An Anthology of Metals

An Anthology of Metals – St Johns Church, Gdansk

This performance was staged in the beautiful Church of St John in the city of Gdansk. It had two very different but concurrent themes: Metal as an instrument, and the work of Oskar Schlemmer, in particular the Triadic Ballet.

Although a lot of the traditional instruments used by the orchestra are of wood and skin, in this case there was an intention to show the variation of use and the diversity of sound and resonance within metallic objects. These objects ranged from the rumbling of an old centrifuge, singing saw (stainless steel), Russian bells (aluminium), flying drones (lead and copper), percussion battery (any old iron), wind-up toys (tin).

Since the space of the church was vast and not intimate, the orchestra decided to enhance the visual aspect of the show by incorporating costume ideas based upon the works of Oskar Schlemmer and the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus school or ‘movement’ existed from 1919 to 1933. Its influence governed architecture,art, graphic design and industrial design. It proposed radical simplification of forms, a predominance of the rational, the functional and attempted to find a point of reconciliation between mass production and individual creativity. Schlemmer, a German painter and sculptor, had been appointed Master of Form in the Bauhaus. His most famous work was the Triadic Ballet. In this piece the actors were transfigured into geometrical shapes. Inspired by Pierrot, he saw the human body as an artistic medium . By abstracting the body almost to the point of a marionette, he emphasised that all artistic media are by definition artificial, using ‘artifice’. He reduced the body image to a narrative of geometric shapes, cylinders, circles and triangles.

By 1933 and the rise of the nazis, his work was considered degenerate. He was dismissed from his post. Eventually long after his death in 1943, his costumes were exhibited in galleries around the world. They became a kind of curiosity. On still-standing figures or static mannequins, the impact of the costume designs was greatly reduced, having lost their initial ‘function’ of movement within the context of the Triadic Ballet and its choreography.

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