Tadeusz Kantor

photo by Konrad Pollesch

Tadeusz Kantor


Translated by Michał Milc

A small station… by the path into the world.
Distant, unknown and mysterious, intriguing…
By the path leading to a great life…
A railway official.

We don’t know much about him. Nobody talked about him at home.
He might have even been disliked. People tried to forget him.
He married a peasant woman…

Fate tossed him this paltry and menial job.
Dreams of greatness he dreamed in schools—unfinished
—Disappeared… the further he “travelled” in life, sitting on a hard,
Wooden bench of a third-class car. On and on: trains, railway,
Small stations, tracks…
And with bleary eyes, he clung to his passing life that
Was turning monotonously into past…

The more terrible were becoming his dreams. Unfulfilled.
He was pathetic. He would ask himself: where are you, the soul of my
Youth. The soul of youth!

He would say: I was sitting on a bed, reading a book, a sooty lamp
Shed dim light, and I thought about great fame,
I felt fever coming to my eyes, my heart was pounding in my chest
Very hard, I was an inspired bard, I was walking
Quickly round my small room, famous, surrounded by the sound of applause,
Drunk with my greatness…
I can’t hear the tones of the triumphal march anymore….
And then, the memories of a great, perfect love
And flames of a youthful heart…

At the end, a little station… at the end of the path of life…

Somewhere there he lived. Staszek. Staszek Milan.

In that small room it was: I.
In tears, I was thinking about myself.
The future had to be tragic!
I quickly turned into Staszek, a minor railway
Official working on a small station...

Translated by Michał Milc

Tadeusz Kantor

(1915-1990) – a director, painter, stage designer, performer, founder of the Cricot 2 Theatre.

He was born in Wielopole Skrzyńskie in Podkarpacie, then he lived in Tarnów. In 1934, he took up studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. From that time on, he maintained close relations with the theatrical circle; he worked, among others, in the Stary Theatre.

In 1946, he took part in the International Exhibition of Modern Art in Paris. In 1949, he was removed from the post of a lecturer at the School of Fine Arts in Krakow as a result of the official adoption of socialist realism in Poland.

In 1955, he took part in an exhibition being a protest against socialist realism in Dom Plastyków [Visual Artists' House]. This led to the formation of the so-called Grupa Krakowska II [Krakow Group II]. In the same year, he co-founded the Cricot 2 Theatre with Maria Jarema, which continued the traditions of the pre-war Cricot avant-garde theatre.

Cricot 2 broke with theatrical traditions, postulating the engagement of the audience in stage activities. At first, it staged Witkacy’s dramas; later Kantor's original texts were also staged there. The most famous productions of the theatre are performances: Wariat i zakonnica [The Madman and the Nun] (1963), Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] (1975), Wielopole, Wielopole (1980).

Kantor organised also happenings and exhibited “objects of art” and sculptures in public places (for example, the famous Chair, the two copies of which can be seen in Hucisko and Wrocław). He presented his works, among others, in New York, Stockholm, Paris and Hamburg.

He died during rehearsals for the performance Dziś są moje urodziny [Today Is My Birthday]. Kantor’s artistic output is archived and documented by Cricoteka, whose new office was opened at ul. Nadwiślańska in Krakow in 2014.

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