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The Mechanical cradle is an exhibit from Tadeusz Kantor’s performance, Umarła klasa [The Dead Class]. The premiere took place in the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków in November 1975. It comprises a wooden chest on a metal support frame, which resembles a child’s cradle. It was designed to enable the rocking movement of the chest. This movement could be triggered with a pedal, or with an installed electrical engine. Inside the exhibit, there were two wooden balls that caused a hollow rattle when they hit the chest walls during the rocking movement...

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The Mechanical cradle is an exhibit from Tadeusz Kantor’s performance, Umarła klasa [The Dead Class]. The premiere took place in the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków in November 1975. It comprises a wooden chest on a metal support frame, which resembles a child’s cradle. It was designed to enable the rocking movement of the chest. This movement could be triggered with a pedal, or with an installed electrical engine. Inside the exhibit, there were two wooden balls that caused a hollow rattle when they hit the chest walls during the rocking movement. In the Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] play the mechanical cradle was brought in by the Cleaning Lady (figure played by Stanisław Rychlicki). The object was assigned to the Woman with the Mechanical Cradle (Maria Stangret), who kept on reciting the text of Gamboline from Tumor Mózgowicz [Tumor Brainiowicz] by Witkacy. Kantor wrote that the “mechanical cradle belongs to a special series of objects displaying illusory symptoms of biological life because of their brutal mechanisation (...) cruel and tragic.
“When the symbolism of the performance was dominated by the theme of death (Cleaning Lady’s interventions, All Souls’ remembrances, Jewish lullaby), the hollow sound of two wooden balls from the mechanical cradle could be heard,” wrote Krzysztof Pleśniarowicz in his book, Kantor. Artysta końca wieku [Kantor. The Artist of the End of the Century].
Apart from the François waltz, Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] features another musical theme of the rattle of a mechanical cradle that is strangely similar to the brutal and steady bar of a parade march. The rhythm of the performance becomes more and more nervous and convulsively twitchy (...). The woman at the cradle hoarsely sings a Jewish lullaby which sounds like a thrilling psalm of despair, and in a moment, transformed into Gamboline, she jabbers when trying to absurdly prove some point, wrote Elżbieta Morawiec[1]. Today this exhibit is most often displayed as a collection of objects from the Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] play.
In a later play by Tadeusz Kantor — Nigdy tu już nie powrócę [I Shall Never Return] (1988), an object that is also called the Cradle appears, with similar dimensions and structure but covered with a galvanised metal sheet for a change.

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


[1] E. Morawiec, Apokalipsa według Tadeusza Kantora, „Życie literackie”, 51/52 (1975).

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Kantor’s theatre props

Theatre props/costumes/elements of scenography presented on the website are mostly incomplete objects which, although they are the key to many fascinating narratives, can hardly be examined in isolation from their staging. It is different when it comes to the objects from Tadeusz Kantor’s performances...

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Theatre props/costumes/elements of scenography presented on the website are mostly incomplete objects which, although they are the key to many fascinating narratives, can hardly be examined in isolation from their staging. It is different when it comes to the objects from Tadeusz Kantor’s performances because they are not typical „props.” The author of The Dead Class wrote about the objects that he created in the following way:

„THEY ARE NOT THEATRE PROPS.
I HAVE EXCLUDED THIS CONCEPT FROM THE IDEA OF THE CRICOT 2 THEATRE
AS UNSUITABLE.

THESE WORKS ARE NOT THE RESULT OF THE AD HOC AND FLEETING NEEDS
 OF A GIVEN PERFORMANCE.
INSTEAD, THEY ARE CLOSELY CONNECTED WITH THE IDEAS THAT DEFINE MY
 ARTISTIC CREATION
THEY BELONG TO A SERIES OF WORKS ON A SPECIFIC SUBJECT,
LOCATED IN MUSEUMS SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL.
THEY HAVE A SUFFICIENT QUANTITY OF INTERNAL TENSION
AND INDEPENDENT MEANING
TO
 BE AUTONOMOUS WORKS OF ART. (...)”[1]

Elaborated by: Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

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

[1] Tadeusz Kantor’s statement regarding the objects of the Cricot 2 Theater stored in Cricoteka, author’s typescript, Cricoteka’s archives, inv. no. I/000604, p. 1.

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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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“Mechanical cradle” (“The Dead Class”, 1975)

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