Tadeusz Kantor. Episode Three. Marionette

February 16, 2016 – 2017


Come to Cricoteka to see another facet of the four-part exhibition dedicated to Tadeusz Kantor’s art. Theatre objects constitute the pivot of the show. Complemented with other elements they present the key ideas of Kantor’s theatre. The objects, props, sketches and photographs displayed at the exhibition give a full picture of the subsequent stages in its development. Short films that accompany the exhibition provide a commentary on the vast oeuvre left by the artist.


Tadeusz Kantor, “Grabiec, Goplana, Balladyna”,
projekt do spektaklu “Balladyna”, lata 80., Kolekcja A, depozyt w Muzeum Narodowym w Krakowie.


As part of the new facet of the exhibition you will see objects representing the subsequent stages of Tadeusz Kantor’s artistic work, already known from the previous shows. The stage of the Informel Theatre will be illustrated by the reconstructions of stage objects from the performance Country House (1961), the objects Wardrobe – the Interior of Imagination and Children in a Rubbish Cart. The work titled A Bathing Lady will bring back the ideas of the Happening Theatre, while Classroom – Closed Work will introduce the viewer to the Theatre of Death. The last two stages will also be illustrated by new objects: The Machine of Torture (The Water Hen, The Happening Theatre, 1967), The Bed and Mannequin of Uncle Józef – The Priest (Wielopole, Wielopole, The Theatre of Death, 1980) and the objects titled The Pillories (Let the Artists Die, The Theatre of Death, 1985). Next to The Pillories unique photographs overpainted with acrylic by Tadeusz Kantor are displayed. The nearby showcase features small objects from the performance Let the Artists Die. The new works, which you will see for the first time, will include The Cage and The Costume of the Underaged – objects from the performance Lovlies and Dowdies (The Impossible Theatre, 1973). We will also come back to the earliest stage in Tadeusz Kantor’s work, that is the Underground Independent Theatre. The sculpture Goplana and Elves and the accompanying collage will reveal the ideas of the performance Balladyna (1943). The original music score written specially for the performance by Janina Garścia and the masks worn by the characters of the Suitors will present The Return of Odysseus (1944).


Tadeusz Kantor, “Służące”, projekt do spektaklu “Maszyna Miłości i śmierci”, 1987, własność prywatna, depozyt w Muzeum Narodowym w Krakowie.


The pathway leading through the subsequent stages of Tadeusz Kantor’s artistic work is not the only key to the exhibition. Each new part was dedicated to another issue, which invited the audience to look at Kantor’s art from a slightly different perspective. This time the exhibition is organised around the motifs of a puppet and a mannequin, which were of key importance for the artist. Some objects, including Goplana and Elves or The Pillories, subtly allude to the figure of a puppet. The former is an abstract object from 1980s, which echoes the artist’s fascination with Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism from the times of his war-time performances. The latter is an installation comprising eight wooden posts. In the performance Let the Artists Die the pillories had actors fixed to them. Their gestures and poses were reminiscent of the figures depicted in the altarpiece showing the Dormition of Mary in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Krakow (1477–1489).


Tadeusz Kantor, “Goplana i elfy”, “Balladyna”, projekt do spektaklu “Balladyna”, lata 80., Kolekcja A, depozyt w Muzeum Narodowym w Krakowie


Other works presented at the exhibition are a literal reference to the figure of a puppet. The mannequins used by Tadeusz Kantor in the performances of Cricot 2 Theatre are usually joined to a specific object. The works of this kind include: the mannequin in a bath from the performance The Water Hen, latex children’s heads and hands from the rubbish cart originally made for the performance Country House and reconstructed in 1980s, the mannequin placed in the object Wardrobe – the Interior of Imagination or the mannequin of a Priest lying in bed from Wielopole, Wielopole. According to Kantor, the relationship between a mannequin and a living actor and between a mannequin-actor and accompanying object was unbreakable. The artist coined the phrase ‘bio-object’ to describe an object united with an actor. This is how Kantor as he was working on the performance Wielopole, Wielopole described the relationship between a theatre object and actor’s body and, equally often, the body of a mannequin: ‘…Bio-objects were not props used by actors. Neither were they “the scenery” one “acts” in. They formed an inseparable whole with the actors. They emitted their own “life”, which was autonomous and did not refer to the fiction (subject matter) of the play. This “life” and its signs constituted the key subject matter of the performance. It was its substance rather than the plot. The demonstration and manifestation of this bio-object’s “life” was not meant to represent some system existing outside of it. It was autonomous and so it was real! Bio-object – a work of art’. This kind of actor-mannequin-object relationship is represented in the exhibition by such works as The Machine of Torture and The Cage.


Tadeusz Kantor, “Świętoszka”, obraz do spektaklu „Niech sczezną artyści”, Teatr Cricot 2, 1985, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst. Gent


In the third facet of the exhibition we encourage a reflection on the tension between a living actor and his dummy, which exists in Tadeusz Kantor’s art. The sense of death is inherent in a mannequin, but at the same time a mannequin makes it possible to transcend death. According to Kantor, life can only be expressed by the lack thereof, by emptiness, by a dummy. We hope that the presented works will reveal the diversity – and often apparent contradiction – of meanings hidden in the figure of a puppet, which was so important for Tadeusz Kantor’s art.



Tadeusz Kantor’s exhibition at Cricoteka

The concept for the exhibition has been prepared under the management of Natalia Zarzecka – Director of Cricoteka, by Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska, Justyna Michalik and Jan Raczkowski

Artistic design and stage set: Robert Rumas – Rumas Studio


The objects, theatrical props, stage sets and archival material from the Cricoteka Collection represent the seven stages of Tadeusz Kantor’s theatrical oeuvre:

1. Underground Independent Theatre
2. Creation of the Cricot 2 Theatre
3. Informel Theatre
4. Zero Theatre
5. Happening Theatre
6. Impossible Theatre
7. Theatre of Death.

The exhibition’s contemporary design emphasises its theatricality. On entering the exhibition hall, viewers will find themselves in an extraordinary space from which the works of Tadeusz Kantor will emerge. The latest multimedia will help to transport us into the world of the author of The Dead Class: the carefully selected audiovisual and photographic materials will provide an informative backdrop for the exhibits and the ideas behind them. Tablets will offer an exciting touch, particularly for younger viewers; they will provide digital access to the collection of the Cricoteka Archives.

The presentation of the Cricoteka Collection will be developed through three scenes; these will deal with Tadeusz Kantor’s childhood and the themes of the marionette and sculpture in his work.



Media patronage:        

Tadeusz Kantor’s works © Maria Kantor & Dorota Krakowska

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