Theatre of Events
(Apropos the performance of The Water-Hen.)
“I do not treat theatre as a fenced-off or a professional field. Contemporary art undergoes multiple changes, which introduce radical re-evaluations, eruption of new forms, destruction of the old; which are seemingly absurd; which trigger hatred, disapproval, mockery, or humiliation; which are prohibited; which are perceived simultaneously as shallow and profound; which are being forged by transient fashion, misapplication, and dilettantes; which are a mirror to the ideas that originated in the twentieth century and the facts that regenerate tirelessly the condition of human awareness. One should know of those changes and probe deeply into their complicated mechanism. Furthermore, one should take risks, create, and participate in the process of initiating these changes. If they are not introduced, nothing more than conventional and uncommitted forms will be created.
Today’s theatre is impregnated with conformity. It tends to ignore all those changes (for reasons that are well known) and hide itself behind professional or academic studies, actions that, in the context of those changes, seem disturbingly limited, scholastic, provincial, and ridiculous. From time to time, this theatre puts a veil around us and tricks us into believing that it embarks on an adventurous trip into the forbidden zone. But when back, it turns the living forms, which it has stolen, into dead props.
In spite or the opinions of the opportunists – all of those half-dead personalities whose position is entrenched by their titles or of pseudo-intellectual aesthetes – THE AVANT-GARDE IS POSSIBLE AND WILL ALWAYS EXIST IN THEATRE. Today’s Cricot 2 is not theatre that transfers the experiments of visual art onto the stage floor. Its aim is to create and safeguard the existence of FREE AND DISINTERESTED ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. All conventional barriers separating the arts have been removed. An artist does not change this mundane, everyday reality with the help of his intuition or imagination; he simply TAKES AND SETS IT ABLAZE. In this process, he keeps changing his condition and function; in turns and simultaneously, he becomes A WINNER and A VICTIM! For the last few decades, the noble conditions in which art has been created have systematically and with consequence been impaired by MOVEMENT, AUTOMATIZATION, COINCIDENCE, DEFORMITY, AMBIGUITY OF DREAMS, DESTRUCTION, COLLAGES, etc.
As a result of this process, there occurred a CRISIS OF FORM, that is, the crisis of the concept that art should be the outcome of a maximum condensation of artistic activities such as forming, moulding of forms, branding, gutting, anointing, constructing, and building.
To a certain degree, this ridiculed and butcher-like participation of an artist in the act of creation of his work, has, however, introduced a new perception of an object.
Having gone through the deformed and sputtering matter of Informel and touched on the nothingness and the zero zone, one reaches the object “from behind”, where the distinction between reality and art does not exist. Today’s art has rediscovered an object and has held that object as if it were a ball of fire. Therefore, any questions of how to express or interpret the object seem too long, pedantic, and ridiculous in the context of this unprecedented situation.
The object simply exists. This statement has irrevocably depreciated the notions of expression, interpretation, metaphor, and similar devices.
In my treatment of “The Water-Hen”, I have tried to avoid an unnecessary construction of elements. I have introduced into it not only objects but also their characteristics and READY-MADE events that were already moulded. Thus, my intervention was dispensable. An object ought to be won over and possessed rather than depicted or shown. What a marvellous difference! Important and unimportant, mundane, boring, conventional events and situations constitute the heart of reality. I derail them from the track of realness (“The Zero Theatre Manifesto”, 1963); give them autonomy, which in life is called aimlessness; and deprive them of any motivation and effects. I keep turning them around, recreating them indefinitely until they begin to have a life of their own; until they begin to fascinate us.
Then such questions as “Is this already art?” or “Is this still reality?” become inconsequential to me.
The dramatic text is also a “ready-made object” that has been formed outside the zone of performance and the audience’s reality. It is an object that has been found; an object whose structure is dense and whose identity is delineated by its own fiction, illusion, and psychophysical dimension.
I treat it in much the same way as I treat other events and objects in the production.
Caution: The terminology that has been used in the play is autonomous. It would be fallacious to apply it to draw conclusions concerning life. Chaos, destruction, disintegration, zero, anticonstruction, order, automatism, brutality, perversion, and obsession are the names of means and processes that are on equal footing in the arts and have neither negative nor positive colouring, as do their counterparts in life.”
Pleśniarowicz, Krzysztof (chosen and ed. by). Metamorfozy. Teksty o latach 1938-1974. [Metamorphoses. Texts about the years 1928 – 1974] Kraków: Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor Cricoteka, Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2000, p. 415-417.
Translated by: Monika Markiewicz