Walking and striding, dancing and gliding; water in motion, centrifugal forces and the transcendence of gravity in flight – ‹Motion is at the root of all growth›, as Paul Klee wrote in 1920.
A major exhibition of works from our collection will illustrate Klee’s fascination for any form of movement.
It will be complemented by a series of interdisciplinary events about dance, perhaps the most versatile form of human movement, in co-operation with Dampfzentrale Bern.
The exhibition will be held in three phases (19/01—01/05/2016 | 03/05—28/08/2016 | 03/09—08/01/2017) each with a different focus. The exhibition also addresses movement processes in nature, the dialectic between hindered and free, static and dynamic movement, the development of effective and centrifugal force as well as the motion of the elements.
The dynamics of movement and expression in dance gave Paul Klee important creative impulses. He studied the developments of contemporary dance. At the same time the Bauhaus was engaging with stage and dance. The central figure in the design of new abstract forms of dance was Oskar Schlemmer. With his “Triadic Ballet” he redefined the relationship between figure and space. Many actors and dancers had friendly associations with the Bauhaus. The dancer Gret Palucca, for example, was friends with Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. She was fascinated by the works of the Bauhaus artists. In return, the artists watched her modern, expressive dance performances with great excitement. Gret Palucca was one of the leading figures in the new dance of the 1920s. First of all she was a member of the troop of the dance pioneer Mary Wigman, and went on to develop a dance style of her own. The pattern of movements of her dances revealed parallels with the abstract art of Kandinsky, Mondrian and Klee.
The burden of things
“A complete subjection to the commandment of the plumbline means the state of the position. One lies and abandons any counter-effect. One exposes oneself along one’s whole length to the plumbline.”
Paul Klee, Theory of Pictorial Configuration, Mechanics, BG II 21/13
Like all living creatures and everything material on earth human beings are subject to the law of gravity – the “plumbline” as Klee called it. Gravity inhibits movement or even brings it to a standstill. Human beings remain in the “fate of boundedness”. The consequence is a position of rest which Klee describes as “position”. For Klee stasis was only a special case, because as he saw it: “The usual state of things is: the state of motion.” In his reflections Klee referred to Goethe’s theory of metamorphosis, in which nature is shown as eternally changeable and agitated without ever coming to a standstill. In Klee’s works themes such as heaviness, burden and gravity appear, expressed by certain motifs, but also by formal pictorial elements such as colours or planes.
Walking, striding, running, jumping
“The body can generally, by ‘creeping along’ or ‘striding along’, change its place, continuously taking the plumbline into account, always carrying it into motion. (…) In particularly accelerated kinds of motion the static rule is abandoned for repeated short moments, and during those moments no foot touches the ground: one jumps.”
Paul Klee, Theory of Pictorial Configuration, Mechanics, BG II.21/77
For Klee walking, running and jumping are, as acts of movement, bound up with gravity and at the same time overcoming it. With every step and every jump human beings, with their muscle power, defy gravity. As they set their feet back down they are once more bound to gravity. In Klee’s work people stroll, hurry and walk past, run after, strut and even somersault over the ground. Klee associated themes such as balance and rhythm with striding.
Limits of motion
In the earthly realm the energy of uninhibited, free motion encounters limits. It encounters obstacles which restrict processes of motion and guide them in new directions. Limitations of this kind are thresholds and dams in the water like the power of gravity, which obstructs upward ascent. To the limited and inhibited movement of the body Klee opposed free spirituality and intellectual independence.
In the “in-between realm”: water movements
“This fate of boundedness should, however, not keep us from knowing that (…) there are regions where different laws apply: the in-between realm of water. (…) In water, as any swimmer is aware, gravity, through the new element and its new weight, gravity, defined by the attraction of the earth, acts in the opposite direction, namely upwards.”
Paul Klee, Pictorial Formation, BF 64
Klee called water an “in-between realm”. In this realm gravity is neutralised by the counter-force of upward propulsion, and movements in a free, flowing form become possible. Everything solid becomes fluid. The fish moves uninhibitedly in its element, and even human beings overcome gravity by swimming and diving.
Movement of the free line
Movement was a fundamental principle in Klee’s thinking, both in his reflections on composition and in his artistic work. Composition begins, for example, at the moment when a point is set in motion. This produces a line, which can finally create forms. In its unrestrained elaboration movement develops as a free line – “in a walk for its own sake”.
Klee investigated the relations between colours in his teaching at the Bauhaus. He referred primarily to the colour theories of Goethe and Philipp Otto Runge and their colour circles or colour spheres. He also pursued many theoretical approaches further as a painter. Here he composed freely and was interested in the mixture and fine gradation of colours as well as their application in various techniques. Klee produced dynamic compositions through the precise combination of coloured planes. In the early 1930s, for example, he examined the effect of the application of coloured dabs and achieved a vibrant, agitated expression.
Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack won international renown principally for his colour-light plays. Hirschfeld-Mack worked at the Bauhaus from 1920. He devoted himself to colour-light plays, which lie somewhere between painting and abstract avant-garde film. In these he experimented with light, projections and stencils, and also engaged with the media of film. He multiplied light sources and coloured them with filters. Through the use of stencils the coloured lights were finally set in motion.
Source: Zentrum Paul Klee