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- Author Tadeusz Kantor
- Date of production 1975
- Dimensions height: 112 cm, length: 70 cm, width: 110 cm
- ID no. bike — CRC/VII/43/1-4, mannequin — CRC/VII/44
- Object copyright The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
- Digital images copyright © all rights reserved, The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
Bike 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. In the play was a prop of an “old man with a bicycle” going round and round, saying goodbye and leaving in step to the François waltz. The old man was played by Andrzej Wełmiński.more
Bike 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. In the play was a prop of an “old man with a bicycle” going round and round, saying goodbye and leaving in step to the François waltz. The old man was played by Andrzej Wełmiński. The metal “bike” was modelled after an old bicycle with a support and a saddle, and an installed crank mechanism that moved the right wheel and raised the left arm of the attached mannequin of a pupil wearing a black school uniform. It was a kind of bio-object about which Kantor wrote: “An OLD MAN WITH A BICYCLE never parts with his bicycle, a pathetic and battered toy from the childhood years ... he constantly goes on night trips on it, but the space has become strangely limited to the school class around the benches... and it is not he that sits on this weird vehicle but, an outspread dead child ... all this happens during the NIGHT LESSON and in a DREAM...”
During the second premiere performance on 16 December 1975, at the Grand Entrance when the “old man with a bicycle” was right in front of the audience and turned the crank, the large wheel detached from the body and the small balls of the bearing scattered at the feet of the viewers sitting in the first few rows. The actor had to carry the bicycle in pieces until the end of the performance.
This is how Andrzej Wełmiński recalled the story of the Bike after some years:
“The bicycle was to become my main partner in the play. I was supposed to go on night trips around the benches.
We gave much thought to what this bicycle should be like, look like and move like. Everyone pitched in some ideas while Tadeusz was drawing. On the next day the three of us — Kantor, Jasiu Książek and me — went to the ironworks.
The bicycle was completed in a couple of hours. We went through a pile of garbage to choose some wheels, toothed bars, pipes, screws and rods, and tried what would be best. And Jasiu welded.
Then we attached the mannequin doll of a boy, and I came up with the idea that its one arm should be moved by the eccentric mechanism.
This resulted in a moving sculpture (somehow similar to the kinetic, welded works of Tinguely). A large bicycle wheel was put into motion manually with a crank, but it did not drive the bicycle because it was elevated and did not touch the floor. The bicycle was pushed or, possibly, carried.”
Tadeusz Kantor described it as a “complicated vehicle similar to a bicycle with an outstretched or outspread mannequin of a boy in a school uniform. Another Machine of Oppression created for Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] in 1975.” /T. Kantor/
According to Krzysztof Pleśniarowicz, Umarła klasa [The Dead Class] was staged in the years 1975–1986 and in 1989, as well as after the artist’s death in the years 1991–1992, it was staged for a total of 500 times in 56 cities (apart from Kraków) in 20 countries situated on 5 continents.
Elaborated by Józef Chrobak, Justyna Michalik (The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor), © all rights reserved
 T. Kantor, Postacie Umarłej klasy, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. 2: Teatr Śmierci. Teksty z lat 1975–1984, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław–Kraków 2004, p. 34;
 A. Wełmiński, Między Umarłą klasą a Wielopolem, Wielopolem, [in:] Teatr Pamięci Tadeusza Kantora. Wypisy z przeszłości, ed. J. Chrobak, M. Wilk, Dębica 2008, p. 30;
 T. Kantor, Komentarz, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. 3: Dalej już nic. Teksty z lat 1985–1990, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław–Kraków 2005, p. 440.