Metaphysical theater

The transformation of the human body, its metamorphosis, is made possible by the costume, the disguise. Costume and mask emphasize the body’s identity or they change it; they express its nature or they are purposely misleading about it; they stress its conformity to organic or mechanical laws or they invalidate this conformity.

The native costume, as produced by the conventions of religion, state, and society, is different from the theatrical stage costume. Yet the two are generally confused. Great as has been the variety of native costumes developed during the course of human history, the number of genuine stage costumes has stayed very small. They are the few standardized costumes of the commedia delle arte: Harlequin, Pierrot, Columbine, etc.; and they have remained basic and authentic to this day.

Schlemmer &cvt=JPEG

The following can be considered fundamentally decisive in the transformation of the human body in terms of this stage costume:

  1. The laws of the surrounding cubical space. Here the cubical forms are transferred to the human shape: head, torso, arms, legs are transformed into spatial-cubical constructions.
    Result: ambulant architecture.
  2. The functional laws of the human body in their relationship to space. These laws bring about a typification of the bodily forms: the egg shape of the head, the vase shape of the torso, the club shape of the arms and legs, the ball shape of the joints.
    Result: the marionette.
  3. The laws of motion of the human body in space. Here we have the various aspects of rotation, direction, and intersection of space: the spinning top, snail, spiral, disk.
    Result: a technical organism.
  4. The metaphysical forms of expression symbolizing various members of the human body: the star shape of the spread hand, the x sign of the folded arms, the cross shape of the backbone and shoulders; the double head, multiple limbs, division and suppression of forms.
    Result: dematerialization.

[Formentanz of Oscar Schlemmer] [Formentanz of Oscar Schlemmer] Rudolph Binnemann, German, about 1927 - 1928 Abbaspour, Mitra, Lee Ann Daffner, and Maria Morris Hambourg. Object-Photo rene (Hecht) Bayer, American (Chicago, Ill., USA 1898 - 1991 Los Angeles, Cal., USA) Title Equilibristic Dance [by Oskar Schlemmer] Continue reading

Bauhausbücher covers, № I-XIV (1925-1930)

.
Below are the covers to the books in the Bauhausbücher series, № 1-14.

  1. Walter Gropius, Internationale Architektur. Bauhausbücher 1, München 1925
  2. Paul Klee, Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch. Bd. 2, München 1925
  3. Adolf Meyer, Ein Versuchshaus des Bauhauses in Weimar. Bd. 3, München, 1925
  4. Oskar Schlemmer, Die Bühne im Bauhaus. Bd. 4, München 1925
  5. Piet Mondrian, Neue Gestaltung. Neoplastizismus. Bd. 5, Eschwege 1925
  6. Theo van Doesburg, Grundbegriffe der neuen gestaltenden Kunst. Bd. 6, München 1925
  7. Walter Gropius, Neue Arbeiten der Bauhauswerkstaetten. Bd. 7, München 1925
  8. Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Malerei, Fotografie, Film. Bd. 8, München 1925
  9. Wassily Kandinsky, Punkt und Linie zur Fläche: Beitrag zur Analyse der malerischen Elemente. Bd. 9, München, 1926
  10. Jan Peter Oud, Holländische Architektur, Bd. 10, München 1926
  11. Kasimir Malewitsch, Die gegenstandslose Welt, Bd. 11, München 1927
  12. Walter Gropius, Bauhausbauten Dessau. Bd. 12, München 1928
  13. Albert Gleizes, Kubismus. Bd. 13, München 1928
  14. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Von Material zu Architektur. Bd. 14, 1929

Enjoy.

Bauhausbucher1200252.w.1280bauhausbucher 3867502_4_lLászló Moholy-Nagy Bauhaus Books No. 5- %22Neoplasticism%22 by Piet Mondrian, 1925bauhausbucher 6Bauhausbucher 7bauhausbucher 8 moholy-nagyBauhausbucher 9 Kandinsky8868072_1_lBauhausbucher 11 MalewitschLászló Moholy-Nagy Bauhaus Books No. 12- %22Bauhaus Buildings, Dessau%22 by Walter Gropius, 1930Bauhausbucher 13laszlo_moholy-nagy-dust_jackets_for_2_of_the_series_of_14_bauhaus_books-19291317188312990moholy-nagy-brochure_cover_for_the_series_of_fourteen_bauhaus_books-19291317188247231

Theater at the Bauhaus (1925)

Oskar Schlemmer

Untitled
Image: Walter Gropius, design for the
“total theater” at the Bauhaus (1926)

untitled2

From a lecture-demonstration at the Bauhaus by Oskar Schlem­mer to the Circle of Friends of the Bauhaus (March 16, 1927).

