Saturday, November 30, 2013

Research Excerpts | Humanistic Geometry: Oskar Schlemmer "Man"

Oskar Schlemmer's study of proportions, after Durer
I continue in my research journey to the exploration of geometric narratives of human body and movement; the many encounters with the Bauhaus masters are most inspirational and make me wonder what they would have done with contemporary technologies. The "master" du jour is again Oskar Schlemmer: I am plunging into "Man" an edited collection of his teaching notes. Already in the introduction, by Heimo Kuchling, the intent is clearly stated:
In Goethe's vision [Johann Wolfgang Goethe,Wilhelm Meister's Travels, Book 2, 'The Man Aged Fifty Years'], quoted by Oskar Schlemmer in the notes to his 'Course on man', the Bauhaus master saw the ideal of the Bauhaus: it should be a centre of work and teaching with a conscious goal, co-ordinating the arts and examining the laws of form, a refuge for artistic reflection, in which new ideas would be born and tested and in which they could mature. Harmonious collaboration between teachers and pupils was to create a total work of art combining architecture, painting, and sculpture, which was to set the path for the future and clarify the confusion of period styles. 
Kuchling, Heimo, ed. Oskar Schlemmer: Man: Teaching Notes from the Bauhaus. MIT Press, 1971. 

The human body is often analysed and decomposed in a series of parametric segments, with end points corresponding to anatomical joints. It becomes a dynamic diagram, almost an energy chart as shown in several drawings where the human figure is decomposed in a series of circles

Oskar Schlemmer's diagram of figures

In the transition to the moving body Schlemmer simplifies the process even further: the body becomes a series of vectors, lines and arrow representing physical forces:

A moving figure according to Oskar Schlemmer

Images from:
Kuchling, Heimo, ed. Oskar Schlemmer: Man: Teaching Notes from the Bauhaus. MIT Press, 1971.