Right at the end of last year, I spent some time in Germany, where for two days I have been working at the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau, and I was blown away from the experience. Let me explain:
One of the many positive things that ‘The Secret Agent’ triggered was meeting Daria Martin. Daria is an American film maker based in London and her work involves a deep and subtle exploration of the senses and the imagination through a very physical interaction with space, objects and other people. At the core of her work is also a pursuit to develop creative collaboration and a desire to interrogate and invest into that creative process. So all these things really spoke to us.
Daria’s new project has been in development for about 5 years and it’s about mirror-thouch synesthesia. A simple definition of it:
“Mirror-touch is the rarest form of synesthesia in which seeing someone else being touched leads to one feeling the touch as well. This means that people can literally feel the pain of others when they see them get hurt. Such a process is hypothesized as being important for understanding and empathising with others.”
This new film will be developed fully over 2014 and theatre O will work with Daria, playwright Simon Stephens and designer Billur Turan in different stages to define it’s shape and content.
The first stage of this collaboration took place in Germany, at the Bauhaus in Dessau, where under their current fabulous exhibition: Human-Space-Machine. Stage Experiments at the Bauhaus, we explored the wonderful Mirror-touch Machine, designed by Billur and built at the Bauhaus. Another quick definition:
The Bauhaus was founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919 by architect, Walter Gropius with the aim of bridging the gap between art, design and industry and unifying all three. It was a school where students received theoretical and practical training in all of the fine arts -ceramics, murals, stained glass, typography, metalwork, book binding, stone sculpture and furniture-making – and learned to combine these fine art skills with new technologies to design and manufacture products that were both beautiful and practical.
I was completely blown away by this place. I had a vague notion about the Bauhaus and thought it was mainly a movement that concerned architects and furniture designers, but what I discovered was a phenomenal building, which was alive, and still carried the spirit for taking risks, experimenting, for exercising what one of its core members, Oscar Schlemmer, called the creative imagination, as supposed to the recreative imagination: a place to react to the world, rather than interpret it; To me that said it all.
I was also blown away by the discovery that theatre was at the centre of this movement. The stage and the theatre were a place where all the disciplines (from architectural ideas on space, to furniture design, to experimentation with lighting, colour and costume design) where tested and made into a tangible thing. “The materialistic world outside has truly lost the sense of play and wonder”, said Paul Klee, another of its key members. Play and wonder. Their stage work took on the form of performances, but also of these sprawling events, parties that overflowed and reached other levels of celebration, often scaring the local population of the very industrial town of Dessau.
I was fascinated by the Bauhaus’s commitment to explore the senses, bypassing any narrative, and their search for the essential, the stripped down version, the instinctive response. It seems the perfect place to start an exploration into a condition which evolves around the perception and co-existence with other people’s feelings and sensations.