Before speaking about theater proper at the Bauhaus, we should first take a brief look at the way in which it came about, consider the justification for its existence, and observe its path and its goals. In short, we should review its primary endeavor, which is to approach all our material from a basic and elementary standpoint. It is because of this endeavor that the stage here has became an organic link in the total chain of Bauhaus activity.

It is natural that the aims of the Bauhaus — to seek the union of the artistic-ideal with the craftsmanlike-practical by thoroughly investigating the creative elements, and to understand in all its ramifications the essence of der Bau, creative construction — have valid application to the field of the theater. For, like the concept of Bau itself, the stage is an orchestral complex which comes about only through the cooperation of many different forces. It is the union of the most heterogeneous assortment of creative elements. Not the least of its functions is to serve the metaphysical needs of man by constructing a world of illusion and by creating the transcen­dental on the basis of the rational.

Cover to a more recent edition of Oskar Schlemmer's writings on the theater

Cover to a more recent edition of Oskar
Schlemmer’s writings on the theater

.
From the first day of its existence, the Bauhaus sensed the impulse for creative theater; for from that first day the play instinct [der Spieltrieb] was present. The play instinct, which Schiller in his wonderful and endur­ ing Briefe über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen [Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, (1795)] calls the source of man’s real creative values, is the un-self-conscious and naIve pleasure in shaping and pro­ ducing, without asking questions about use or uselessness, sense or non­ sense, good or bad. This pleasure through creation was especially strong at the beginning (not to say the infancy) of the Bauhaus
…….in Weimar
and was expressed in our exuberant parties, in improvisations, and in the imaginative masks and costumes which we made.

We might say that during the course of its development, this state of naïveté, which is the womb of the play instinct, is generally followed by a period of reflection, doubt, and criticism, something that in turn can easily bring about the destruction of the original state, unless a second and, as it were, skeptical kind of naIvete tempers this critical phase. Today we have become much more aware of ourselves. A sense for standards and con­stants has arisen out of the unconscious and the chaotic. This, together with concepts such as norm, type, and synthesis, points the way to creative form [Gestaltung].

Costumes

.
It was due only to intense skepticism, for example, that in 1922 Lothar Schreyer’s plan to form a Bauhaus theater failed; at the time there was practically no climate for strong philosophical points of view (Weltan­schauungstendenzen), none at least which could be found in the sacral garb of Expressionism. On the other hand, there was a distinct feeling for satire and parody. It was probably a legacy of the Dadaists to ridicule automatically everything that smacked of solemnity or ethical precepts. And so the grotesque flourished again. It found its nourishment in travesty and in mocking the antiquated forms of the contemporary theater. Though its tendency was fundamentally negative, its evident recognition of the origin, conditions, and laws of theatrical play was a positive feature.

The dance, however, stayed alive throughout this period. During the course of our growth it changed from the crude country dancing of our “youth hostelers” [Rüpeltanz der Wandervögel] to the full-dress fox trot. The same thing happened in music: our concertina metamorphosed into our jazz band (A. Weininger). Group dancing found its image reflected on the stage in the dance of the individual. And from this developed our formalized use of color [das Farbig-Formale], and the Mechanical Ballet (K. Schmidt, Bogler, Teltscher). Experimentation with colored light and shadows became the “Reflectory Light Play” (Schwertfeger and L. Hirschfeld­ Mack). A marionette theater was begun.

While we had no stage of our own in Weimar and had to give our productions on a sort of dubious suburban podium there, since the move
…….to Dessau
we have been in the enviable position of having a “house-stage” of our own in the new Bauhaus building. Although it was originally meant to be a platform for lectures as well as a stage for performances on a limited scale, it is nevertheless well equipped for a serious approach to stage problems.

