SPHERE OF DEATH
My thoughts kept coming back to certain things which I knew would become the subject of dramatic performance,
the SPHERE OF DEATH,
which had attracted me for a long time,
but then identified itself completely
with the stage and its regions.
THE SLOW BUT INEXORABLE DYING.
A steadily advancing process, hardly perceptible, ceaseless, “taken down” and communicated to the audience (because it all happens in the theatre) by means of repetition until it becomes insufferable.
It is close to the art of happening.
Dying (death) has always been a violent, dramatic, spectacular act in the theatre throughout its history, beginning with the Chinese and the Greeks.
It has a finality about it.
It works as a conclusion. A sure way to success.
In this performance I want dying to be a red thread connecting all the various manifestations of life, almost to function as the structure of the performance.
1. It is this SPHERE OF DEATH which causes the TRANSPARENT IMAGES OF CHILDHOOD to reappear suddenly in the hour of death. My childhood. Because that man on his deathbed is in fact I – DYING, while the conjured up SOLDIER IN A PRAM (in my pram) is I – WHEN I WAS SIX. With my RETINUE which, in a child’s dream, was made up of GENERALS only. A loyal RETINUE which protects him and plays with him.
2. It is the SPHERE OF DEATH that makes the glory and honour of a nation appear in the FORM of funereal pomp and the decay of death.
3. It is that SPHERE OF DEATH that is responsible for the fact that while we are looking in life for a concept corresponding to its ritual of BURIAL, we find in it the idea of PRISON… As if over an open grave…
The gates of prison have closed on him…
4. It is the SPHERE OF DEATH that is responsible for the fact that the image of A WORK OF ART., the noblest expression of the human spirit is seen through the overlapping images of PRISON and EXECUTION.
Against the background of dark and dirty earth I saw a bright disc the size of a saucer. It was shining too brightly to be part of that terrestrial matter from which everything has been made. When I looked up, over the rooftops, I saw the sky.
Reflected in a piece of a broken mirror.
A phenomenon reviled and deprecated in art. Which defies naturalism.
The man who for the first time saw himself bending over the still waters must have experienced an illumination.
Against the advice of surrealists and dreamers – on no account walk in and penetrate beneath the surface of the mirror. Remain in front of it!
The REFLECTION itself is a wonder!
It encapsulates in itself some mystery of the universe.
As if reality split and turned away from itself
and got shut in AS IN PRISON, or
AS THOUGH IT WAS LAID TO REST IN THE GRAVE.
As though it no longer belonged to this world.
The impossibility of bringing together life and death is thus fulfilled.
Of having them together.
Of course, as part of an illusion or at play.
The feeling that we can touch eternity. Staying alive.
Kantor, Tadeusz. Guide to the performance “Let the Artists Die”: Kraków 1986.