Choreographic Machine

To place Tadeusz Kantor’s multifaceted work inside a clear-cut framework of conventionally distinguished arts is to work on a misguided premise.  I am of the opinion that Kantor’s formal education in the visual arts, as a painter and stage designer, has been overemphasized, the image of him as the one who had turned theatre inside out as a director coming from the domain of the visual arts, a conductor that moves the actors on a stage with his baton in the Theatre of Death. Kantor’s oeuvre bears witness to total art, interdisciplinary and ahead of its time. It would be no small feat to find in Polish culture a more comprehensive artist.

On entering the world Kantor created one is struck with its interdisciplinarity, its obliteration of borders, its organic merger of arts.  Kantor’s legacy continues to be inspiration for artists and admirers from different artistic paradigms. It was credited with such qualities and forms as musicality, plasticity, acting, drama, photography, improvisation, circus, carnivalesque. It would seem that by far the only untapped area remains dance, notwithstanding the fact that distinct elements which make for the art of choreography, such as rhytmicisation, expressiveness, clarity of movement or corporeal dramaturgy would be noted and commented upon before every now and then.

 It should be stressed that Kantor’s Theatre of Death and happenings, as seen from the anachronous perspective, are now closer to the modern day dance and theatre than at any given point in time before. They employ similar measures, expression, are similarly oriented on authenticism and biographism, thus creating an intimate theatre of subjective premonitions and memories.

In Kantor’s artistic output one can also see the anticipation of the shift in the approach to body in art.  The problem of endowing memories, thoughts or phantasies with material shape seems to have been among the conundrums with which he had struggled and that would surface at different stages of his artistic path. Shaping, seeking physical equivalents of thoughts, attempts at translating his state of consciousness  into the surrounding external matter is a recurring desire, expressed many times in his memoirs, and discernible throughout his practice. The desire to stage his memories, as he did in the Theatre of Death but also as he would do earlier staging his phantasies and fears on canvas.

All these scattered paths meet at the immense junction of the body in Kantor’s work, a theme all too seldom addressed and expanded. Behind this indirect fascination with body (skin pulled over a skeleton to hide labyrinths of joints, tracts and systems) is a search for another inside, an element which is abstract, spiritual, intellectual. Kantor is in search of the real body but what he can see is for the most part its disintegration and dying. Body is tainted with passing; the master changes its parameters, distorts and multiplies its features.

 A human being and her analogues – a rag doll and machine – is seen caught in the middle of everyday activities: washing feet, using bathroom, baring the body; and in doing these she is transported to the stage. Kantor relishes the sight of body in motion, body in action.

It is the aspect of searching for new contexts for the bodily that brings together Kantor’s work with the modern day choreography. Since the 1970s there has been growing interest in things somatic, body becoming the subject of essays, articles and debates, which – among other things – have repeatedly called for a closer observation of the bodily and giving the bodily an equal standing to that enjoyed in culture by the intellectual. Also in theatre practices body has become a point of reference and often the very subject of choreographers’ work. They are fascinated with the reality of body, its shape that – given the use of the right formal devices – can be negated, in a game involving strategies of reception. The body becomes a shapeless mass, a contemporary sculpture, a statue, and the performance itself becomes in its turn an invitation extended to the  audience asking them to explore the theatre of anatomy.

The choreographies presented in the Choreographic Machine project embrace several of the said concepts of the bodily. And thus Karol Tymiński, in his Doll House’s first part shows a body placed beyond social context as a shapeless mass without specific references, while in the second part the body’s presence is shaped and conditioned by social norms, placing it inside a definite order, imposing on it certain modes of action. A different take on the bodily has been developed by Janusz Orlik and Joanna Leśnierowska in their Insight, which evidently manifests the need of materialization, so important for Kantor, a desire to move from the state of anxiety on to externalising it.  The dancer’s performance is built around a symphony of gestures, tiny movements that embody the sensation of dread itself.  It is a frame-by-frame study of a fear that cannot be reduced to mere physical action, but is a manifestation of the existential form of being.

While remaining in that mildly claustrophobic world of materialized sensations, Iza Szostak’s production introduces its audience to an intimate space of a different, one is tempted to say inverted order: it is like an invitation to Kantor’s Inferno of billowing thoughts and fears, which all shape the coexistence and communication with another person under the unusual circumstances sealed with passing away and transience.

The final proposal is Whatever by Tomasz Bazan. Work on the production is currently in progress, the artists work on the themes of fear, flight and hunt in their bodily aspects.

The Choreographic Machine project seeks to set in motion a spiral of relations, associations and contexts between the modern choreographic art and the work of Tadeusz Kantor.

Anna Królica
Curator of the project

“Doll House”, Karol Tymiński, photo: Marta Ankiersztejn


Programme of Choreographic Machine
Museum of Municipal Engineering in Kraków, ul. Św. Wawrzyńca 15, Hala F


22 November (Friday)

6 p.m.