Architecture

.
For us these problems and their solution lie in fundamentals, in elementary matters, in discovering literally the primary meaning of Stage. We are concerned with what makes things typical, with type, with number and measure, with basic law. • • • I scarcely need to say that these concerns have been active, if not necessarily dominant, during all periods of great art; but they could be active only when preconditioned by a state of hypersensitive alertness and tension, that is, when functioning as the regulators of a real feeling of involvement with the world and life. Of many memorable statements which have been made about number, measure, and law in art, I cite only one sentence from Philipp Otto Runge: “It is precisely in the case of those works of art which most truly arise from the imagination and the mystique of our soul, unhampered by externals and unburdened by history, that the strictest regularity is necessary.” Continue reading

Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus costume parties (1924-1926)

With “Life at the Bauhaus”
by Farkas Molnár (1925)

.
Image: Bauhaus costumes by Oskar Schlemmer (1925)

.

Translated from the Hungarian by John Bátki.
From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of
Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930
.

(The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).

.
It is the first institution in Europe dedicated to realizing the achievements of the new arts for the purposes of human existence. Its inception was the first step toward a recognition that has become widespread by now: that “atelier art” has divorced itself from life and is dead, and that every person possessing creative powers must seek his or her vocation in the fulfillment of the practical needs of everyday life. Today’s scientific and technological advances will not become assimilated into general culture as long as humankind still lives under medieval conditions. The machine is still a foreign object in the houses of today; the documents of technological culture are still relegated to books atop fancy carved desks, radio music by the fireplace. The age demands a style, a common denominator for its visible phenomena. However, “style” is an unsuitable word, we do not like to use it, for it usually refers to the external pseudo-unity of things, a system of decorative forms.

Each and every object that we have to build anew will be different, according to its material, function, and structure, instead of resembling each other in form. The common denominator will be provided by the object’s functionality and beauty demanded by its practicality; it will be the kinship of objects equivalent in their quality.

Golden Sphere Costume

The architect Walter Gropius, founder and director of the Bauhaus, was among the pioneers in the fight against entrenched historical forms. His prewar creations (such as the Faguswerk in Alfeld) had already demonstrated that he was able to realize his goals with absolute technical mastery. He conducted the task of organizing the Bauhaus with the greatest consistency and perseverance in spite of the difficult circumstances and lack of understanding on the part of the authorities. The Bauhaus as organized is the prototype of a new kind of educational institution that does not merely “educate for life” but actually places its students into practical real-life situations. It is articulated into three subdivisions: 1) the school itself where theoretical and practical professional instruction is given in workshops, 2) the production workshops (stone, wood, metal, and glass processing shops, as well as textile, ceramics, murals, printing and theatrical workshops) where work is done on commission and ongoing experimental work is conducted, and 3) the architecture and design department, for the design and construction of all sorts of building projects.

At the time of its founding Gropius declared that in our days there are no architects and no artists capable of executing the loftier tasks of our age in practical form. Therefore the new artists would have to develop here, learning in the course of a constant immersion in materials the ability to think realistically, to make cool-headed calculations, and to draw daring conclusions. We live at a time of the greatest possibilities, a time of the greatest need. Unaccomplishable projects can only hinder us. The artist’s pride obstructs development and progress, which is promoted by the forward thrust of mechanical aptitude. Continue reading

Lev Rudnev’s “City of the Future” (1925), before his turn to Stalinist neo-Classicism

Modernist architecture archive

.Untitled
IMAGE: Lev Rudnev’s City of the future (1925),
before his turn to Stalinist neoclassicism

.Untitled

An update on the Modernist Architecture Archive/Database I discussed a couple posts ago.  I’ve begun work on it, and have uploaded almost half of the documents I intend to include.  Only a few of the Russian ones are up yet, but I’m hoping to post them over the next couple days.  There are many more on the way.

Anyway, anyone interested in taking a look at this archive (arranged as a continuous text) can access it here.

However, this might not be the most convenient way to browse through it all.  For a more manageable overall view of each of the individual articles (detailing the author, title, and year of publication), click here.