Play, Life, Illusion – Xanti Schawinsky

This image is a photograph of one of Schawinsky’s theater sets as a part of Spectrodrama which existed from 1936 to 1938; it was an experimental multimedia theater set project that is by most standards Schawinsky’s most prominent and enduring collection of works. Schawinksy was fascinated by how light, color, motion, and time intersected and how perception could be altered. Many of his set designs draw on surrealism which sometimes can be connected to attempts to free the mind or perceive things your conscious mind would not normally see.

The piece itself is called “Play, Life, Illusion” and is certainly, to the untrained observer, surreal. The masks on the performer are done very intentionally to “help facilitate the acting on the stage, the participants wear simple masks, relieving them from the burden of facial control.” The lines horizontally projected along the stage in combination with the alteration of the light trick your eyes into seeing the stage as deeper than it actually is and skews how close the observer perceives the performer and the rest of the set to be. The simple shapes draw on minimalistic and abstract style while also drawing inspiration from cubism, which was new and experimental in the 1920s and 1930s which is when Schawinsky was studying at Bauhaus and then teaching and conceiving Spectrodrama between 1936 and 1938.


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