Performed by Lary 7, Bradley Eros, Rachael Guma, and Joel Schlemowitz
Q&A w/ performers and Daniel Wapner
Microscope is very pleased to present a live performance of Kurt Schwerdtfetger’s “Reflektorishe Farblichtspiele (Reflecting Color-Light-Play)” (1922/66) in connection with a solo exhibition of the work at the gallery through March 15th.
The piece — which consists of up to five movements, or “Sätze” including: “Vegetativ Form,” “Bauhaus 1922,” “Streifen und Gitter” (Stripes and Grids), “Rotes Quadrat” (Red Square), and “Hommage à Oskar Schlemmer” — utilizes a large hand-built cube projection apparatus in which performers activate stencil shapes and a switchboard of colored lights to form a complex, abstract light play appearing on its screen surface.
The performance features Lary 7 on the keyboard-like light system; Bradley Eros and Joel Schlemowitz manipulating the stenciled shapes, and Rachael Guma on live sound augmentations to the 1966 soundtracks by Wolfgang Roscher, as well as offering additional visual support.
A Q&A with the performers 7, Eros, Guma, and Schlemowitz, joined by Daniel Wapner, who reconstructed the work in 2016, will follow the performance. More info on “Reflektorische Farblichtspiele” below.
It was in 1922 that the then 25-year-old artist and student debuted the work as part of the Bauhaus Lantern Festival at the home of Vasily Kandinsky.
“While conceptualizing a shadow play titled “Days of Genesis” for a Lantern Festival it seemed necessary to use not only shadow figures but color shapes on black as well. At that very moment I perceived the idea of color-light plays in abstract form with free-moving, superimposed shapes of colored light moving in time.” – Kurt Schwerdtfeger, 1962
“Reflektorishe Farblichtspiele” has in recent years received wider recognition as a revolutionary work of the Bauhaus movement and of 20th century film, sculpture, and performance. It most recently appeared at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (March – June 2019) and at Paul Klee Center in Bern (Sept 2019 – January 2020) as part of the international exhibition “bauhaus imaginista,” curated by Marion von Osten and Grant Watson, in connection with 100 years of Bauhaus celebrations and where it was one of four central works around which the exhibition was formed.
The current rendition uses an apparatus built in 2016 by Daniel Wapner, in collaboration with the gallery, for “Dreamlands: Expanded,” a series of one-night performances that took place at the gallery as part of the Whitney Museum’s “Dreamlands, Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016” and was the first re-staging of the work in 50 years. The visual score and sound elements are based on documentation of the 1966 presentation as well as original notes and other information from the Schwerdtfeger Estate.
The four artists, who are all known for their work with live expanded cinema performance and are frequent collaborators are the original performers from 2016 re-staging. Since then”Reflektorische Farblichtspiele”has only been performed – and by the same four artists – in Berlin and Bern as part of “bauhaus imaginsta.”
Although no recordings of the original performance exist, photographs of images generated from that performance appeared in the first Bauhausbuch of works from 1919-1922, in MoMA’s 1938/39 exhibit “Bauhaus 1919-1928” as well as in the more recent “Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity”, 2009/10.
Special thanks to Chrissie Iles, Paula and Stefan Schwerdtfeger, and Daniel Wapner.
Kurt Schwerdtfeger was born in 1897 in the German city of Puddiger (now Podgórki, Poland). Schwerdtfeger in 1919 moved first to Königsberg, then Jena to pursue studies in art history and philosophy. In 1920, he joined the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimar as a sculptor and studied under Oskar Schlemmer and Johannes Itten. Schwerdtfeger focused on his own work, while at the same time contributing commissioned works to festivals and exhibitions, in the context of which his “Reflecting Color-Light-Play” (Reflektorische Farblichtspiele) came to life and was first performed in the apartment of Wassily Kandinsky in 1922.
As a representative of the students, he participated in meetings and intervened in the planning and implementation of the Bauhaus Week. In 1924, Schwerdtfeger left the Bauhaus in protest of his work being appropriated by a fellow student. Schwerdtfeger began working at the newly founded Kunstgewerbeschule Stettin in 1925 and became head of the sculpture department at the Stettin School of Applied Arts two years later. In that period Schwerdtfeger exhibited his work among others in the Galerie Der Sturm in Berlin, alongside works by artists from the group “Berlin Secession” as well as the French “UAM” (Union des artistes moderne).
At the time he also became a member of the Novembergruppe (November Group), the Werkbund (a German association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists established in 1907) and later of the artist federation Künstlerbundes Neues Pommern (New Artists Association of Pomerania). In 1937, he was dismissed as teacher and his artworks in museum collections were branded as “degenerate art” and removed by the Nazis. Nevertheless, he set up a studio in Stettin and continued to work as an artist.
