Temporary Exhibition: Tadeusz Kantor
The National Museum in Szczecin | Gmach Główny Muzeum Narodowego w Szczecinie, Wały Chrobrego 3, 70-500 Szczecin, Polska


"Panoramic Maritime Happening", performed in August 1967 by artists participating in the Open Air Festival in Osieki (including Jerzy Bereś, Edward Krasiński, Stanisław Fijałkowski), is the second outdoor happening of Tadeusz Kantor (preceded by "List", which took place in Warsaw in January of the same year) and one of the first performative actions in Poland in the 1960s. Undoubtedly, it is also the largest and most complex show of its kind, realized in the open air. The legendary and referred to in numerous anecdotes, it remains undisputed as the key event of Polish modern art after 1945. Eustachy Kossakowski perpetuated it in the series of photographs, and the famous stage of conducting sea waves has already become an icon of European art.


"Life in art" and through art, characteristic of the creators presented at the exhibition, is the search for a border, beyond which the repetitiveness of the artistic gesture becomes the consciousness of the biological process. Of course, the artist counting "infinity", aware of the inevitable defeat of his own intention, takes up such a challenge. It fulfills itself in fidelity to oneself and consistent search for ontological sense, hidden in everyday life. Repeatability, the incessantness of growing, but also of losing, forces the artist to the gesture of disagreement, choosing the idea of a "rebellious man" who accepts the inevitability of passing away and undertakes the task of documenting the process himself, taking over the power over it. This is how you describe the work of Tadeusz Kantor, Edward Krasiński, Jerzy Beres and Stanisław Fijałkowski.


The "holy body of the province", Western Pomerania, deprived of the dominant elements of art and with only emerging awareness of its own form, is an appropriate place for the activities of the Polish neo-avant-garde in the 1960s and 1970s. The seaside settlement of Łazy is a space balancing on the border, determined on the one hand by nature, and on the other - by the ideology and physicality of the oppressive state. After all, "Łazy" are places after a cleared or burnt forest, intended for a new one. Accidental semantic convergence with the name of the place where the gesture of intellectual freedom occurred, which was undoubtedly the idea of ​​conducting the sea, emphasizes the act of independence and creation in which the individual is the subject and not the object. The space, distant from the hard state nucleus, created the possibility of constant transgression, which in Kantor's case is the principle of life, but it is also the only rule of the avant-garde. And for us, it is a proof that in the "limits" there are also possible events that bear these limits.

The event characters:

Tadeusz Kantor – Demiurge, director, creator of happenings, painter, set designer, writer, art theoretician, actor in his own performances, lecturer at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts. Born in 1915, he died in 1990 in Cracow. Known as the outstanding, original personality of the theatre of the twentieth century and the creator of his own theatre group (Conspiracy Theatre, Cricot 2) and of performances resulting from a complex personality, touching the immutable dilemmas of reality. One of the most important creators of Polish art.

The author of the photographs – Eustachy Kossakowski – photographer. Born in 1925, he died in 2001 in Paris. His work is divided into two periods: "Polish period" (1950s and 1960s) and "Paris period" (from 1970 to the artist's death). He is famous for, among others, an outstanding series of industrial landscape photographs of the 1950s and 1960s. He is also the author of the unique documentation of the Polish avant-garde of the 1960s - works of artists associated with the Crooked Circle Gallery and the Foksal Gallery, including Henryk Stażewski and Edward Krasiński, and the theatres of Tadeusz Kantor and Jerzy Grotowski. The Kossakowski's Paris period is the time of his own photographic explorations, of which the 159 series of "objective" photographs were of great success. "6 meters in front of Paris", series of photos Fri "Lights in Chartres", "Pompeii, secret apartments" and "12 Apostles" photographed from behind on the pediment of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome; recorded in albums.

Edward Krasiński – Sculptor, painter, author of spatial forms, installations and artistic situations, one of the main figures of Polish neo-avant-garde of 1960's and 1970's. Born in 1925, he died in 2004 in Warsaw. He took part in the first happenings of Tadeusz Kantor. In "Panoramic Sea Happening", standing in a tailcoat on a ladder immersed in water, facing the horizon, he conducted sea waves. From 1968, Krasiński began to mark the space with a continuous line, gluing a blue tape (blue scotch 19 mm wide) at a height of 130 cm, which became the hallmark of his art. The blue strip could run anywhere, on walls, objects, even people. It could describe public and private space. During later exhibitions in the 1980s and 1990s, the blue line led the viewer through the maze of corridors arranged by Krasiński, making the space real. Critic Andrzej Kostołowski wrote:

if one were to look for the leitmotif of Krasinski's activity, the term infinity seems particularly useful. The artist craves for the impossible: he wants to suggest infinity visually.
In his works, Krasiński combined the constructivist tradition with a dadaistic joke. The opinion of theoreticians linking his actions with conceptual art was related to the distance. He claimed:
What I do is real, to the point of disgust! "The blue strip" reveals "the wall - it does not build it and it does not create, but reveals, exposes the reality of the "unnoticed "wall.

