News Cricoteka

"The Theatre of Death"








A scene from the play, Tadeusz Kantor,

Dominka Michalczuk; photo Jacquie Bablet





A scene from the play, All Soul's Day lasting for too long, A group scene; photo J. Dalman





"The  manikin I used in 1967 in Cricot 2 Theatre ("The Water-Hen") was after the "Eternal Wanderer" and "The Human Emballages" the next figure that appeared quite naturally in my "Collections" as another instance to illustrate my conviction that only the reality of the lowest rank, the poorest objects that have lost their prestige are able to reveal in a work of art their full givennes. Manikins and Wax Figures have always existed on the periphery of official Culture. They were banned from the inner circle. They found refuge in FUNFAIR TENTS, suspicious JUGGLER`S ARCADES, far way from centres of world art. They were treated with aloof contempt as ODDITIES suited for vulgar taste. For this very reason they could effect - in contrast to the academic and museum pieces - a lifting of the veil as sudden as a flash of lightning.
Those manikins have also their TRANSCENDENT aspect. The existence of those objects made in man's image, illegally and without God's blessing, apparently, comes as a result of heretical dealings, a symptom of a new Dark, Nocturnal, Rebellious side of human activity, a mark of Crime and the Trail of Death which act as sources of our cognition...
I do not believe that a MANIKIN (or a WAX FIGURE) could replace a LIVE ACTOR, contrary to Kleist and Craig. That would be too easy and too naive. I am trying to make sense of the motives and purpose of that unusual object, which appeared suddenly in my thoughts and ideas. Its appearance is consistent with my growing conviction that life can be expressed in art. Only by means of the absence of life, by way of references to DEATH, through APPEARANCES, through EMPTINESS and a dumb MESSAGE. The MANIKIN in my theatre is to become a MODEL that mediates a strong sense of DEATH and the condition of the DEAD. It is to be a model for the LIVE ACTOR."

Kantor, Tadeusz. The Theatre of Death (manifesto). Warszawa: Biblioteka Galerii Foksal, 1975.