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"Oskar Schlemmer" Tag


Another 21st Century Ballet


Friday, April 26, 2019

In Oscar Schlemmer’s ‘Triadic Ballet’ we are presented with a plethora of colours and shapes that touch the imagination as if being in another universe. The opening scene starts with two ‘living puppets’ standing in a yellow room. Their costumes resemble harnesses from some other age in another space with primary shapes that limits their movements incredulously. With a staccato walk they move around each other, surrendering to the costume that hides the true identity behind these puppets. As the performance proceeds, and yellow changes to pink and pink changes to black, the dancers appear in various costumes that share the same alien ‘harness’ look and all seem to be made to make movement impossible. With these minimalist movements, Schlemmer seems to be commenting on the position of the individual within the roaring Interbellum: the performers were reduced to puppets that were meant to blend into the colourful decorum.

The ‘Triadic ballet’ is an important manifestation of the aim for interdisciplinarity that characterises the legacy of the Bauhaus academy that was founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany. Schlemmer, who was originally schooled as a painter, turned sculptor, turned decorist, turned choreographer, subsequently found himself at ease within several disciplines. And so did many of his colleagues: painters became designers and drawers became weavers. The true modernity of this Bauhausian aim for the integration of disciplines might have only become clear much later in the 20th century with the rise of Postmodernism. As to this day artists and scientists altogether seem to become increasingly convinced of the benefits that arise when two or more disciplines are being combined. [The appeal for interdisciplinary practice is also very apparent in the educational system of the Rietveld academy in the present day.] It is argued that, within the realm of an educational system it might be beneficial to learn through several disciplines in order to deepen the learning experience, to connect with your subject on many levels as opposed to just one. This also touches on the theory of constructivism, which suggests that people create their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiences and reflection on those experiences. In other words: a plurality in narratives calls for a plurality in educational journeys (and results in a plurality of learning outcomes).

To me it seems that in my generation (y) a common awareness towards this plurality in narratives is manifested more clearly than ever as we have been exposed to so many through both mass media and personalised media. And yet again, just like in the Interbellum, the position of the individual within this digital era is being discussed. This made me wonder: what would a triadic ballet look like if it was recreated to-day?

I therefore set out to research and create a choreography that would share a minimalistic approach with Schlemmer’s ballet, but simultaneously touches on contemporary culture. Evidently enough there are many possible ways to represent the novelties of postmodern civilisation within this historical context, so I made the choice to focus on the subjects of digitalisation and individuality. I discovered that these two themes are apparent in our lives not only through visual experiences, textual communication or metaphysical perception, but also through bodily adaptation. With this term I refer to the different adjustments modern humans allow their bodies to make in order to make use of digital devices and/or media. This bodily adaptation displays a process where an individual’s reality-identity somehow seems to have merged with their digital-identity. Inspired by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, who often attempts to create dance forms out of daily movements, I tried to work out different movements that I found to be exemplifying for these bodily adaptations: people crouching over their phones on trains, people shifting their view to and from their screen.

With these movements mimicking digitally-driven bodily adaptations I made a short movie showing a 21st century ballet in 21st century costume. Unlike in Schlemmer’s ballet music and sound has been left yet-to-compose in order to limit the scope of this research. A next step would definitely be to experiment with audio in order to create a complete experience. An important notion must be taken in the fact that this outcome is highly context specific (and therefore quite postmodern for that matter) as it is a result of my interpretation of what a 21st century ballet should look like carried out through my body.

The choreography can be watched here:

 

 

A Spectacular Manifesto


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The ultimate goal of all art is the spectacle! The ancient drama was once the main purpose of the visual arts, and it was institutionalized as an indispensable part of life. Today, it exists in complacent isolation, from which it can only be salvaged by the purposeful and cooperative endeavors of all artists. Architects, painters and sculptors, designers, writers and potters must learn a new way of seeing and understanding the composite character of the theater, both as a totality and in terms of its parts. Their work will then re-imbue itself with the spirit of the spectacle, which it lost being caged in a white cube.

The art schools of old were incapable of producing this unity—and how could they, for art may not be taught. They must return to the performative, to the spectacle, the theater. They must get back up on the stage. This world of mere conceptual products must at long last become a world of performers. When a young person who senses within them-self a love for creative endeavor begins their career, the context of the theater will give them unrestrained freedom to achieve excellence in their practice of art, as well on stage as behind the scenes.

Architects, sculptors, painters, photographers, weavers and dressmakers—we all must return to the collective spectacle! For there is no such thing as “art by profession”. There is no essential difference between an artist and an actor. The artist is an exalted performer. Merciful heaven, in rare moments of illumination beyond man’s will, may allow art to blossom from the work of his hand, but the foundations of proficiency are indispensable to every artist. This is the original source of creative design.
So let us therefore create a new ensemble of actors, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavored to raise a prideful barrier between actors and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new theater of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, video and glassblowing and jewellery which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of artists as a clear symbol of a new spectacle to come.

If you know your Bauhaus well, you may recognize this text as it is a rewritten version of the Bauhaus Manifesto. When Walter Gropius wrote the original manifesto back in April 1919 he wanted to unify ”architects, painters and sculptors” by going back to the crafts and combine it with fine arts. When I’m rewriting it now, to the month exactly 100 years later, I’m also aiming to unify not only architects, painters and sculptors, but all artistic disciplines, through a revival of, and return to, the performative arts within the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

We are always told to get out of our comfort zone, to aim for the impossible, the fantastic, to let us be carried away and explore our dreams. Where else better to do all that than in the context of the theater? It has room for, and it needs, everybody’s interests and practices! Apart from performers it needs just as many writers, sculptors, painters, musicians, designers, costume makers – you name it. Furthermore, there is nothing you can’t do on stage; if you want to fly, then you fly! This limitless space of imagination and exploration is something that should be available and encouraged for everyone, performer or not. With calling it ”theater” rather than ”performative arts” we can also emphasize on this collaboration and intertwining of knowledge and different practices which is absolutely essential.

”But you can already do this, you can do (almost) all you want at the academy!” some might say, and while that sure is true, the space and importance given to performative arts in this school is very limited compared to it’s precursor. Yes, there is a small group of teachers and students engaged with it within the academy (basically restricted to the Fine arts and VAV departments), and yes there used to be a theater department back in the days. But why isn’t it a natural part of the education for all of us, and not only for students in a certain department?

I say:

Let’s have theater class once a week in Basic Year!

Let’s build a proper stage with opportunities to experiment with light, sound, scenography and spatial design!

Let’s all and everyone, from our different practices and fields of interests, unite and collaborate in this machinery that is the Theater!

In the spirit of Oskar Schlemmer, I wish for us a rich and alive theater as the most central and unifying element of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.

Let’s make a spectacle!


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