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“Metamorphosis " by Franz Kafka at the Nowy Theater in Warsaw with English subtitles

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. The first sentence of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis has become a popular cliché to describe today’s societies of alienation and fatigue. Although at first glance it reads like the beginning of a body-horror or a metaphor for depression, it compels us as an example of refusal to take part in the global chase after profits and effectiveness.

If we approach Gregor Samsa’s transformation as a political gesture, we can see it as an echo of the Scrivener’s refusal from Herman Melville’s novella. The point of departure for experimenting with Kafka’s story is the need to map out our reality of excess, overstimulation and burnout, and to find a way out of oppressive territory. The Metamorphosis then becomes a story of existential improvisation or escape that takes the form of migration within, a strategy of preserving a species threatened by the late-capitalist environment.

Although Kafka’s parable ends with the death of the protagonist on a trash heap, it is still a read that opens up the laboratory of selfhood. How can we tap the transgressive potential of mutation? Is it possible to capture the pleasure of turning into Something Else?

The ontological strategy of operating on oneself is fuelled by Kafka’s subversive sense of humour, his vampirical letter personas, but also his fascination with early cinematography as well as various accounts of becoming-an-animal relayed in his miniature pieces.

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