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The Artist’s table is a unique object, created for the performance, Today is my birthday, at the Cricot 2 Theatre, 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.

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The Artist’s table is a unique object, created for the performance, Today is my birthday, at the Cricot 2 Theatre, 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.
The table is an element of the room that Tadeusz Kantor arranged on the stage. The artist’s room was constructed of objects that were to refer to a real room inhabited by him (Tadeusz Kantor connected the idea of “a Poor Room of Imagination” with his room – a workshop at Sienna Street 7/5 – where he worked from 1987).
In addition to easels with paintings, which he constantly worked on, there is a bed, a stove with a kettle, and a basin with dishes. Finally, there is the table at which Kantor sat during the rehearsals of the performance, on the right side of the stage, by the Image of the Infanta, known as: “the Owner of Poor Room of Imagination”. On the table, there is an oil lamp and a framed print of a photo of the artist’s family. The everyday life and naturalness of such a situation is emphasized by Kantor in his notes for the third act of the play: “I’m sitting at the table and writing a letter. / On the table, an oil lamp. / And everything is so every day that perhaps nothing extraordinary /will happen.”
Kantor also presented himself leaning over the table inside his room on several pictures and many drawings from the final period. Almost all the paintings created after 1987 are self-portraits and the artist’s personal confessions.
The room on the stage, in addition to the reference to a regular place of living, was also a very strong appeal to the intimacy of the artist, his condition and fears, which he exposes in the late period of his work. One of them is the feeling of the nearness of death. The projection of the end was found in Kantor’s artistic visions (both in the theatre and in painting) and constantly present, starting from 1986. The rush and the intensity of movements are noticeable in his actions, as well as the need to simultaneously revise and merge, end, and summarize. “I know my date”, he was supposed to have said a year before he died.
A dozen or so days before his death, Kantor introduced a skeleton to the performance, which was supposed to sit at the table opposite the artist. By the decision of the team of Cricot 2, this motif was removed from the play after its creator’s death. The artist’s drawings, with the motif of a skeleton, have been preserved.
He made another, extremely significant, modification, six days before his death. The change concerned one of the last scenes of the play – a birthday toast – which was a reproduction of the frame perpetuated in the archive photography of Tadeusz Kantor’s family, standing on his table during the performance. The photography shows the artist’s mother, father, and uncle, sitting at a table covered with a white tablecloth. In the performance, the board covered with a tablecloth is turned into spectres, which – to the sounds of Marche funèbre by Frederic Chopin – are brought to the stage on the shoulders of the participants of a funeral procession: the family and household members of “the Poor Room of Imagination”.
In the performance, Today is my birthday, the Artist’s table was a very important motif to which the stage action appealed. After Tadeusz Kantor’s death, it also became a symbol of his acute absence.
The table was made of wood, painted grey. The oil lamp and a folding wooden chair are ready-made items. During the play, Kantor’s previous presence was emphasized by the actors with a white cup and saucer – one of those he liked to drink coffee from.

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

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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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“The artist's table” (“Today is My Birthday”, 1990)

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