Kantor Machine. Displaying, Performing, Assembling, Painting and Other Ways of Production


Place: CESC, Sao Paulo
18 August 2015 – 14 November 2015

Curators: Ricardo Muniz Fernandes, Jarosław Suchan

Organizers: Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Culture.pl (Adam Mickiewicz Institute), and SESC Serviço Social do Comércio in São Paulo

One hundredth anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s birthday is celebrated by the exhibition, which will be both the biggest and the most comprehensive presentation of his artistic achievements outside of Poland and the artist’s  first retrospective ever in South America.  The exhibition will open in Sesc Consolação – one of the major Brazilian cultural, educational and social centers.

Carefully planned and designed exhibition space will host more than 130 objects: originals and replicas of theater props, paintings, drawings, assemblages and also an extremely rich photo and film documentation of happenings, actions and performances of Cricot 2 Theater. They originate from the collections of Cricoteca, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, National Museums in Kraków, Warszawa, Poznań and Wrocław, Regional Museums  in Koszalin and Tarnów, and from private collections.

In the text of Ricardo Muniz Fernandes, the curator of the exhibition, we can read: the exhibition is not a retrospective but a working mechanism; it is not a common presentation but it links up to re-inventing what was live and tangible for Kantor and his times. It is space in process. KANTOR MACHINE is about various machines connected with another multitude of machines in a continuous flow.

The exhibition will start with the presentation of the Aneantisating Machine, which to the curators is a metaphorical representation of all of Kantor’s artworks. Next space will be filled with documents relating to Kantor’s artistic work and life. How the space is organized makes a direct reference to the famous ‘Anti-Exhibition’ which opened in the Kraków Krzysztofory Gallery in 1963; following no chronology, chaotic it will enable the audience to individually work on the reconstruction of the artist’s ‘interior of imagination’.

In the main hall we will exhibit original and reconstructed stage objects, which have been considered fundamental and emblematic for all of Kantor’s creations. We will find here, inter alia: the Cloakroom from „Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes” (1973) and reconstructions of elves and Goplana from the production of „Balladyna” in 1943. They will be accompanied by the screening of the recording from the performance ‘Die Grosse Emballage’ from the movie of Dietrich Mahlov „Kantor ist Da” (1969). The footage is a specific coda of the exhibition indicating deep, historiosophical sense of the works of the artist and his relations with the greatest act of horror of the 20th century, the Holocaust.

Further seven rooms, as Jarosław Suchan puts it, are: seven chapters revealing subsequent embodiments of KANTOR MACHINE introduced in the rhythm of theoretical concepts proclaimed by himself. Their titles are: Intensified Reality, Informel – Infernum, Zero Zones, Emballages, Happening, Impossible, and Clichés of Memory.


No other artist has ever been more unfaithful to himself than Tadeusz Kantor. No other artist would turn contradicting himself into a program implemented with such a persistence. An artist that would be more protean and skillful in escaping any attempts of description, identification or classification. A theater artist, a painter, a sketch artist, a happening artist, and a theoretician all of these terms are surely not mistaken when we try to speak of him. But none of these terms reflects what was crucial in his artistic works. Avant-garde, Bauhaus, post-Cubist realism, surrealism, Socialist Realism, informel, Matter Painting, New Objectivity, ready-made, environment, assemblage, happening, poor art, conceptual art, appropriation art, etc. Artistic phenomena, with which Kantor entered into relationships and dialogue would make a long list. It should be supplemented with sophisticated and perverse play of Kantor with his achievements: continuous re-interpretation of his earlier accomplishments, giving them new meanings, getting involved in each time new artistic and intellectual affiliations, multiplying metaphors used to describe them, accumulating contradictions and paradoxes in theoretical comments that accompanied them. And finally: endless repetitions, comebacks, replays, copies, variations, versions and reconstructions.

All of the effort invested by Kantor in contradicting himself and the costs implied make us recognize the protean nature of his artworks as a rudimental rather than accidental or occasional trait. They also reveal to us the stability and bottom line consistency resulting not from the aesthetics or style but from his attitude hidden under versatile and unstable surface. Paradoxically, Kantor was the most faithful to himself exactly when he apparently contradicted himself. His creation was a MACHINE, whose operating mode was defined by an endless self-transformation.

It was a machine that worked in favor of becoming something that it was not. Whenever Kantor realized that what he was doing turned into routine and produced the same mechanically duplicated codified patterns he, as he claimed, would leave the „sanctioned podium” in the search of new operational formulas. „The past – he wrote – could easily become a burden. Its subsequent stages should be mercilessly closed leaving only its part that also changes under new circumstances”. His goal was to maintain the machine ready to work for reconfiguring our optics and the goal seemed attainable to Kantor only as a result of permanent transformation of the machine itself.  The exhibition KANTOR-MACHINE. DISPLAYING, PERFORMING, ASSEMBLING, PAINTING AND OTHER WAYS OF PRODUCTION brings the history of this transformation closer to the audience.

(Excerpts from the text by Jarosław Suchan ‘Maszyna Tadeusz Kantor’ [Tadeusz Kantor Machine])

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