Jerzy Bereś – Born in 1930, he died in 2012 in Krakow. Sculptor, author of the action, using his body as one of the basic elements in the creative process. This was emphasized by the critic Anka Ptaszkowska, stating that Bereś mainly operates "himself":

[...] there has been a shift [...] here. This time the artist himself, his work, his "creative act" became the subject. On the other hand, a consolidated audience in passive isolation became the subject.

His works and manifestations often have the character of ethical expression. He preached the postulate of the primacy of the value of the "creative act" over the object. He formulated his own and unique style of "living in art", moving around related areas: happening and performance, although he never agreed to identify his actions with these directions, calling them manifestations, actions, "masses". In 1968, he presented in the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw the first artistic manifesto "Prophecy I". It opens the whole cycle of speeches, which are commentaries on politics, religion, art and philosophy, in which he often used his own body connected to the object. Then he carried out actions defined by "masses", addressing the most important Polish dilemmas, including: "Romantic Mass", "Political Mass", "Polish Mass." He also undertook an artistic dialogue with prominent individualities of twentieth-century art. Critic Jerzy Hanusek wrote about him:

Bereś's actions and manifestations move the imagination. His goal, however, is not just to move the imagination, but to give this movement a specific direction. [...] The artist knows that in his messages he refers to values which in today's world, full of cynicism and pragmatism, become embarrassing ones, are exposed to mockery and disrespect. [...] An artist penetrating these particular regions of knowledge, in which the intellect turns out to be the enemy of wisdom, pays a high price for audacity: the boundary between the position of the prophet and the position of regretting a decent victim becomes extremely thin. The artist not only offers, but also accepts the role of the victim. This is a price that can not be avoided.

Stanisław Fijałkowski – One of the representatives of the avant-garde group of Łódź belonging to the so-called "Strzemiński Circle" inspired by the work of the Łódź unist. Painter and graphic artist, born in 1922. Fijałkowski's work is the art of symbol affirmation, which is the sublimation of reality. In the works he creates, he suggests that there is another, esoteric world behind it. With time, the artist limits the iconography of his paintings, which have been reduced to almost uniform surfaces, slightly differentiated by color, acquire contemplative values. Stanisław Fijałkowski says:

I have been bolder and bolder trying to reach a form that does not imply one interpretation, but leaves the viewer full freedom to reach his own world of unconscious or dulled real content of his personality. I tried and am still trying to create a form that is only the beginning of the viewer creating the work, each time in a different form...

Critic Anka Ptaszkowska, describing Kantor's happening in the section titled "Medusa Raft", recalls:

In "Maritime Happening", the well-known critic, Janusz Bogucki, thus delivers learned phrases; Stanisław Fijałkowski, a painter, professor at the Łódź Academy of Fine Arts, corrects every gesture and every item of the "survivors". Under their watchful eye, the audience builds a raft of wood pieces brought by the sea, and then places themselves in it in poses "alive" taken from the picture.

The heart of the exhibition are thirty photographs by Eustachy Kossakowski, made on the Baltic beach in Łazy during the happening of Tadeusz Kantor in 1967. The photos were prepared in cooperation with Anka Ptaszkowska, art critic and historian, co-founder of the Foksal Gallery, and in co-production with the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, BWA Gallery in Bielsko Biała, Galeria ms44 in Świnoujście and Galeria Scena / Kultura Foundation in Koszalin.

 

Temporary exhibition: Tadeusz Kantor's "Panoramic Maritime Happening” Photographed by Eustachy Kossakowski developing onto its participants: Edward Krasiński, Jerzy Bereś and Stanisław Fijałkowski


The National Museum in Szczecin
3 Wały Chrobrego St.
May 11th –  september 2th 2018

Curator: Andrzej Pawełczyk
Organizer: The National Museum in Szczecin
Co-Organizer: Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej Miejsce sztuki44 w Świnoujściu