The art of happening originated in the US in the late 50s. It rejected  the recognized rules and ideas concerning artistic value. The acceptance of free forms of artistic expression made the dividing line between life and art fuzzy – art became similar to life. The most important of the factors involved is randomness – it is chance that organizes the happening and it is chance that rules our experience of life.


The event which is often interpreted as an evident foretaste of Tadeusz Kantor’s fascination with happenings was the “Anti-exhibition” called a “Popular Exhibition” – organized by the artist in 1963 and widely acclaimed as the first Polish environment. The objects gathered by the artist in the space of Krzysztofory were deprived of their link with reality. They were arranged at random, and they definitely cumulated a kind of negation of the widely accepted conventions of traditional exhibitions. Their very physicality imposing itself on the viewers within the neutral space of the exhibition was to be a sufficient justification and the embodiment of value.


The next symptomatic event seems to be the exhibition in Krzysztofory in 1965 – Tadeusz Kantor, being absent during the exhibition itself, had left there a picture titled “Please sign here,” on the surface of which the viewers were to put their signatures. With this event Kantor consciously negated the idea of a painting as an individual work of art, raised doubts about the standards underlying the process of its creation, and questioned the solemnity and the widely accepted convention of exhibitions. All this may be seen as a prelude to the atmosphere of shock and scandal which was to accompany further happenings organized by Tadeusz Kantor.


Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska

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