Insight (Janusz Orlik/Joanna Leśnierowska)

Insight is a search for a physical and visual representation of the emotional states of alienation from the surrounding world. With its hero placed in a real and at the same time metaphorical space of a stage thick with microgestures, shadows, voices, the performance effects a clash of the external and the inner world, offering us an insight into ambiguous emotional states, which we can often recognise as similar to our own. Translated into an intense language of image and movement, it lures one to a trip through the labyrinth of human body, which collides, day after day, with the cacophony of the stimuli surrounding it. Insight emerges as the next stage of the nearly ten-years long artistic dialogue between Janusz Orlik and Joanna Leśnierowska and is Janusz Orlik’s third solo produced in the Old Brewery New Dance programme.

Concept and choreography: Janusz Orlik/Joanna Leśnierowska
Performers: Janusz Orlik
Dramaturgy and direction: Joanna Leśnierowska
Sound: Janusz Orlik
Set design: Marta Wyszyńska
Technical director: Łukasz Kędzierski
Visual materials: Michał Łuczak
Production: Art Stations Foundation
Premiere: 3 March 2013, Studio Słodownia +3, Stary Browar, Poznań

7.15 p.m.

Authentic Movement in contemporary theatre practice – panel discussion featuring: Joanna Leśnierowska, Weronika Szczawińska, Ryszard Kalinowski, Bogdan Renczyński, Rafał Urbacki and Anna Królica (chair).

Just as it was the case in Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre practice, in contemporary theatre and dance it sometimes happens that artists invite non-professionals or the audience to participate as performers. What meanings are brought in by giving up on professionally educated actors? Is it really an act of giving up? What is the meaning of authenticity in contemporary theatre practice? Can the effect of authenticity on stage be achieved with everyday motions instead of technically trained movement? What does authenticism in theatre contribute? How to interpret it? Can non-professionals guarantee it? What are the strategies for the body in contemporary dance and theatre? The discussion will bring together the perspectives of practitioners and theoreticians, directors and choreographers.

9 p.m.

Whatever (Tomasz Bazan, Anita Wach, Anna Steller, Jan Borecki)

Making off? To make off: to flee, to escape. A situation ruled with its own rights and therefore it is what it is.

Safari is a big-game hunting expedition or an overland journey for the purpose of gathering trophies. Nowadays, the term denotes a form of observing, by an organised group, of an ecosystem with predators walking at large.

We do not have to do what we have to do. There is, however, an agreement to remain there so that one can see the difference. There are two types of animal enclosures: the first one keeps the specimens in a state of constant exposure, the other one offers them an illusion of their natural ecosystem. Does the opportunity to move between the two spaces show a chance for winning a trophy? What is that trophy?

Direction: Tomasz Bazan
Design: Patrycja Płanik
Choreography/dance: Tomasz Bazan, Anita Wach, Anna Steller, Jan Borecki
Music: Jan Duszyński
Realisation/cooperation: Maciej Połynko
Production: „Zamek” Culture Centre
Programme: “Archive of the Body” / Teatr Maat Projekt / Centrum Kultury w Lublinie / Muzeum Woli Warszawa
Funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

23 November (Saturday)

7 p.m.

The Glass Jar next to the Glass Jar (Iza Szostak)

The Glass Jar Next to the Glass Jar is a continuation of the investigations on contemplating the problems of passing, body, old age, illness. What exactly is aging? How does one arrive at self-knowledge when this irreversible stage draws near? What ages first? How does our body behave in illness? Memory loss, limited capacity to assess situation, problems with fluent speaking, distorted orientation. Apathy. Perhaps it is the young who are old?

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.
Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

Choreography/concept: Iza Szostak
Actors: Monika Morawska, Iza Szostak
Music: Kuba Słomkowski
Lighting design: Karolina Gębska
Stage design: Kasia Nocuń
Production: The Body/Mind Foundation
Partners: Art Stations Foundation Old Brewery New Dance, Burdąg Foundation
Realised under a scholarship awarded by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage

24 November (Sunday)

7 p.m.

Doll House (Karol Tymiński)

A utopian vision of American society in the 1950s and the icon of a woman in particular, with its attributed traditional roles, constitute the central axis of the spectacle in Doll House. Starting from the feminist critical analysis standpoint, balancing between theatre’s fiction and reality’s theatricality, the performer faces the imperative of perfection, itself a powerful icon in the global-scale pop culture.

Choreography, performance: Karol Tymiński
Music: Linda Scott, Vic Damone, Rjd2
Lighting design: Jan Cybis
Production: Burdąg Foundation, The Body/Mind Foundation; Open Latitudes (Latitutes Contemporaines, Lille; Les Halles, Brussels; L’Arsenic, Lausanne, Le Manège, Maubege-Mons; Maison Folie; International Contemporary Dance Festival Body/Mind) within the framework of the EU Culture Programme; with the support of the Institute of Music and Dance and Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

Tickets and Passes:

Entry pass for 4 performances: 15 PLN

Ticket for an individual performance: 5 PLN 

Tickets and entry passes will be available from 13 November in Cricoteka offices at ul. Szczepańska 2 from 9 am until 3 pm and 1 hour before each performance.

Project subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Sponsor: Dyna-Trans.
Media patron: TVP KulturaTVP KrakówDwójka Polskie Radio, Radio Kraków,


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