FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 205 The Apostle Paul (Feature on artist Xanti Schawinsky )

 

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In about A.D. 60, a Jew who was a Christian and who also knew the Greek and Roman thinking of his day wrote a letter to those who lived in Rome. Previously, he had said the same things to Greek thinkers while speaking on Mars Hill in Athens. He had spoken with the Acropolis above him and the ancient marketplace below him, in the place wherethe thinkers of Athens met for discussion. A plaque marks that spot today and gives his talk in the common Greek spoken in his day. He was interrupted in his talk in Athens, but his Letter to the Romans gives us without interruption what he had to say to the thinking people of that period.

He said that the integration points of the Greek and Roman world view were not enough to answer the questions posed either by the existence of the universe and its form, or by the uniqueness of man. He said that they deserved judgment because they knew that they did not have an adequate answer to the questions raised by the universe or by the existence of man, and yet they refused, they suppressed, that which is the answer. To quote his letter:

The retribution of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which is known of God is evident within them [that is, the uniqueness of man in contrast to non-man], for God made it evident to them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived by the things that are made [that is, the existence of the universe and its form], even his eternal power and divinity; so that they are without excuse. [The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:18ff.]

Here he is saying that the universe and its form and the mannishness of man speak the same truth that the Bible gives in greater detail. That this God exists and that he has not been silent but has spoken to people in the Bible and through Christ was the basis for the return to a more fully biblical Christianity in the days of the Reformers. It was a message of the possibility that people could return to God on the basis of the death of Christ alone. But with it came many other realities, including form and freedom in the culture and society built on that more biblical Christianity. The freedom brought forth was titanic, and yet, with the forms given in the Scripture, the freedoms did not lead to chaos. And it is this which can give us hope for the future. It is either this or an imposed order.

As I have said in the first chapter, people function on the basis of their world view more consistently than even they themselves may realize. The problem is not outward things. The problem is having, and then acting upon, the right world view — the world view which gives men and women the truth of what is.

E P I S O D E 1

ROMAN AGE

I. Introduction

A. Problem: dilemma of social breakdown and violence leading to authoritarianism which limits freedom.

B. We are, however, not helpless. Why?

C. Answer approached through consideration of the past.

D. Any starting point in history would be good; we start with Rome because it is direct ancestor of modern West.

II. Rome: The Empire Triumphant

A. Size and military strength of Empire.

B. Imperial sway evoked by Aventicum (Avenches), Switzerland.

III. Rome: Cultural Analysis

A. Greece and Rome: cultural influences and parallels.

1. Society as the absolute, to give meaning to life.

2. Finite gods as ground of accepted values.

B. Problems arising from Roman culture.

1. No infinite reference point as base for values and society.

2. Collapse of civic ideals therefore inevitable.

C. Results of collapse of ideals.

1. Dictatorship of Julius Caesar a response to civil disorder.

2. Firmly established authoritarian rule of Augustus.

D. Characteristics of regime introduced by Augustus.

1. Claim to give peace and the fruits of civilization.

2. Care to maintain facade of republican constitution.

3. People ready to accept absolute power in return for peace and prosperity.

4. Religious sanction for emperor-dictators: the emperor as God.

E. Christian persecution

1. Religious toleration in the Empire.

2. Christians persecuted because they would worship only the infinite-personal God and not Caesar also. They had an absolute whereby to judge the Roman state and its actions.

F. Viability of presuppositions facing social and political tension.

1. Christians had infinite reference point in God and His revelation in the Old Testament, the revelation through Christ, and the growing New Testament.

2. Christians could confront Roman culture and be untouched by its inner weakness, including its relativism and syncretism.

3. Roman hump-backed bridge, like Roman culture, could only stand if not subjected to overwhelming pressures.

IV. Rome: Eventual Decline and Fall

A. Growth of taste for cruelty.

B. Decadence seen in rampant sexuality and lust for violence.

C. General apathy, as seen in decline in artistic creativity.

D. Economic decline, more expensive government, and tighter centralization.

E. Successful barbarian invasions because of internal rot.

V. Conclusion

There is no foundation strong enough for society or the individual life within the realm of finiteness and beginning from Man alone as autonomous.

Questions

1. Dr. Schaeffer claims that, through looking at history, we can see how presuppositions determine events. Does his discussion bear this out and, if so, how?

2. How can a survey of Roman history in one-half hour be either useful or responsible? Discuss.

3. “History does not repeat itself.” —The parallels between the history of Rome and the twentieth century West are many and obvious.” How may these statements be reconciled?

Key Events and Persons

Julius Caesar: 100-44 B.C.

Augustus Caesar (Octavian): 63 B.C.-A.D. 14

Declared Pontifex Maximus: 12 B.C.

Diocletian: (Emperor) A.D. 284-305

Further Study

Here, as in succeeding suggestions for further study, it will be assumed that if you want to devote a great deal of time to a topic you can consult a library or a good bookstore. Suggestions given below are made on the basis of relevance to the text, readability, and availability.