In 1946, Schwerdtfeger was appointed professor at the Alfeld College of Education, in Alfeld, Germany and was in contact with Paul Citroen, Walter Gropius, Gregor Rosenbauer and Lothar Schreyer, among others. Schwerdtfeger reconstructed “Reflektorisches Farblichtspiele“ with his students between 1964 and 1966 for a performance at the Kunstverein Hannover that took place just a few weeks after his death on August 8, 1966.
Schwerdtfeger’s work appeared in the exhibitions “Bauhaus: 1919-1928” at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1938/39; in “50 jahre bauhaus” at Wuertembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany in 1968, which then traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, New York and Tokyo, among others. In Alfeld, an assembly hall has been named after him, and his sculpture “Saint Francis” is publicly displayed. Schwerdtfeger’s work is in public collections in Berlin and Stettin as well as in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, among others.
Lary 7 is a multi-media artist whose work – over more than three decades -coaxes profane, inscrutable sounds and images from various mysterious devices. His work mainly features vintage and forgotten electronic instruments and technologies. In the past he has taken the unique approach of modifying household appliances in order to give them a musical voice. As an artist, he uses analogue equipment whenever possible, steering away from digital. Hie has been a major figure in the New York experimental underground music scene since 1970.
Bradley Eros is an artist working in myriad mediums including film & video, collage, performance, expanded cinema, and installation. Eros has been a catalyst of the New York film community since the 1980s and his works have exhibited and screened extensively in the US and abroad including at the Whitney Museum of American Art (in “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art: 1905-2016”, “The Whitney Biennial 2004”, and “The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000”) as well as at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), MoMA PS1, New Museum, The Kitchen, Participant Inc., Pioneer Works, Performa09, Exit Art, Anthology Film Archives, Parrish Art Museum (Water Mill, NY), The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, PA), Camden Arts Center (London), Arsenal (Berlin), Museo Hermann Nitsch, Naples, Italy, and The New York, London and Rotterdam Film Festivals. His work has been written about in ArtFCity, Artforum, Hyperallergic, The Brooklyn Rail, The Wall Street Journal, and the Village Voice, among many others. Collaborations include the Alchemical Theater, the band Circle X, Voom HD Lab, and the expanded cinema groups kinoSonik, Arcane Project and currently with Optipus. Grants and Awards include: Acker Award, NYFA Fellowship, Experimental Television Center (ETC), and Issue Project Room’s artist in residence, among others. Eros lives and works in New York.
Rachael Guma is a filmmaker and sound artist currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. Through her experiments with Super 8 film and analog sound, Rachael strives to create an engaging live viewing experience that embraces the idiosyncratic qualities of technology, while maintaining a hand-crafted approach to her output. Since graduating from the San Francisco Art Institute, her films have screened at the San Francisco Cinematheque, RX Gallery, Mono No Aware, Northern Flickers, UnionDocs, AXWFF, Black Maria, Echo Park Film Center and Microscope Gallery where she was invited to present her first solo show in 2013. In 2016-2017, Rachael participated in Dreamlands: Expanded, a series of expanded cinema events organized by Microscope Gallery in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art as part of the exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema & Art, 1905-2016”. In this series, she premiered a film, light, and sound composition REDNOWWONDER .Collaboration is integral to Rachael’s creative process. As a member of Optipus Film Collective, she has performed live foley and record manipulations at the Kitchen, Participant Gallery, 2011 Index Festival, Roulette, the Museum of Art and Design (MAD), Morbid Anatomy Museum, Transient Visions, and Unseen Cinema. Rachael plays theremin for the sound collective, Underworld Oscillator Corporation, most recently performing a live score for the silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925). She is also a founding member of the liquid light projection group, A Clockface Orange.
Joel Schlemowitz is a Brooklyn-based artist working with multiple mediums including celluloid film, installation and collage. Schlemowitz’s work has been exhibited at Microscope Gallery, Courthouse Gallery at Anthology Film Archives, NY; KUMUKUMU Gallery, NY; Bound & Unbound Gallery, NY; Museum of Contemporary Cinema, Madrid; Ukrainian Institute of America, NY; and The Images Festival, Toronto, Canada, among others. His films are widely screened at cinemas, festivals, and institutions including at The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, Harvard Film Archives, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the New York Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, among others. Schlemowitz has received grants from the Jerome Foundation and New York State Council on the Arts.
Daniel Wapner (US/German) is a New York-based artist working primarily with kinetic sculpture. He holds both a BFA and MFA from School of Visual Arts, where he currently works as a professor in the Sculpture Department.