CONSTRUCTING VISION: László Moholy-Nagy's Partiturskizze zu einer mechanischen Exzentrik, Experiments in Higher Spatial Dimensions
La Coe, Jodi Lynn
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In 1936, while an expatriate in London, László Moholy-Nagy signed the Manifeste dimensioniste, crafted by Hungarian poet Charles Sirató, declaring his allegiance to the pursuit of creating artistic works in higher dimensions. In his artworks and writings, Moholy-Nagy was deeply invested in emerging technologies of the early twentieth century in the service of seeing the world differently, augmenting and training the sensory organs to visualize higher dimensions of space, essentially to see what does not appear, what is apparently invisible. Through his work with light and movement, which took many forms, painting, photography, film, kinetic sculpture, and theater, he worked through traditional and avant garde notions of space and time as related to psychophysical experience. Moholy-Nagy held that higher dimensions could be experienced through a re-education of human senses and began to lay out his claim for the education of the senses in order to see the world differently as early as 1922 in "Produktion–Reproduktion" (De Stijl). In Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film, 1925), Moholy-Nagy asserted that through the visual objectivity produced photographs, especially in oblique photographs, "[w]e may say that we see the world with entirely different eyes." In this dissertation, I examine the influence of contemporary psychophysical, space-time theories on a stage/ performance design created by Moholy-Nagy, in particular, the two versions of his design for a synaesthetic theatrical performance entitled, Partiturskizze zu einer mechanischen Exzentrik (Score-Sketch for a Mechanical Eccentric): one a hybrid, mixed media drawing (c. 1923) and the other a revised version printed in Die Bühne im Bauhaus (The Stage of the Bauhaus, 1925). Following the structure of the hybrid drawing, each chapter is an interpretation of a single panel of the drawing, corresponding to the prelude and the five acts of the performance. This interpretation was made through a close reading of the drawing itself, examining the references made in the images and notations, comparing the two versions, and uncovering similar themes in his lectures, writings, and artistic works, and, in turn, pursuing references to physics, psychology, mathematics, and literature, whose profound influence was acknowledged by Moholy-Nagy in those texts. These influences include the writings of Albert Einstein, Hermann Minkowski, János Bolyai, Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf Carnap, Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Wundt, E. T. A. Hoffmann, James Joyce, and many others. Through this analysis, I reveal the ambitious intention at the heart of the Exzentrik, to immerse the audience in a synaesthetic experience that expands their psychophysical consciousness using electromagnetic vibrations in the form of visible and invisible light and sound, as well as shocking and comedic forms and movements, and that, thereby, opens the audience to the construction of a new vision that endows them with the capacity to envision higher dimensions of space.
- Doctoral Dissertations