BA Fine Art students and staff at Camberwell have continued to find inspiration in the teachings of, and the work produced by, individuals who studied at the Bauhaus this academic year as they develop a series of vibrant and exciting performances to be staged in Dessau, Germany and at Camberwell in the autumn.
Over the past six months, BA Fine Art Painting lecturers Juan Bolivar, Matthew Draper, Daniel Sturgis and Sarah Kate Wilson have been collaborating with students across Fine Art courses to develop a series of performances in response to Xanti Schawinsky’s seminal performance-installation Play, Life, Illusion (1936). Schawinsky enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar, 1924 and was taught by Oscar Schlemmer who at the time was Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop. Here, Schawinsky became particularly active in the theatre department and went on to teach within stage design. Even whilst producing works for the stage, Schawinsky remained unrestricted by medium and continued to work across painting and scenic painting, drawing, photography, music and stage design.
The performances currently being developed by Camberwell’s BA Fine Art students and staff will be staged in September as part of Open Stage, a key strand of the official centenary performance programme entitled Festival Stage TOTAL which will launch the new Bauhaus Museum, Dessau. Following the festival, their performances will be re-staged at Camberwell College of Arts on the 24 October 2019 as part of a programme of events that celebrates 100 years of The Bauhaus.
BA Fine Art Painting lecturer Sarah Kate Wilson explains, “working as a community of artists, we are revisiting Schawinsky’s seminal work Play, Life, Illusion (1936), and reimaging the work now, in 2019, as a way of addressing the global concerns of today. Performances, scripts, improvised actions, films, costumes and soundscapes will be woven together and performed throughout the entirety of the festival.”
The Camberwell group have decided to dedicate each day of the festival to a particular topic: the 'Socio-Political-Technological', 'Protest', 'Colour and Painting' and 'London'. Under these headings, notions such as atemporality, the news, ephemerality, absurdity, visibility, the body and surveillance, will be promoted as a way of voicing the concerns they have as practitioners, working in London.
The 'London' segment, BA Painting tutor Juan Bolivar explains, “takes as inspiration a London bus or tube, populated by various protagonists. At the centre of this we find three ‘spirit beings’, the ‘Thinker’, the ‘Processor’ and the ‘Music’ working in a conveyor belt type arrangement, inspecting, selecting and translating news articles from London tabloids and newspapers. A fourth character, the ‘Londoner’, meanders through this space sometimes picking up an instrument or reading aloud, as he attempts to catch the attention of commuters staring at their phones or reading. The work is set to a soundtrack; a mixture of familiar tunes but also incidental ambient sound ranging from radio and television adverts and recorded street sounds.” The characters will suddenly break the forth wall, when half way through their performance they stop to make cups of tea and toasted sandwiches, which they will be offered to the audience to enjoy.
First year BA Fine Art Drawing student Claire Marsden has also devised a work that activates the audience through participation, whereby augmented reality will begin to choreograph the movements of audience members’ reality, in physical space. She explains, “using AR filters such as Lens Studio and models made in SketchUp and 3D Paint I have been able to animate moving models and shapes that can only be viewed through smartphone screens.” When the audience first enter the performance space it will appear to be empty, but once they use their smartphones to ‘see’, viewers will begin to traverse a space filled with colour, shape and texture.
Camberwell BA Fine Art Sculpture alumna Hannah Skinner will be re-staging her degree show performance which explores themes of queerness, performativity, mimicry and humour through soft sculpture, air and sound. Her ‘wearable sculptures’, whilst being worn by performers, are inflated with air, therefore restricting the bodies’ movements. Students Molly Brown (first year BA Painting) and Rafaella Lazarou (first year BA Drawing) have collaborated to make tailor-made hand-painted jumpsuits that also overtly highlight the movement of bodies in space.
Describing some of the other works that are in development, Sarah Kate identifies the ways in which low-tech is often brought into contact with the hi-tech through performance: “3D scanning, ink stencils, AR, loop pedals, record players, smartphones, painting, live camera feeds, and pin hole cameras are all employed. For example, each member of the group has produced their own version of a 1m wide colour wheel. Some have been made using cyanotypes, or hand-painted, and others digitally printed. These wheels have been choreographed to music, in response to the pulsing energy fields and the way these colours make us feel. Elsewhere, hi-vis jackets will be worn by performers who will carry enormous banner paintings aloft, to conjure notions of protest and upheaval.”
First year BA Fine Art Painting student Leon Banard’s performance responds to a very particular movement in Schawinsky’s original score, where ‘acrobats striking tuning forks with their sticks, and while leaping to the various levels of the platforms, perform a musical composition’. Leon is similarly interested in creating a soundscape that is explicitly bound with an overtly physical performance by multiple performers moving within the same space. He explains, “using a guitar, extended wires feed off the pickup and are attached to the bodies of performers on stage. As performers move their actions are registered in eerie metallic sounds processed from the guitars effects loop.”
Students and staff will work together across year groups, courses and disciplines to finalise all performances this term and over the summer as the centenary approaches. As Sarah Kate says: “We continue to evoke the spirit of the Bauhaus throughout this project, working alongside one another as artists, a community that shares ideas and observations whilst engaging in ongoing conversations, developing and exchanging skills.”
Find out more about the Bauhaus100 celebrations taking place all over the world next year at bauhaus100.com
To find out more about studying BA Fine Art Painting at Camberwell, visit the course page.