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Presented object was made for the play Today is my birthday Cricot 2 Theater, over which the artist worked from October 1989 to early December 1990. Tadeusz Kantor died after one of the last rehearsals, 8 of December 1990 year. The premiere took place shortly afterwards, in January 1991 at the Théâtre Garonne in Toulouse, then the play was shown in 22 cities around the world until June 1992.

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The presented object was created for the performance of the Cricot 2 Theatre, Today is my birthday, on which the artist worked from October 1989 to early December 1990. Tadeusz Kantor died after one of the last rehearsals of the performance on 8 December 1990. The premiere took place shortly after, in January 1991 at Théâtre Garonne in Toulouse; then, the performance was shown in 22 cities around the world until June 1992.
A Tank and other objects, such as a machine gun, a cannon, and a jam sandwich, appear in the fourth and fifth acts of the performance as an expression of Kantor’s protest against the events of the world history and the processes that they permanently unleashed. They are described by the artist as the “authorities“. They are accompanied by “the people in power – a special human species”: “party secretaries, policemen with batons, murdering and murdered soldiers”, and, finally, “NKVD-ists” with guns.
The use of Tank in the performance depicts Kantor’s turning his back on mass movements, totalitarianism, the age of man’s crime against man. Opposing the mass, the artist emphasized the role of the individual human being, in which he saw the only possibility of progress.
In Great Theoretical Digression, written for the performance, we read:
“I came to the conclusion, / that in art / it is completely / true to / only present your / own life, / exploring it, / with no shame, / exploring your own FATE, / DESTINY. / I have explained it many times, / that the reason is not / exhibitionism, narcissism—/ but intensification of the concept of: / individual life, / to escape from destruction / from / inhuman, outrageous / the mass”[1].

This approach (putting an individual, unitary history above the great narratives of the world history) is also visible in Kantor’s earlier performance, I Shall Never Return. In Today Is My Birthday, he is protected from the mass by his own memory, imagination, and the realm of personal experience, that make up the performance (see: Self-portrait, Infanta’s Portrait, The artist’s table).
My Poor Room of Imagination. / My apartment. My house on the stage. / Like a fortress / defending itself from the crowd, / from the authorities, / from politics, / from interference, / from ignorance, / from vulgarity.
Scenic props, connected to the private life of the artist, and his “Dear Absentees” – dead family members recalled on stage – are, as he describes them himself, his “defenders” in front of “the thronging rabble”. Until... at some point, at the “roar of the crowd (...), the WALL collapses.” The “authorities” abuse the inhabitants of the artist’s room, which is plundered. “Quelle barbarie!” (in French: What barbarity!) – sums up one of the characters.
The Tank, just like all “war machines” in the performance, was made mainly of galvanized sheet metal. The structure of these objects was considerably simplified. Rubber rollers, attached to the base of the tank, allow the object to be mobile. The space for the actor is in the back of the vehicle, on the board attached between aluminium tracks. At the back, there is a crank attached, that sets in motion a drive structure that moves the tracks.
 

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


[1] T. Kantor, Wielka dygresja teoretyczna, [in:] T. Kantor, Pisma, Vol. 3: Dalej już nic... Teksty z lat 1985–1990, elab. K. Pleśniarowicz, Wrocław–Kraków 2004–2005, p. 233.

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Recording, documentation

The reconstruction of Kantor’s work on his performances is possible thanks to, among others, the video recordings of rehearsals which were made on the artist’s request, starting with the play Niech sczezną artyści (Let the Artists Die) from 1985. Forty eight hours of rehearsals were recorded during the preparation for the play Dziś są moje urodziny (Today Is My Birthday).

 

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The reconstruction of Kantor’s work on his performances is possible thanks to, among others, the video recordings of rehearsals which were made on the artist’s request, starting with the play Niech sczezną artyści (Let the Artists Die) from 1985. Forty eight hours of rehearsals were recorded during the preparation for the play Dziś są moje urodziny (Today Is My Birthday).
At a certain stage of his work, Kantor began to attach great weight to the documentation and arrangement of his realisations and collections.
All recorded rehearsals from Cricot 2 Theatre can be watched in Cricoteka Archives at 5 Kanonicza Street.

Elaborated by Małgorzata Paluch-Cybulska (Cricoteka Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor) and the editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museum, © all rights reserved

See the exhibits created for play Dziś są moje urodziny (Today is My Birthday) at our collection:
Infanta’s Portrait
Painting of Self-portrait
Tank
The artist's table

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“Tank” (“Today Is My Birthday”, 1990)

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