Minor roads winding through the meadows lead up to the summer villa in Hucisko, located in the Małopolska region. From the outside, it would be the perfect picture of a traditional highlanders’ house of the Tatra mountain region, were it not for a few details that disrupt the architectural schemes – a semi-rounded tower rising above the roof, plastered walls, and a high chimney are all evocative of a medieval castle, rather than a highlander's hut. And, as is usually the case with Kantor, one comes across more surprises than that. As the architect Piotr Stępień declares, the house tells the story of Kantor and his theatre. Culture.pl invites you inside!
Dom Tadeusza Kantora w Hucisku from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Kantor on the construction site
Next to Wielopole Skrzyńskie, the Cricoteka in Kraków and the Krzysztofory Gallery, Hucisko is one of the most important addresses on the Kantor map. It was here that a house-museum was meant to be raised, dedicated to the collaborative work between Tadeusz Kantor and Maria Stangret-Kantor. The choice of the place was obvious. Artists from the avant-garde Grupa Krakowska, Jerzy and Lidia Skarżyńscy, Lidia Krasicka (a Cricot 2 actress), and Kazimierz Mikulski all spent their summers in the area. In 1989, Kantor joined their company together with his wife Maria Stangret, bringing along a very bold architectural vision of his own.
Stępień takes us around the summer residence of the artist, uncovering the layered meanings hidden in its meandering interior.
According to Stępień, the tower was a symbol of independence and autonomy, much like the whole oeuvre of Tadeusz Kantor, which was free and broke known conventions.
Designing Kantor’s house was a professional adventure similar to the kind that the actors of the Cricot 2 Theatre went through. Theatre has a lot in common with architecture; it is a team sport. And Kantor was excellent at directing people, making sure that all the projects were made in accordance with his idea. It is thanks to this that a story was created – a story in the shape of this house.
The three floors of the villa provide us with continuations of stories we are familiar with through the theatre. The story, told in wood, concrete and plaster for a few decades, continues to live. It is still surprising when walking from one room into another, we don't find what we are expecting, we suddenly turn a different direction, and end up not being in the same room as we thought. This is the performance that Tadeusz Kantor conjured up for us. And in order to do so, he employed the kind of means that he knew from the stage.
The moved Karl Gerhard Schmidt, a German promoter of Kantor’s work and a co-producer of his stagings, adds:
This house is Kantor!
In the memoirs of Dorota Krakowska, we read that in all the places where he lived, Kantor always built a space of his own. He would modify furniture, dismantle tables, and transform beds into boxes for paintings. In search of the original Kantorian design, we take care with our cameras inside the villa, and on the first floor we are already surprised by an oddly placed table and a huge white stove. Lech Stangret, once an actor of Cricot 2 and today the head of the Tadeusz Kantor Foundation, said that Kantor sought to recreate the atmosphere of his home from childhood, perhaps even from Wielopole.
Kantor loved sitting by this stove and listening to the local gossip, but when he was working, silence reigned here. And every piece of furniture here is the result of a common decision between this extraordinary pair.
The following rooms are a living area and two studios decorated with the artists’ paintings. There is also half an acre of garden, with magnolias that bloom in the spring and the greatest tourist attraction of the area – a gigantic, twelve-metre-high Kantor Chair. The concrete sculpture was first unveiled on the fifth anniversary of the artist’s death. Its concept was authored by Kantor himself, as part of the Impossible Monuments series. It is an important site on the literary trail of national heritage sites in the Małopolska region. The Kantor Foundation is now working on renovating the house and making it accessible to the public and to artists. Lech Stangret also reveals that there are plans of creating a living cultural centre in Hucisko, with a residency programme for young artists. All in accordance with the host’s will.
On 18th April, 2015, as part of the celebrations of Tadeusz Kantor’s centennial birthday, his old friends and collaborators met in Hucisko. Among them was the great American promotor of Kantor’s oeuvre, Richard Demarco. The head of the Edinburgh Fringe and a co-author of Cricot 2’s international successes, Demarco underscored the fact that the Hucisko house is proof of Kantor’s presence 15 years after his death. "This is a world that Kantor came to love”, he said in a talk with Culture.pl
Demarco: Kantor is still alive! from Culture.pl on Vimeo.
Culture.pl co-organised the event.
Author: Anna Legierska
translated by Paulina Schlosser 30/04/2015
Sources: Tygodnik Powszechny, PAP, own materials
Video: Katarzyna Łuka, Marek Sokołowski