Workshops with Bogdan Renczyński

Empty places. Spaces by Tadeusz Kantor
20 – 31 July 2015, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 


Facilitator: Bogdan Renczyński
Capacity limit: 14 participants
Meeting with the audience after the workshops: 31 July, Friday, 7 p.m. 


Download the application form and send it to writing the name of workshop facilitator in the e-mail subject line. Deadline for the applications: 3 July 2015.


The research process of spaces in the work of Tadeusz Kantor will be the main concern of the workshops. The title spaces, understood as memory as well as specific places, animated the artist’s imagination. Real places (or those constructed on stage), memory of childhood or memories of war, spaces of reconstruction, found their way of expression in the art of Tadeusz Kantor as a protest against the passing of time and against violence. What they also strongly entailed was failure which Kantor perceived as a necessary element for rebirth: a work of art must face failure and defeat in order to be able to revive and open to growth. 

An empty place as failure is understood as a place which is abandoned, forgotten, unfilled, a place which causes emptiness within us. The experience of an empty place creates the need to fill it in, to satisfy a void or a lack of something. Such need to fill emptiness or attempt to reconstruct its original content can be understood here as a reaction to the void (which becomes a causative factor). Such a construction can therefore be very inspiring to an artist. It is also connected with the need to compensate, with one’s own creative act, for the fate or condition of an abandoned place or an abandoned person (carnal places).



1. When I was no longer around. When I’m no longer around… – Wielopole Skrzyńskie

The first problem we touch upon will be reconstruction. This part of the workshop will involve a trip to Wielopole Skrzyńskie and participants’ work with Kantor’s places of memory. We will be reconstructing a drawing by Tadeusz Kantor from 1983 when the artist travelled to his home village with his production Wielopole, Wielopole (he visited the place for the first time since the World War II). In the drawing, Kantor depicted himself against the buildings of the central square. He is a boy portrayed with a trolley-bicycle from his childhood. Several years later the artist added a comment to the sketch: My Wielopole. My trolley in the square / houses – model = memory. The drawing is a journey back to the artist’s childhood – a reconstruction of a specific place and a model of a memory at the same time. During our outdoor activities we will make an attempt at finding Kantor’s perspective used to reconstruct his memory and we will look at contemporary buildings through the prism of the artist’s drawing (or the other way round). Such a reconstruction can be understood as longing for someone’s memory, a need to fill oneself with someone else’s biography, experience another person’s fate and strange emotions. The reconstruction will take place during an outdoor workshop, also through working with the film Rare Color Footage Depicting Jewish Life in the Shtetl Before the Holocaust from the collection of Yad Vashem, depicting the Jewish community of Wielopole Skrzyńskie around 1939. We will be juxtaposing this image with today’s buildings in Wielopole Skrzyńskie, by looking for the same takes and images or by creatively looking for differences and negations. The only thing that remains are elements of architecture visible in the documentary. There is no trace of the film’s cast, i.e. 87 killed Jewish families, listed after the war by Father Józef Śmietana. This kind of reconstruction is an attempt at touching the empty place where the synagogue used to be (it was demolished during World War II), the empty place of a withered cultural and social construction, and most of all the empty place of 735 Jews whose lives created the climate of this archival footage. An attempt at recreating or analysing this empty place is a process of returning to the atmosphere from before the Holocaust.

The second problem we touch upon is Kantor’s childhood spent in Wielopole Skrzyńskie in the context of the artist creating his art with his childhood memories and the memory of his childhood. Kantor tackled the problem of an empty place by constructing his productions and filling the empty places by reconstructing them on stage (e.g. childhood room). What is of particular importance in this process is Tadeusz Kantor’s text Meetings with Death in which he reconstructs his dream or a vision he experienced when he had a fever – a vision of his own funeral, identified with a feeling of Art.

