oskar schlemmer

︎Artist, Sculpture, Theatre, Dance, Article  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"It is our task to become pioneers of simplicity, that is, to find a simple form for all of life's necessities, which is at the same time respectable and genuine."

If all artistic movements are a way to delineate the vibrations of a zeitgeist, by sampling elements of the primordial past, and reintroduce them into times of ideological breakdown, then The Triadic Ballet (1922), of the Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer, represents a leitmotif of the dualistic relationship between mechanism and organism.

In a time after World War I, where the infrastructure of German economics had suffered greatly, the overarching mentality was to coalesce mass production with refined artistic expression. Taking its main influences from Russian Constructivism and the English Arts and Crafts Movement, Bauhaus embodied a return to efficiency and serviceable design for public use, to deliver its users into a perfected geometric paradise.

The problem with delivering paradise, however, is that it is almost always a provisional one. In his Triadic Ballet (1922), Schlemmer would project the principles of industrialisation and mechanistic production onto the human body, using carefully crafted costumes, forged directly from these new ideals of brutalism, in order to restrict the fluid movements of the dancers.

“The Triadic Ballet took the human body as a kind of walking mathematical structure, pieces of a moveable machine, producing equations of rhythmic symbology.”

The Triadic Ballet took the human body as a kind of walking mathematical structure, pieces of a moveable machine, producing equations of rhythmic symbology, for means of generating stable compositions between technological biases and nature. Schlemmer recognised this duality and saw the movements of marionettes as more superior than that of the human, but that the geometry of dance signified an emergence of ecstasy within the human spirit.

Most of the modern world can be reduced into dualisms; the linguistic constructs, subject and object, inner and outer space, thesis and antithesis, the masculine and the feminine. The Triadic Ballet is the third view on these dual conflicts. the Apollonian and Dionysian, the rational and the impulsive. Schlemmer saw that dance acted as a synthesis of the poles, drawing from all facets of human exploration, from artistic expression to mass production, which gives this performance the authenticity of a geometric Tragedy.

If we consider the architecture of Brutualism or Bauhaus to be a kind of frozen minimalist music, caught between the fortified economic expectations of the public, and the ethereal premonitions of social paradise, then this carefully choreographed composition could be the slow melting process of that architecture, back into the reformalising geometry of the natural world.