cannot overcome.
When the man occasionally stands to the side of the stage, assisted by two little graceful, robotic assistants, the status of
the picture shifts through deadly repetition, unnecessary handling and a vague but agreeable sense of importance. In this
manner, Plant-Life points to the work of artist Ilya Kabakov who became well known in the nineties for his quirky, witty
and accurate depiction of a dubious (state) system.

Photo: Merijn van der Vliet
Concept, writer and director: James Beckett
Performers: Zbigniew Maciak, Maja Magdalena Jawor, Dorothea Nikiporczyk
Dramaturgy: Koen Nutters, Renee Copraij
Installation and stage: James Beckett, Lucas Steenhuis en Erik Jansen
Costumes: Janneke Raaphorst
Light design: Minna Tiikkainen
Sound Design: Slobodan Bajic
Tech: Roeland van den Beemd en Slobodan Bajic
Production leader: Coosje Idhuna Kuipers
Producer: Huis a/d Werf
Co-production: Wilfried Lenz, Rotterdam