Today’s post is a short homage to those who I call funambulists. Among them, of course, are the literal funambulists, tight rope walkers exercising their freedom by subverting the power of the line they work on; but more generally, anyone who uses her or his body to create and express forms of freedom of movement (parkourers, skaters, jugglers, dancers etc.).

I recently encountered a piece of the work of German artist Oskar Schlemmer (merci Martial) who was working for the Bauhaus in 1927 when he created the Slat Dance choreography. The latter consists in a man wearing a dark bodysuit and dancing with a full set of sticks attached on each of his limb. The visual effect for the spectator (see the video below) is the abstraction of the body itself and the quasi-hypnotic movement of the lines materialized by the sticks. The body is thus perceived in its bare mechanical form, an assemblage of straight pieces articulated by a kneecap at each junction point. The fascination of this dance surely comes from the ambiguity created between this mechanical dimension and a pure geometrical one created by those lines that can concentrate the entire visual ability of the spectators. The extension of each of those lines also impacts the space around the dancer and materializes forces of influence created by the movement.

I often write about the power of the lines as used as primary medium by the architect; their static dimension and heavy materialization (the wall being its paradigm) enforce a violence on the body that it convenes to study (to remain with dance, see for example the body of Pina Bausch violently encountering the stage’s wall in her Cafe Muller). In the case of O.Schlemmer’s work, the line is created and animated by the body itself, producing a complex system of movement and forces. The latter would then be interesting to observe when it encounters another system centered on another body. In this last case, the lines could either negotiate forms of harmonization or, on the contrary, encounter themselves in a more antagonistic and violent way.

See the more recent adaptation by Gheorge Iancu in the following video:


Coreografia: Oskar Schlemmer – Gheorghe Iancu
Musica: Johann Sebastian Bach

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