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Dummy of Bedel on a Chair is an object from Tadeusz Kantor’s performance Umarła klasa [The Dead Class]. The premiere took place in the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków in November 1975.

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Dummy of Bedel on a Chair is an object from Tadeusz Kantor’s performance Umarła klasa [The Dead Class]. The premiere took place in the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków in November 1975. It is a depiction of a man sitting on a chair, dressed in black, wearing a frock-coat and a peak cap and holding a newspaper spread out on his knees. The whole exhibit is about 130 cm high.
Bedel is a typical caretaker or a school janitor who is one of the main figures in Umarła klasa [The Dead Class], right next to the Rubbish Cleaning Lady. It is Bedel and the Cleaning Lady who hold the spiritual and physical care over the pupils of the school class. Their role and mode of functioning in the performance (throughout the entire period of its staging) has not changed in any way.

Kantor wrote that “BEDEL is the lowest-rank figure inseparable from the school class that is permeated by the whole melancholy of the Past Perfect tense. He will forever and always sit on his chair, and his suspicious revivals are yet another class prank – they should not be treated seriously....”[1]
Krzysztof Miklaszewski recalls that “it is as if Bedel received two forms of existence in Kantor’s performance. Oscillating on the borderline of life, at one time he becomes a passive mannequin, while at another time he comes to life. The first revival is triggered by the issue of the Rubbish Cleaning Lady-Death who reads press reports on the sudden outbreak of war in the already cleaned benches among the obedient sitting doll children. The issue of having a war revives Bedel back to life. Then he sings the hardly remembered anthem of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (Got erhalte, Got beschütze)...”
Another comment from Kantor: “The unruly bunch of screaming pupils heading for the exit like a natural element sweeps BEDEL together with his chair and abducts him. THE OLD PEDOPHILIAST who has already dealt with two belated OLD MEN returns unexpectedly pushing the CHAIR with BEDEL (alive!) in front of him. He sets the chair in the same place, rearranges BEDEL's head and withdraws.”[2]

The role of Bedel in the Past Perfect Tense was performed by the following:
1. Kazimierz Mikulski (1918–1998) — painter, draughtsman, stage designer, member of the Kraków Group, associated with Tadeusz Kantor since the occupation.
2. Krzysztof Miklaszewski (b. 1944) — author of films and TV shows on theatre, books and articles about Tadeusz Kantor, literary manager of Kraków theatres, an employee of Polish television.
3. Tomasz Dobrowolski (b. 1949) — photographer from the Jagiellonian University, long-term employee of Cricoteka (sound operator, author of radio shows, author of exhibitions organised by Cricoteka).
4. Rajmund Jarosz (b. 1935) — actor at the following theatres: Ludowy Theatre, Rapsodyczny Theatre and Stary Theatre in Kraków.

In Jolanta Kunowska’s book, Zostawiam światło, bo zaraz wrócę (I’m Leaving the Lights On Because I’m Coming Back Soon), Rajmund Jarosz recalls the moment of being hired for the role of Bedel:
“Kantor looks at me and says what am I going to do with you? (...) You’re just a beau, thin and young, and I need an old guy. Kantor took a sponge and made [me] a hump on my back. I was the only Bedel from Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] to have a hump. I liked it very much, and the effect was superb. (...) The new element of this figure, an old crippled man who has lived through life and returns to his youth in his dreams, gained a new rhythm.”[3]
The last unfinished performance by Tadeusz Kantor entitled Dziś są moje urodziny [Today is My Birthday] features a figure named Bedel from Umarła klasa [The Dead Class], played this time by Stanisław Michno.

Elaborated by Józef Chrobak, Justyna Michalik (The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor), © all rights reserved


[1] T. Kantor, Postacie „Umarłej klasy”, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. 2: Teatr Śmierci. Teksty z lat 1975-1984, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław-Krakow 2004, p. 33;
[2] There, p. 86;
[3] R. Jarosz, Fenomen, [in:] Zostawiam światło, bo zaraz wrócę — Tadeusz Kantor we wspomnieniach swoich aktorów, ed. J. Kunowska, Cricoteka, Krakow 2005, p. 109.

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"The Dead Class"

Umarła klasa (The Dead Class), a play produced by Kantor in 1976, was called a drama séance by him during which the figures of Witkacy and Bruno Schulz, two great fascinations of Kantor, were summoned.
The performance was kept in the convention of a nightmare, in which you go back to your school days and experience the trauma associated with this period. In response to a signal given by Kantor, who is the conductor of the entire situation, a procession of figures begins – a procession of old men carrying children on their backs who are grown into a part of their bodies.

