Kantor's 'Poor Object' as Icon of Truth




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The Institut International de la Marionnette in partnership with the research group RIRRA 21 (University Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3)



Peer reviewed



In a 1980 address Jacques Derrida characterised the problematic of representation as a ʻsendingʼ or ʻdispatchʼ—as envoi of truth. For Derrida the appearance of the envoi is not separate from that which it represents. Such a revision of the relationship between truth and representation derives from Heideggerʼs reading of Plato, which deconstructs the Allegory of the Cave into a narrative economy. The ʻimageʼ of truth enshrined in Platoʼs cave is seen in terms of a necessarily structured process of disclosure or alētheia. Such an ʻeconomy of truthʼ is also an inherent part of the Orthodox iconʼs uncanny power to act as the envoi of truth from ʻthe other worldʼ. Recent research has identified a relationship between the metaphysics of icons and the early twentieth-century avant-gardes in contemporaneous Russian writing. In categorically located his ʻpoor objectʼ ʻbetween the garbage dump and eternityʼ Tadeusz Kantorʼs aesthetic apparently bears an unlikely affinity with the ʻhammered gold and gold enamellingʼ—ʻthe artifice of eternityʼ of Orthodox icons. However, whilst Kantor can be seen to draw on the metaphysics of Bruno Schulzʼs ʻdegraded realityʼ, his apparently peculiar marriage of symbolism and abstraction indicate a previously unexplored proximity, via the Russian avant- garde, with the mystical legacy of the aesthetic logic of icons. This paper makes links between Pavel Florenskyʼs work on space and representation, in particular his 1919 essay ʻReverse Perspectiveʼ, and Heideggerʼs and Derridaʼs critiques of representation, drawing on recent research to shed new light on Kantorʼs aesthetic of the ʻrealʼ.



alētheia, Constructivism, Edward Gordon Craig, The Dead Class, Jacques Derrida, Pavel Florensky, Martin Heidegger, Tadeusz Kantor, Heinrich von Kleist, Kazimir Malevich, mannequin, Orthodox Icon, Plato, 'Poor Object', 'Poor Reality', Reverse Perspective, Russian Avant-Garde, Vladimir Tatlin, Theatre of Death, Truth


Leach, M. (2012) Kantor's 'Poor Object' as Icon of Truth. In: The Institut International de la Marionnette in partnership with the research group RIRRA 21 (University Paul Valéry-Montpellier 3), ÜBER-MARIONETTES AND MANNEQUINS: Craig, Kantor and their contemporary legacies, Charleville-Mézières (France), March 15th, 16th, 17th, 2012


Research Institute

Institute of Drama, Dance and Performance Studies