5 Most Important Happenings by Kantor
#photography & visual arts
small, 5 Most Important Happenings by Kantor, Tadeusz Kantor, 1969, Kraków, phot. Eustachy Kossakowski / Forum, kantor_tadeusz_portret_forum_1.jpg
Conducting seawaves, covering a woman in coal, Rembrant's anatomy lesson performed on a suit, a parade of postmen, and burglary in an art gallery... Culture.pl brings back 5 most notable happenings by Tadeusz Kantor.
Kantor’s first happening took place in 1965 in a cafe at Chmielna street. Fourteen simple everyday activities such as eating, shaving, and sitting were deprived of their practical functions. The act of being performed for an audience rendered these activities absurd.
During the happening Cricotage Mariusz Tchorek read one of his texts, making pauses and stopping from time to time. Kantor counted the time: 'Five minutes have past'. At the same time, he wrapped Maria Stangret in bands of paper. Anka Ptaszkowska was a 'contradictory person' (Tchorek’s expression), repeating the words 'I’m sitting' over and over again, sitting on a chair then standing up.
In one of the corners of the room a woman was laying on a table. Coal was dumped on her. Next to the table sat three elegant men, who at a certain moment took off their jackets and ties, precisely soaped their faces and began to shave. Later the action of soaping began to affect the clothes and the objects surrounding the three men. Two other men ate pasta from a suitcase. Some woman constantly made phone calls. Somebody carried packages from one side of the room to the other…
More about Cricotage
Seven postmen, “post officials”, were engaged for the 1967 happening The Letter / List. Their task was to carry an unusually sized letter (two meters high and fourteen meters long) from the Main Post Office in Ordynacka Street through the streets of Warsaw. The postmen were dressed in postal uniforms and the march was escorted by the police. The event lasted two and a half hours and ended at the Foksal Gallery, where the letter addressed to this gallery arrived.
There was an audience in the gallery, which was being updated on the part of the happening, involving the participation of the postmen. The action effectively took place in two places. Those gathered in the gallery at a certain point took out their own private letters and began to read them out loud.
Zbigniew Gostomski wrote:
Kantor positioned commentators along the run route, who were to provide commentary of this event, as if this event were a football match. I was the last commentator, who announced the entry of the letter into the Foksal Gallery, as if the letter were a ball entering a goal.
Another commentator said :
Ladies and gentlemen, a decisive moment is coming up, the letter is now near the Journalists’ Club, it passed by, the tired postmen are stopping for a moment, (…) the letter is moving forward again, the postmen-retirees are in great form once again, the letter gallops by me, the quick turn of events is forcing me to leave my post, over…
Panoramic Sea Happening
The happening in August 1967 started with The Sea Concert, during which the painter Edward Krasiński stood on a dais partially submerged in water a few metres away from the beach, and conducted the sea waves. While performing this concert he was dressed in a black tailcoat and had his back to the audience sitting in deck chairs. The second part of the happening was The Raft of the Medusa – an attempt to reconstruct the scene from Théodore Géricault's painting of the same name, which shows the castaways of the frigate Medusa in dramatic poses. Models were chosen from the gathered crowd of invited guests, friends and random tourists. Kantor, wearing a black hat and striped robe, walked around the beach, trying to control the course of the action using a tube. During the raft’s construction the participants of the happening delivered lectures on art and a jury evaluated the accuracy of the poses that were being taken on.
The Erotic Barbouillage
was the third part of the happening. In this part, women’s bodies were treated as “moving matter”. A few women (among them, Maria Stangret and Anka Ptaszowska) wallowed in goo made from sand, tomato sauce and oil. Afterwards they cheerfully chased down chosen bystanders, trying to leave their mark on them. Agrarian Culture on the Sand
consisted in planting newspapers in straight rows in the sand under the watchful eyes of the instructors. During The Sinking,
a chest which allegedly contained documentation from the Foksal Gallery was thrown into the sea.
An Anatonomy Lesson after Rembrandt
Kantor worked on Rembrant’s famous piece The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp four times. This painting from 1632 shows a public dissection. Kantor used the iconographic setting and the topic of the painting in his happening An Anatomy Lesson after Rembrandt , which was shown in Nuremberg (1968), Warsaw (1969), Dourdan (1971) and Oslo (1971). In all of the versions of this happening Kantor conducted an "anatomy" of a man lying on a table surrounded by students. This wasn’t, however, an anatomy of the model’s body but of his clothing. From the model’s pockets and the recesses of his clothes Kantor drew various items: a pencil, a toothbrush, cigarettes, matches, a passport, photographs, a gun, an egg.
More about An Anatomy Lesson after Rembrandt
In 1971, Tadeusz Kantor peculiarly broke into the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, or more precisely, into its adjacent rooms. The act was transformed into an exhibition entitled Cambriolage (French for burglary). The burglary was committed not as much by the artist himself but by a huge chair that did not fit in the small gallery space and seemed to burst through it. The garden chair for a giant ripped the gallery’s wooden floor and stuck into the walls and ceiling. It demanded viewers to imagine some of its parts as being located in adjacent rooms or outside the gallery.
The lapidary information on the leaflet accompanying the exhibition read:
A huge chair, only part of which fit into allocated room of the gallery, has its immaterial continuation in the adjacent rooms.
These were offices. Kantor displayed photographs of the rooms in which the invisible parts of the chair supposedly were to be located. Visitors to the gallery were also given an instruction:
In addition to the vernissage, during the ‘cambriolage’ – the gallery does not permit visits to the adjacent rooms, leaving the decision up to the viewer at his/her own risk.
Source: Culture.pl, edited by PZ 29/12/2014, translated by Agata Wissuwa