The Dividing Line

The Dividing Line

The Dividing Line


Happening: 18.12.1965, The Society of Art Historians, Krakow.

Tadeusz Kantor was one of the first and the most significant Polish happening artists. In his hands they weren’t just a repetition of the western experiences, the difference lied in the connection to theatre. In the 60s the connection was easily observable. The artist brought the happening experience into the theatre spaces and vice versa: his happenings were not just an interference into daily tasks but retained a connection to art.

He used those experiences in The Water Hen (Happening Threatre, 1967), Country House (“I” Theatre, Bled, 1969) where the particular scenes for the Saarbrucken television were performed in different places, and in the Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes (The Impossible Theatre, 1973).

Happening elements were present in the Kszysztofory Gallery “Popular Exhibition” (Anti-Exhibition, 1963).

Sources of Kantor’s actionist turn can be found both in his art as in his theatre experience. Kantor used his art to create happenings. Though he claimed to give in to chance and real life interference, he did not give up the privilege of artistic creation completely. His first happening, entitled Cricotage, took place on 10th December 1965 in Warsaw Foksal Gallery. Eight days later it was repeated in Krakow, titled The Dividing Line. Lesław and Wacław Janiccy described it thusly: “In the happening we entered the Kszysztofory cellar with a suitcase filled with pasta. We opened it and started eating. There was a lot of it, we couldn’t manage. Pasta was on our faces, our clothes, under our collars. A woman sitting in the corner of the room was screaming: “I’m sitting, I’m sitting!” Nobody paid her any attention, so she got louder. “I’m sitting, I’m sitting!” It started to get chaotic. Jacek Stokłosa brought in coal and shovelled it over a girl in a bathtub. Kantor was writing his The Dividing Line manifesto. At the back bricklayers were covering the entrance.”

Kantor’s Dividing Line separated the conventional copycats from creators searching for new and radical ideas. The happening caused quite a stir in Krakow, bordering on scandal. The party leaders and local government took it as subversive: the instalment with the coal was taken as mocking towards the privileged role of the working class. The walled up door was taken as the metaphor for political situation of Poland at the time.