We will compare this feeling with the final production by the Cricot 2 Theatre – Today Is My Birthday – in which he planned his own funeral. We will analyse the empty place left by Kantor, the empty place in a production which was performed without him present (he died after one of its last rehearsals, on 8 December 1990). The empty place defined by a feeling, projection of the artist – an empty place in its literal sense: death, lack of carnality – an empty place as a space of the future, a space for an actor’s life, a space for the lives of the audience.


2. Actor’s space as a work of art. A space of a biography as a work of art

In the second part of the workshops I suggest that we develop the problem of biography in Tadeusz Kantor’s work by adding other people’s biographies and looking at their lives from the perspective of divided human condition. I have the following biographies in mind:

1. Etty Hillesum

2. Janusz Korczak

3. Josephine Vergara (Jo), main character in Wojciech Tochman’s reportage (Wojciech Tochman, Eli, Eli, Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2013)

4. Male character identified with gestures of defeat in the short story by Elias Canetti (Elias Canetti, Tobołek [in]: Głosy Marrakeszu, Wydawnictwo słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk 2014)

5. Rebeca Freedman, one of the characters in the book by Isabel Vincent (Isabel Vincent, Ciała i dusze, Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, Wrocław 2006)

6. Francois, main character in the book Odpowiedni trup (Jorge Semprún, Odpowiedni trup, Czytelnik, Warszawa 2002)


They are other people’s tragic biographies which extort space for themselves in a work of art, direct our attitude towards these stories and which infiltrate a creative act (e.g. actor’s part, director’s vision etc.)

To what extent are these biographies connected with the need to compensate with one’s own creative act for their fate or condition of the place abandoned by these biographies? What does the process of filling oneself up with someone else’s biography entail – the need to experience someone else’s fate and emotions?




An actor of the Cricot 2 Theatre from 1982 to 1992, and later of Compagnie du Singulier Theatre from 1994 to 1996 and MIST Theatre from 1996 to 1997.
He performed in Tadeusz Kantor’s productions The Dead Class, Let the Artists DieWielopole WielopoleI Shall Never Return, and Today Is My Birthday.
Since 1980, he has been working at the Centre for Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor ‘Cricoteka’ in Krakow. A curator of numerous exhibitions of Tadeusz Kantor’s work in Poland and abroad.

Bogdan Renczyński conducted the following theatre workshops:

2015 Atelier théâtral. Methode Kantor?, Universite Toulouse – Jean Jaures

2015 The Work of Tadeusz Kantor, The Watermill Center, New York

2015 The Work of Tadeusz KantorYale University Theatre Studies, New York

2014 Workshop during the CROSSROADS 2014 project ‘The 21st International Meeting of Live Arts. Performances by artists from France and Poland’, Center for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw

2013 L’arte del vivere in viaggio di Tadeusz Kantor e Pina Bausch, Carovana SMI, Cagliari

2013 Mom… It’s me, Lazarus, BAI Bizkaiko Antzerki Ikastegia, Bilbao

2012 Meeting with the Theatre of Death, Center for Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor Cricoteka

2011- Weston College, at the invitation of Gerard Stephenson (I’m Lady Macbeth).

2010 – l’ARTA (Association de Recherche des Traditions de l’Acteur) in Cartoucherie, Paris (Aussi pres des poubelles que de l’éternité / As Close to Dumpster as to Eternity).

2008 – Ferme de Trielle, Thiézac, Auvergne (Le Seuil Threshold).

2008 – École des Beaux-Arts KASK, Gent, Belgia (he collaborated with Rene van Gijsegem on a graduation performance La mer des arbres The Wooden Sea).

2006 – Théâtre des Asphodeles, Lyon, as part of the Kantor en Rhône-Alpes festival (La Perte des feuilles Trees Shed Their Leaves).

2006 – Regional Cultural Center, Łańcut (Chair).

Renczyński directed the production What Shall We Do With the Cello  by Matei Vişniec of Théâtrè des Collines in Etoile (France, 2007). He staged his own productions: Rebecca, My Mother at Théâtre du Radeau in Le Mans (France, 2010) and Mama da at the Maska Theatre in Rzeszów, premiere in October 2012.