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The presented exhibit comes from the Qui non ci torno più [I Shall Never Return​]  play at the Cricot 2 Theatre created in Kraków and Milan in the years 1987–1988. The play’s premiere took place on 23 June 1988 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio in Milan.
The plot of the play takes place in a tavern. There are metal tavern tables and stools on the stage. In the background a wall of smooth black cloth is set up in a semi-circle with the barely visible contours of four doors.

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The presented exhibit comes from the Qui non ci torno più [I Shall Never Return] play at the Cricot 2 Theatre created in Kraków and Milan in the years 1987–1988. The play’s premiere took place on 23 June 1988 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio in Milan.
The plot of the play takes place in a tavern. There are metal tavern tables and stools on the stage. In the background a wall of smooth black cloth is set up in a semi-circle with the barely visible contours of four doors. Through these doors the selected figures from Kantor’s previous plays, starting from Powrót Odysa [Return of Odysseus] produced in 1944 in the Clandestine Independent Theatre, to the last, Niech sczezną artyści [Let the Artists Die] play (1985), rhythmically enter and exit the stage (to return in a moment). The “phantoms of the past” carry objects from previous performances onto the stage, shouting the lines out of context (see: the Boat of Charon from Nigdy tu już nie powrócę [I Shall Never Return]).
These objects include the “rat trap”, which is a reconstructed object from the Nadobnisie i koczkodany (Lovelies and Dowdies) play (1972).
In the 1972 performance, the rat trap (called colossal or monumental by Tadeusz Kantor) was accompanied by the figure of “Beast Domestica” (from Latin: domestic wild animal) played by Maria Stangret. In the 1987 performance, the object is structurally similar to the original, but the way it functions on the stage changes. Called up on the stage, the figures, objects and lines from previous performances perform a new function. They are only the “remains” of the past roles and stage situations, the unpredictable “Phantoms of the past.” The new “Rat Trap” is accompanied by a “Rat” (Stanisław Dudzicki) and the trap owner, the “woman with a rat trap” (Ewa Janicka).
This object is an excellent example of a “bio-object” that was extremely popular in the theatrical works of Kantor. It became a sort of medium enabling the pulsation of dramatic fiction and external reality. In the Miejsce teatralne (Theatrical Place) essay, Tadeusz Kantor wrote: “The medium became the OBJECT. ITEM. / Autonomous, self-collected. L’OBJET D’ART. / Having a single personality of its own live organs: ACTORS. / That is why I called it BIO-OBJECT. / BIO-OBJECTS were not props used by the actors. / They were not “decorations” in which one “acts.” / Together with the actors they formed an inseparable whole. / They oozed their own “life” that was autonomous and did not refer to the FICTION (content) of the drama. / This “life” and its symptoms constituted the vital content of the performance. It was not the plot, but the substance of the performance. / Demonstration and manifestation of the “life” of this BIO-OBJECT was not to present some kind of system that existed outside of it. / It was autonomous and, therefore, real! / BIO-OBJECT — a work of art.”[1] A kind of annexe to the Miejsce teatralne [Theatrical Place] is the list of illustrations where Kantor selects the most important bio-objects among the objects from the Cricot 2 Theatre performances and characterises them briefly.
“Beast Domestica” in Nadobnisie i koczkodany [Lovelies and Dowdies] and “Rat” in Nigdy tu już nie powrócę [I Shall Never Return] exemplify the actor’s conjunction with the object and the transfer of meanings and mutual impact. “Without the actors this object would be a dilapidated wreck unfit for service. / On the other hand, actors were conditioned by it, and their roles and actions stemmed from it.”
It is a kind of torture machine co-existing with the victim. Through the reference to the old motif of torture in literature and art, it may also be associated with the return of such noble acts as birth or death.
The artist considered the “Rat Trap” as an installation. It is a framed structure made mostly of wood, metal sheets and angle brackets. The first version of this object had a glass siphon and a tin bowl. The second one featured a stool for the victim placed on a platform of aged wood.

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


[1] T. Kantor, Miejsce teatralne, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. 2: Teatr Śmierci. Teksty z lat 1975-1984, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław-Kraków 2004, p. 397.

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“Rat trap” (“I Shall Never Return”, 1988)

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