Not all the books will necessarily agree at all—or in all details—with Dr. Schaeffer’s presentation. But as in the general conduct of life, so in matters of the mind, one must learn to discriminate. If you avoid reading things with which you disagree, you will be naive about what most of the world thinks. On the other hand, if you read everything—but without a critical mind—you will end up accepting by default all that the world (and especially your own moment of history) thinks.

J.P.V.D. Balsdon, Life and Leisure in Ancient Rome (1969).

E.M. Blaiklock, The Christian in Pagean Society (1956).

Samuel Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (1962).

E.M.B. Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (1970).

Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans: A Selection (1972).

Virgil, The Aeneid (1965).

Film: Fellini, Satyricon (1969).

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.Featured artist is

Xanti Schawinsky

Walter Gropius & Xanti Schawinsky, Ascona, 1930

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Lux T. Feininger, Xanti Schawinsky in Bauhaus Musical Group, 1928

Collage with Bauhaus Jazz Band, approx.1938

Xanti Schawinsky at Broadway 1602

January 29th, 2010

 

Xanti Schawinsky at Broadway 1602

Artist: Xanti Schawinsky

Venue: Broadway 1602, New York

Exhibition Title: Beyond Bauhaus, Faces of War

Date: January 9 – February 20, 2010

Xanti Schawinsky at Broadway 1602

Xanti Schawinsky at Broadway 1602

Xanti Schawinsky at Broadway 1602

Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.

Images:

Images courtesy of BROADWAY 1602, New York

Press Release:

The rediscovered oeuvre of first generation Bauhaus artist Xanti Schawinsky offers the contemporary consciousness a valuable untapped reservoir of aesthetic memory in the midst of the new century’s multi-front wars and financial turmoil.

His subtle, intimate, but powerful work from the 1940’s particularly draws attention to the not yet explored dimensions of the afterlife of Bauhaus ideals subject to the pressures of war and forced immigration. It is an aesthetic with a more existentialist and dystopian face, far from the positivism and bravura of the Bauhaus architects’ further achievements in the US after the decline of the influential school in Europe.

Born in 1904, in Switzerland, to Polish Jewish parents, Alexander “Xanti” Schawinsky worked for three years in Theodor Merrill’s Cologne architecture office before enrolling at the Bauhaus in 1924 where he studied with Walter Gropius, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Oskar Schlemmer, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Schawinsky had a significant presence at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau. He was particularly active in the theater department and strongly inspired by Schlemmer, whose position as teacher he took on and developed further. Photos from the early years of the Bauhaus show Schawinsky as a dynamic figure in many of its experimental extra-curricular activities. Among them was the influential Bauhaus Jazz band where Schawinsky introduced his “Step Danse-Step Machine” style of mechanical music and dance to pounding rhythms coupled with dramatic lighting effects and performance elements.

Schawinsky’s protean role at the Bauhaus was documented in the original 1938 MoMA Bauhaus exhibition organized with the help of Herbert Bayer, fellow Bauhaus student and teacher, and Walter Gropius, founder and director of the famed 20th c. school. This pivotal show of MoMA’s early days included a prominent group of Schawinsky’s theater and architecture paintings, his experimental photography, innovative graphic designs, ultra modern costume, set and exhibition designs, and his avant-garde theater and music work.

During their 20’s, most people build foundation skills, beliefs, and a firm positive sense of identity from their experience with teachers and mentors in a relative secure environment. While having the privilege to learn many technical skills in an exceptional avant-garde environment, Schawinsky also observed and experienced anxiety and persecution. He saw his Bauhaus undergo political pressure and ouster from the very cities that hosted it, saw the leaders he admired forced to leave, and the school, itself, compelled to close. He had seen the school, in an effort to survive, shift emphasis from handicraft, Expressionism, and the “the spiritual in art” to partner with industry, design for mass production, and embrace the machine aesthetic. As a Swiss/Polish “foreigner” and a Jew, the rise of Fascism was a perilous time. What Schawinsky learned in the anxious years between the two World Wars was that survival was an anxious process of constantly changing locations, creative styles and identities.

In 1936, Albers secured Schawinsky and his wife safe passage to the United States to teach at the legendary Black Mountain College. In charge of theater arts, Schawinsky expanded his ideas for experimental theater to be a multi-media “total experience.” His production of “Spectrodrama” and “Danse Macabre” at the Black Mountain College, demonstrated these ideas and laid the foundations for the work of John Cage and others at the College.  In 1938 political in-fighting among the faculty led him to move again, this time to New York City. There he collaborated on pavilion designs for the 1939 World’s Fair with colleagues Gropius, Bayer, and Marcel Breuer.

In New York among the tight-knit ex-patriot cultural community centered on the activities of avant-garde gallerist Julien Levy, Schawinsky for the first time experienced a sense of safety and integration. His new-comer status afforded him unique new perspectives on his life and the arts. He had the freedom and burden of confronting his own identity and purpose in “life during wartime.” At the same historical moment that the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel was coining the term “existentialism,” and Jean-Paul Sartre began to lecture and write about it, Schawinsky began to compose his own existential works with images which speak as clearly as words.

