The Museum as an Art Practice

16 November 2012, Krakow, Poland, 2pm – 7pm

National Museum in Krakow
The Main Building, no. 1, 3 Maja Avenue – Audiovisual Room
Organised by: Cricoteka and the National Museum in Krakow

Welcoming speach by The Director of National Museum in Krakow – Zofia Gołubiew and The Director of Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor – Natalia Zarzecka.

Actors: Agency, The Archive of Tadeusz Kantor – Cricoteka, MoAA (Museum of American Art), MOLAF (Museum of Longing and Failure) and Antje Majewski & Alejandro Jodorowsky (screening).


I don’t believe that the history of art, especially the history of contemporary art, is merely […] a reflection of the process that shapes collective opinion. […] The history of art indubitably plays a pivotal and decisive role in this process. […, and] the Museum is the final chapter in that process  as well as a recapitulation of this history, wrote Tadeusz Kantor about the Museum of Art in Łódź.

The artist deliberately structured the way in which his work was to be received and archived so as to allow him to be an active participant in the process of writing the history of his own creative output. He conceived Cricoteka – a museum-cum-archive, where the complete documentation of his actions was to be collected and made available; even the smallest items produced for his theatre were to be preserved there so that they would not be forgotten or neglected; to this, he added an auratic place of remembrance in his final studio and a residential house that would also serve as exhibition and storage space for his and Maria Stangret’s painting. For him, the museum was a time capsule. The museum was for him not of interest. He was not interested in the museum as a vehicle for artistic practice, even though he deftly employed the medium of exhibition, as is clear from the Popular Exhibition, for one. On the other hand, in his reflections Kantor questioned the place of art in the context of the theatre, which – to his mind – ought to  belong to the reality of life. Kantor’s views on the participation and engagement of spectators also kept changing. In his writings there is no definition of the Museum as such, it is always related to a specific goal. He rarely mentions particular institutions or their activities; rather, the plan for the development of his work is based on inspiration. During his first stay in Paris (1947), Kantor visited the Palais de la Découverte which he referred to as the museum of curiosities. An  interdisciplinary exhibition facility fascinated him chiefly as an assortment of objects, a thickening of matter and an image of the world as a product of knowledge. This perspective translated  into how he defined art –  as being inseparably linked with matter. For all these reasons, for Kantor, the museum space appears mainly in the context of the aura of its creator, the aura of a work of art and its material value, of collecting perceived as the hoarding of unique items and memorabilia. However, he did not consider the issue of bringing thematic order to the collection. Objects were assigned to specific theatrical practices and their status was renegotiated. The concept of a bio-object also appears as well as the postulate of elevating the status  of a poor object through the prism of its aura alone.  In Kantor’s writings, the concept of the museum is not translated into process and action – both key elements in his art.

The event aims to map out Kantor’s vision of a museum, as well as any reflections and actions in any way related to the exhibiting and collecting practices, in the context of the new mission of Cricoteka as an institution where the spectator, the artist, the creative process and the very work of art all become part of activities which straddle theatre, archive and museum. The tool used to achieve this goal will be a conceptual drawing derived from the intersection of different working methodologies within a museum treated as art practice, rather than merely as a space used to archive, secure or negotiate the shape of the canon within art history.

Ewa Tatar and Joanna Zielińska

 See photos

The New American Painting, Dorothy Miller Gallery, Museum of American Art, Berlin, photo: Josh White


Still from the film “The Hand that Gives. A conversation between Alejandro Jodorowsky and Antje Majewski”, Paris 2010


Event organised as part of   The Migratory Museum project.
Project  The Migratory Museum subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and the National Heritage.
Co-organizer: National Museum in Krakow.
Partners: Barka Alrina, Institut International de la Marionnette de Charleville-Mézières, Région Champagne-Ardenne ORCCA, Instytut Historii Sztuki UJ.
Media patronage: Radio Kraków,,, E-splot.


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