This was Kantor’s most complex happening. It took place in August 1967 in the seashore village of Łazy, during a three-week-long meeting of artists and art theorists which was organised in the framework of the 5th Koszalin Plein-Air convention.
Jerzy Bereś reminisced that Kantor’s earlier concept was to organize this event in a classroom, with Borowski as a teacher. This idea might have been one of the origins of The Dead Class / Umarła klasa.
In the end, the happening took place on a Baltic beach. The sea (according to Kantor’s text included in a leaflet that was published later) was to “impose motion, rhythm and sound values not surpassing the abilities of human perception", and gained a surprising new context in this happening.
The happening 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 waves of the sea. While performing this concert he was dressed in a black tailcoat and had his back to the audience sitting in deck chairs. It is he who can be seen in the famous photograph by Eustachy Kossakowski.
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. The happening that took place in Łazy was however devoid of the lofty emotions present in the famous painting. The aforementioned leaflet contained the following piece of information:
The reconstruction of The Raft of the Medusa is to be a faithful and soulless copy of a masterpiece of the Romantic period. We encourage everybody to use any items of the modern tourism industry: rubber mattresses in the brightest of colours, life buoys, bikinis, terry cloth towels, nylon and plastic products, transistors, etc. This of course doesn’t exempt anybody from faithfulness to motions, gestures and inner experiences. We call on everyone for mass participation.
Jerzy Bereś began the construction of this “living” sculpture. He chose models from the gathered crowd of invited guests, friends and accidental tourists. Kantor, wearing a black hat and striped robe, walked around the beach, trying to control the course of the action using a tube. A problem occurred when the raft was being moved into the water, which caused amusement among the crowd. Bereś reminisced that:
There was a strong wind and the waves were high, whereas Kantor had envisioned a calm sea during the preparations. The happening turned into a fight with nature. (…) The raft was being turned over by the waves, pushed ashore by them, it had to be pushed into the sea again and again. But by chance, an unplanned situation was expected during such a provocation.
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.
In a certain sense Kantor’s happening resembled the actions of Yves Klein from the 60s. At that time Klein presented his Anthropométries, which were created by using naked female bodies as “living paintbrushes”. He also conducted The Montone Symphony wearing elegant attire.
The Panoramic Sea Happening was probably Kantor’s most complicated happening. Joanna Mytkowska wrote that:
(…) this happening was devised as a total action encompassing huge fragments of a landscape and engaging hundreds of people. This action also included the use of references to works of great masters, which was characteristic of the later activities (…). This use constituted kind of a museum persiflage, a mystification of drawing on tradition. The attempt to line up the beachgoers according to the composition of Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa was such a mystification.
Author: Karolina Czerska, December 2014
- J. Mytkowska, An Accidentally Recovered Object / Przedmiot odzyskany przypadkiem (in:) Tadeusz Kantor: Niemożliwe = Impossible, edited by: J. Suchan, Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków 2000
- The Avant-Garde En Plein Air: Osieki and Łazy 1963-1981 / Awangarda w plenerze: Osieki i Łazy 1963-1981, edited by: R. Ziarkiewicz, The Museum in Koszalin, Koszalin 2008
- Panoramic Sea Happening / Panoramiczny happening morski, layout by: T. Kantor, edited by: H. Ptaszkowska, The Koszalin Social-Cultural Society, 1967
- The Panoramic Sea Happening and Tadeusz Kantor in the Years 1964-1968 / Panoramiczny happening morski i Tadeusz Kantor w latach 1964-1968, red. J. Chrobak, M. Rogalski, M. Wilk, Cricoteka, Kraków 2008