From work Schawinsky did for the “Visual Problems Unit” of the Army Air Corps designing anti-aircraft targeting patterns for artillery manuals, he conceived his 1942 series The Faces of War. In these imaginative tempera and graphite drawings Schawinsky expressed a fundamental despair that  “the machines” of the utopian Bauhaus theater had become the machines of mass destruction in the dystopian theaters of war. He made each a camouflage-painted robotic golem – a man/machine – at turns a threatening enemy or a powerful avenger. In his series of photo collages, Theme and Variation on a Face: Walter Gropius, he reflected upon his creative father/mentor and friend, presenting the architect in positive and negative versions integrated with linear architectural forms (culture) and tree forms including roots (nature and history). In the photo collages The Variations on a Face Series (Woman,) he confronted the enigmatic disembodied face of a woman, floating in a variety of spaces – landscape space, night sky space, topographically diagrammed space. However, Schawinsky extended his meditations using the portrait head motif still further.

Kurt Schwitters said that during the war years artists had to rebuild themselves from scraps and Schawinsky, possibly inspired by Czech poet Vít?zslav Nezval’s 1937 poem The Man Who Composes His Own Portrait With Objects, did so in his 1943 Character Head Series of graphite drawings of potential identities thematically pieced together from elements of nature, culture, and trade in the world around him. In a style related to the “paranoiac-critical” imaging methods of Salvador Dali, Schawinsky worked through his own need to make himself one with his environment by literally re-making himself from his environment.

The pastel drawing Untitled from 1945, though, is perhaps a summation of the artist’s existentialist experience of wartime, immigration and the post-war era. Two abstract featureless figures float in a dark nebulous space filled with light linear vortexes inspired by flight and targeting patterns the artist had designed for the army. The larger, a head and shoulders patterned in a regular grid suggesting the all-glass curtain-wall façade of a Modernist skyscraper, confronts a smaller golden yellow silhouette that stands framed in a doorway of bright yellow, violet, red-orange and green planes drawn in forced perspective.

In this vivid eerie scene of the existential aftermath of the war Schawinsky gives form to his anxiety and brings to bear his visionary experience as a synthesizer of the man-machine of the Bauhaus aesthetic into multi-media performance – an aesthetic picked up emblematically by Kraftwerk and other musician/artists in the 1970s as an expression of the climactic phase of the cold war.

Anke Kempkes, Larry List
New York, December 2009

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Xanti Schawinsky in Ascona, Sul Ponte Maggia, 1933

 

Human, Space, Machine – Stage Experiments at the Bauhaus

Nov.12,2014 – Feb.22,2015

  Bauhaus (1919-1933) as an Art & Design educational institution had a great influence on the development of the 20th century art, architecture, textile, graphic, industrial design and typography. Bauhaus was aimed to reach the total work of art and operated to educate new artists who could bring social changes.

From the early stage of the Bauhaus, they explored the role and function of art that closely related to our daily life in modern technology civilization through various workshops such as metal, textile, design and architecture under each meister. Their experiment and instruction method was not just purposed to develop the individual’s creativity and ability, but also guided to reach a total art through workshops by members of the Bauhaus.

Particularly, they mainly dealt with dynamic role of stage as space of harmony among human, space and machine. For this, their study about ‘total theater’ as a playground for primary experimentation was proceeding from the beginning of the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus stage workshop was established by Walter Gropius in 1921 and it was led by Lothar Schreyer, director, until 1923 and taken over by Oskar Schlemmer, painter and choreographer, in 1929.

The leading role of the Bauhaus, such as Walter Gropius, Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Xanti Schawinsky, Paul Klee, Wasily Kandinsky experimented synthesis among human, space and machine not only in their own area, but also on the stage. They believed that their research about mechanical and abstract stage design, costume, doll, dance, humorous movement, light and sound could even make a change of the modern human body and mind. Thus, we could readily understand a characteristic of stage experiments at the Bauhaus that tried to develop a new idea of modern man collectively by Johannes Itten’s word “Play becomes work, work becomes party, party becomes play.”

Human Space Machine-Stage Experiments at the Bauhaus was planned in collaboration with the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation since 2012. This exhibition deals with the Bauhaus’s experiments about new type of human response to changes of a new era, from World War I to early 1930s. Exhibitions about architecture and design of the Bauhaus were often shown, but this is the first full-scale exhibition ever to focus on stage experiments in Asia. The exhibition is organized in seven sections; Section one ‘Body of Harmonization’, section two ‘Atmospherical Devices’, section three‘Constructivist Figuration’, section four ‘Eccentric stage mechanisims’, section five ‘Sculptural choreographies’, section six‘Total theaters’, section seven ‘Programmed collectives’. In this exhibition organization make possible to recognize characteristic of the Bauhaus as an arena of creative and experimental idea toward multiple approach of art.

In addition, this exhibition presents six Korean contemporary artists; Na Kim, Paik Namjune, Ahn Sangsoo, Oh Jaewoo, Cho Sohee, Han Kyungwoo to show an enormous creativity and imagination of the Bauhaus also thrive in 21th century Korea contemporary art. Their artworks influenced by Bauhaus both directly and indirectly reminds us the Bauhaus movement was not a particular tendency within a certain period, but closer to the intrinsic manner of artists.

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