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Umarła klasa (The Dead Class), a play produced by Kantor in 1976, was called a drama séance by him during which the figures of Witkacy and Bruno Schulz, two great fascinations of Kantor, were summoned.
The performance was kept in the convention of a nightmare, in which you go back to your school days and experience the trauma associated with this period. In response to a signal given by Kantor, who is the conductor of the entire situation, a procession of figures begins – a procession of old men carrying children on their backs who are grown into a part of their bodies. According to Kantor, they were larvae of adults in which the entire memory of the childhood age was put, abandoned and forgotten due to indifference.
The Dead Class had its origins in Tumor Mózgowicz (Tumor Brainiowicz) by Witkiewicz. Although its text in fact almost does not appear in the play, the characters of Witkiewicz present in it are dominated by Kantor’s original figures.
Kantor's fascination with Bruno Schulz had its origins in the idea of degraded reality, which was realised by Kantor in his performances although he understood it slightly differently from Schulz, for whom degraded reality meant something which was in a state of continuous fermentation, germination, and latent life. There are no inanimate, hard, and limited objects. Everything drifts beyond its borders in order to leave them at the first opportunity. (Cinnamon Shops).
Kantor's degraded reality, the reality of the lowest rank, was realised in repeated, almost obsessive explorations of the theme of memory, a return to childhood and situations of the past, a return which becomes impossible. The only traces are accidental frames of memory.
The Dead Class was staged in a cramped underground room in the Krzysztofory Palace in Krakow. Kantor also created productions in which actors performed in very tight spaces; for example, they were hung on hangers in a closet referred to by Kantor as the Interior of Imagination (W małym dworku [Country House], 1960).
A real theatrical space was one of Kantor's inventions in the first period of his work (1955-1975). It was not a space created with the use of illusion, in accordance with the stage directions of a drama.
The audience were usually crowded into a small room, and these uncomfortable conditions of reception were staging elements.

Elaborated by Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolska's Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Children at their desk (The Dead Class”, 1989)
“Mechanical cradle” (“The Dead Class”, 1975)
“Dummy of Bedel” — image of Kazimierz Mikulski (“The Dead Class”, 1975)
Bike"/Manikin of a child on a bike (The Dead Class, 1975)

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Figures of the theatre of death

On the bench, there are seated: a Prostitute/Night-walker, a Woman with a Mechanical Cradle, a Woman Behind the Window, an Old Man with a Bicycle, an Old Man from the Toilet, the Old Man Podofilemiak, and Paralytics. In the procession of the characters, Pedel in Past Simple (the school janitor, in this case referring to the tradition of the Galician school) also appears as does the Cleaner/Death.

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On the bench, there are seated: a Prostitute/Night-walker, a Woman with a Mechanical Cradle, a Woman Behind the Window, an Old Man with a Bicycle, an Old Man from the Toilet, the Old Man Podofilemiak, and Paralytics. In the procession of the characters, Pedel in Past Simple (the school janitor, in this case referring to the tradition of the Galician school) also appears as does the Cleaner/Death. They take care of the “pupils”.
Figures from Dead class are created from memories, fragments, and remnants that are constantly falling apart.
In Dead class, Kantor tried to create a situation of exhibitionism, a “shameful procedure” of peeking, in which sublime matters mix with the most primitive, physiological ones.
He used wax figures of children, which became a kind of ballast for the actors who were joined with them: they represented the burden of childhood, which everyone carries within them.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:
Children at their desk (The Dead Class, 1989)
Bike/Manikin of a child on a bike (The Dead Class, 1975)
Mechanical cradle (The Dead Class, 1975)
Dummy of Bedel — image of Kazimierz Mikulski (The Dead Class, 1975)

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Mannequins by Kantor

Mannequins in museum exhibitions often signify attempts to reconstruct history, they are a tool for delving into the past, which, however, does not fully achieve the intended goals (although, of course, these are subjective judgements and experiences). At the moment when theatre objects enter the space of the museum...

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Mannequins in museum exhibitions often signify attempts to reconstruct history, they are a tool for delving into the past, which, however, does not fully achieve the intended goals (although, of course, these are subjective judgements and experiences). At the moment when theatre objects enter the space of the museum – in which two worlds meet: museum and theatre, it is worth considering the role that mannequins played in the theatre, including, and perhaps above all, in Kantor’s theatre.
The mannequins that appeared in Kantor’s performances for the first time in the production of Gosh/Kurka wodna (1967), at first „were like an intangible extension, some additional organ of the actor”. In the staging of Balladyna they duplicated actors, but as a props, dead actors, they bore the imprint of death. Mannequins were regarded as “poor” objects, they were an example of “the lowest rank of reality”. A figure that made it possible to execute transgression. An object that expressed Kantor’s conviction that life can only be expressed through contrast with its absence can only be understood through the context of death. Kantor proposed a new type of “Treatise on Mannequins”. He wrote:

„MANNEQUIN as a VIOLATION procedure
Mannequin as an EMPTY object. DUMMY.
Message of DEATH. Actor’s Model”.

Mannequins, just like wax figures, existed alongside the margins of art. Although Kantor did not agree with the idea of ​​Craig and Kleist, according to which the actor can be replaced by a mannequin, he was fascinated by the potential of these artificial, created beings in his conviction that could best reflect the ideas of the Theatre of Death. Thus, mannequins were a tool that, through association with death, was to be a model for a living actor.
As Kantor said in an interview with Krzysztof Miklaszewski: “The mannequin in my theatre is to become a model through which a strong sense of death and the condition of the dead is to be transmitted”.

Elaborated by: Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See:
Manekin Pedla (the image of Kazimierz Mikulski),  Dead Class, 1975)
Goplana and Elfs (Balladyna , 1943)
Fairy circle / Child’s dummy on a bicycle (Dead class, 1975)

Literature:
Tadeusz Kantor, Pisma, vol. 2: Teatr Śmierci. Texts from 1975-1984, selected and developed by Krzysztof Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław-Kraków, 2004.

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“Dummy of Bedel” — image of Kazimierz Mikulski (“The Dead Class”, 1975)

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