Tadeusz Kantor. Episode Four. Sculpture

Tadeusz Kantor. Episode Four. Sculpture

2-4 Nadwiślańska Street, 30-527 Krakow

Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m

Monday – closed

Entry to the permanent exhibition is free of charge. Free ticket to be collected at the Ticket Office.

Cricoteka welcomes you to the fourth instalment of its exhibition dedicated to the work of Tadeusz Kantor. Entitled Sculpture, at its core are theatrical objects, which, complemented by other elements, present Kantor’s most important ideas about theatre. The exhibited objects and props, as well as photographic documentation, provide a full picture of the successive stages of his development. The artist’s vast legacy is discussed in the short films accompanying the exhibition.

As part of this new instalment, we present objects relating to specific stages of Kantor’s work. The period of Informel Theatre is illustrated by the reconstruction of a stage object from the performance of In a Little Manor House (1961) – Children in a Rubbish Cart. The rattling Aneantisating Machine (The Madman and the Nun, 1963) retells the ideas of Zero Theatre. The works entitled A Bathing Lady from The Water Hen (1967), and Millionaire’s Boots from Lovelies and Dowdies (1973) refer to the Happening Theatre and the Impossible Theatre periods. Pieces entitled The Trumpet of the Last Judgement (Where Are Last Year’s Snows, 1979) and The Sink (Let the Artists Die, 1985) open the section presenting the Theatre of Death. For the first time, we exhibit the author’s reconstruction of Odysseus’ Room from The Return of Odysseus (1944), as well as photographs documenting the Circus (1957) spectacle, referring to the earliest stages of Kantor’s work: the Underground Independent Theatre and the foundation of Cricot 2 theatre. In turn, A Manikin of a Child on a Bike (1975), Boy at a Desk (1980), and Children at Their Desks (1989) are all associated with The Dead Class theatre play (1975, Theatre of Death)

Following a route via the subsequent stages of Kantor’s work is not the only way to view the exhibition. Each of its instalments has been devoted to a separate issue. The current instalment, entitled Sculpture, focuses on the condition of objects and the ways in which they function in space. Some of the works presented here were created as independent sculptures, referring to specific performances only on the level of ideas (Boy at a Desk, Children at Their Desks, Odysseus’s Room, Children in a Rubbish Cart). Others are props that were taken directly from Kantor’s theatre plays (A Bathing Lady, Millionaire’s Boots, Trumpet of the Last Judgment, A Manikin of a Child on a Bike, Aneantisating Machine, The Sink), but here they are presented in a completely new context, in isolation from their theatrical biographies.

We encourage you to look at these unique objects as three-dimensional works that strongly influence the perception of the viewer, as well as one another. On the one hand, the pieces demonstrate individual autonomy and great internal tension, on the other – they subdue the space surrounding them, affecting other works placed in the same exhibition space and enforcing a spontaneous relationship with their audience. Some of them are dynamic and emit sounds, communicating with the visitors and drawing their attention. Attentive viewers will note, among other things, a subtle movement of the heads and hands of the Children in a Rubbish Cart, and will notice the water periodically gushing out of the tap in the piece entitled The Sink. Two objects on display – The Trumpet of the Last Judgment and the Aneantisating Machine – provide a distinct commentary on the main theme of the exhibition, illuminating Kantor’s unusual imaginarium.

The first is an abstract structure built from a tall frame and a trumpet, and a system of blocks and gears with steel cables. The author explained that the piece ‘resembles a scaffold or gallows, and, in a small part, a siege machine from biblical times. Numerous wheels, cogs, belts, cords, cranks set the Trumpet… in motion, in a black, mournful emballage.’ Seeing the object from all sides – following the reflections of metal elements and shadows cast by its structure – one can detect an almost predatory element in it. Thanks to the Trumpet, the Hymn of the Jewish Ghetto could be heard in the cricotage entitled Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear.           

The other is the Aneantisating Machine, also known as the Machine of Destruction. Built from a stack of chairs, it was partially reconstructed by Kantor in the 1980s. In the performance The Madman and the Nun from the Zero Theatre, it played the role of the ‘first actor’: its movement, and the roar of rhythmically moving chairs, prevented the actors from working on the stage. They had to shout over the clamour of the mechanism and fight with the Machine, thwarting their actions, for their place in the play. Here in the exhibition space, the stack of chairs on a small platform is, however, silent and passive. The objects are arranged unevenly, they appear to have been accidentally abandoned. With fascination, we can observe the structure – tied up with cords – without the fear that its mad, destructive movement will be suddenly launched. Over time, to what extent has the ‘zero’ status changed for this object? What is it today?

The spatial object, Odysseus’ Room, is Kantor’s reconstruction of an apartment where during the occupation he staged Stanisław Wyspiański’s drama, The Return of Odysseus. It is an example of an environement work: the space arranged by Kantor is meant to ‘absorb’ the viewers and almost literally lead them inside, into its interior.

We encourage the viewer to turn their attention to the condition of the works as independent sculptures and spatial objects, but also as pieces through which theatrical past can live on. We suggest watching the exhibition vigilantly: amongst the silence of the exhibition, hear the sculptures’ prompts and subject yourself to their discrete influence.

Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska, Natalia Zarzecka