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The “Cross” is a stage element from the Wielopole, Wielopole performance at the Cricot 2 Theatre. The premiere took place in Florence in June 1980 in a building that was formerly a monastery at 25 via Santa Maria. What is symptomatic here is that, apart from the discussed cross, the Wielopole, Wielopole play featured 15 other crosses, and in his entire theatrical oeuvre Tadeusz Kantor created more than 30 crosses.

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The “Cross” is a stage element from the Wielopole, Wielopole performance at the Cricot 2 Theatre. The premiere took place in Florence in June 1980 in a building that was formerly a monastery at 25 via Santa Maria.
What is symptomatic here is that, apart from the discussed cross, the Wielopole, Wielopole play featured 15 other crosses, and in his entire theatrical oeuvre Tadeusz Kantor created more than 30 crosses. Some objects from plays, including the cross, were also replicated in the years 1982–1983.
In the Ślady wyciśnięte [Imprinted Marks] text, Kantor explains why this motif was so deeply rooted in him: “As a child I lived/ in the presbytery/ in the house of a priest, my grandmother’s brother. / Cross. / Its trace is deep and different. / Unusual. / Not meeting any everyday needs. / It apparently belonged to the priest,/ an equally enigmatic figure/ – my “grandfather.”/ Because of him/ I was familiar with the cross. / I saw it at every step,/ in church, at the cemetery.”[1] Of great importance are the artist’s later memories of his childhood spent in the presbytery in Wielopole Skrzyńskie, about the cross hanging above his bed and the daily evening ritual of kneeling with his mother and talking to the cross. This made the artist aware of his sensitivity to the sphere of “invisibility,” that “inexplicable” and “inaccessible” sphere that exists outside of the real world. Only in his later works did he decide to “bring this invisibility into the real world,” “to the earth” so that it would be “mixed with the Poor Reality of everyday life.” The use of the cross motif in the performance and the themes from the Gospels plays a double part. On the one hand, the cross is mixed up with reality, as Kantor wrote in his directorial notes to the performance: “In the ROOM (behind the wardrobe, in the corner) the cross ceases/ to be symbolical,/ it is just/ a specific object. [...] This may be naturalism but it strips the pathos from both the scene/ and the object itself which is sufficiently burdened with symbolism. / Its reality, justified by everyday life,/ will make it even stranger and more disturbing when/ the right moment comes.”[2] On the other hand, thanks to the Christian themes and symbols, the room where ordinary activities are staged became a place of totally different rank where the stage action was moved to a more sublime dimension.
In the Wielopole, Wielopole play the large cross of interest to us, as well as a dozen or so smaller crosses on platforms made of aged wood, seem to play an extremely important part in the formation of the stage space. Another “negative of memory” from the artist’s childhood features crosses at cemeteries and crossroads: “When walking with Mother/ I always pretended that/ I have the dilemma/ of where to turn. / Cross-roads/ attracted me. / I ran to them whenever/ I saw them from afar.”[3] Crosses in the performance embody cross-roads that constantly change their directions and set the stage topography. They become the symbols of soldiers’ graves forming a “cemetery of crosses.” The entanglement of naked bodies, troops, rifles and crosses forms “one big cemetery.” With a small cross held in her hands, Aunt Mańka drives away the evil forces. Moving/travelling across the stage, the crosses somehow dictate the pulse of action and tensions heading for the final “Crucifixion” scene. Kantor’s perverse treatment of the cross persists there. In one scene it is pushed by the priest like “someone would push a bicycle,” although it is also used to illustrate the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, the Final Judgement and war (this cross worn by the actors was placed on the stage vertically, but it was also a movable, horizontal object that was carried on a special steel structure with two wheels).

Elaborated by Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska (The Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor), © all rights reserved


[1] T. Kantor, Ślady wyciśnięte, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. III: Dalej już nic... Teksty z lat 1985-1990, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław–Kraków 2004-2005, p. 182—183;
[2]
 T. Kantor, „Zdjęcia rodzinne” czyli „ku wieczności”, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma. Vol. 2: Teatr Śmierci. Teksty z lat 1975-1984, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław-Kraków 2004, p. 287—288;
[3]
 T. Kantor, Ślady wycisnięte, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. II: Teatr Śmierci. Teksty z lat 1975-1984, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław-Kraków 2004, p. 183—184.

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“The Cross” (“Wielopole, Wielopole”, 1980)

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Krzyż („Wielopole, Wielopole”, 1980 r.) [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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Krzyż („Wielopole, Wielopole”, 1980 r.) Tells: Zdzisław Mach
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