Polish theatre artist and fine artist. Tadeusz Kantor’s “Theatre of Death” is based on a singluar reversal of traditional values: in this work, which indirectly relates to the world of puppetry, death is seen as a positive counter to the values of a consumer society. Thus, in accordance with this perspective, the actor was to appear to the viewer with the same strangeness and the same distance as though surrounding a corpse.  

Influenced by the plastic experiments of Constructivism and the Bauhaus, by Dada and Surrealism, Kantor removed all utilitarian function from an object and even reclaimed waste material. With his Teatr Cricot 2, he achieved several international successes: Umarła klasa (The Dead Class, 1976); Wielopole Wielopole (1980); Niech sczezną artyści (Let the Artists Die, 1985); Dzisiaj są moje urodziny (Today is My Birthday, 1990), in which the live actor and the inanimate object were placed on the same dramatic level, and where actors mixed with mannequins. Kantor theorized the “bio-object”, that is to say the symbiosis of live and artificial elements in order to create a plastic form that eliminated the distinctions and the hierarchy of the usual senses. Connected to this idea, several of his “happenings” were re-baptized “cricotages”: the actor was often wrapped in paper, which erased, indeed would nullify, the contours of his body, transforming him into a living sculpture, hiding but at the same time accentuating the natural form of the body.

Working on the suggestions of Bruno Schulz in Sklepy cynamonowe (The Cinnamon Shops, 1934), Kantor always used mannequins as doubles of live actors. In 1987, in Macchina dell’amore e della morte (The Machine of Love and Death), puppets manipulated by actors were the characters, and the witches were played by large mechanical sculptures marking the history of violence exerted on individuals. In 1988, for the Institut International de la Marionnette based in Charleville-Meziérès, France, Kantor also created with young actors and puppeteers the “cricotage”, Une très courte leçon (A Very Short Lesson).

In his theatrical practice, Tadeusz Kantor brought a highly innovative vision to the art of puppetry that must be linked to that of Edward Gordon Craig, a connection which he acknowledged.

(See also Actor and Puppet, Poland.)