Heiko Kalmbach

excerpts from performance/installation by Heiko Kalmbach (director/video) & Marsha Ginsberg (set/visuals), Theaterhaus Jena, Germany, 2009

created for Crash!Boom!Bau! Festival of New Scenography for the 90th anniversary of the Bauhaus

Costumes: Anne Buffetrille / Music: Frank S. Blumm, Sasha Matteucci / Performers: Charlotte Brathwaite, Sasha Matteucci, Saskia Taeger, Julian Hackenberg / Dramaturgy: Frank Domhan / Collab. Set, Costume & Video: Parastoo Anoushahpour, Leonie Reese, Margot Point, Adam Furman / Video Doc.: Anna H. Misboli & Christian

A hovering house with a four sided video installation, three performers, text fragments taken from diverse sources such as Dickens, Nietzsche, Gropius, Beckett and Stölzl, as well as a captivating original soundtrack. In a larger context, BLEAK HOUSE deals with ideas of utopia, dogma and failure. The performance/ installation piece presents an aspect of the Bauhaus movement, which has been underexposed for too long, and raises questions such as: do we actually keep up with our own developments? Do we need to worry? Should we be concerned that we might spontaneously combust and go up in flames? In the piece the Bauhaus woman will have the last word when she finally comes to life to sing her truth: an eerie ode to the forgotten women of the Bauhaus. Throughout the entire performance, audience members may move freely around the space to explore and discover different perspectives of the installation and performance.

A house with no roof or door, its windows boarded up. The house hovers over a burnt foundation. Within, stands a woman of times long gone: motionless, trapped between old burnt chairs and a masked Bauhaus figure. Behind the house, burning candles are lined up. A man holds a vigil for dead women from different periods of time, all of whom have spontaneously combusted - burnt from their center - as Charles Dickens described in his 1000-page crime story “Bleak House”. Dickens created a minor scandal with this storyline and was accused of perpetuating uninformed superstition. In the second edition of the book he acknowledged this uproar and referenced extensive research that “proved” thirty cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion. The incredible deaths seemed like signs of their times. In prescience S.H.C. is said to be a typical female death. 

Perhaps as a reaction to the tremendous upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, paranormal entertainment like hypnotism and ghost conjuring, flourished during Dicken’s times. A new era had arisen in which the impossible seemed possible. It was also during this time that mass-produced goods, overloaded with ornamental design entered Victorian homes.

The Bauhaus Movement used mass production of household goods as a starting point, but embraced a completely new approach to their aesthetics. The Bauhaus was first and foremost a center of the Modern, the “New”, of that which refused any formalism indebted to historical role models. The goal in Weimar was an equal union between craft and art, form and function. There was also to be equality between men and women. In 1919 Walter Gropius stated in his manifesto: “Any person may be accepted, regardless of age and gender, as long as their previous education appears sufficient to the council of master teachers.”

In actuality, daily life for women at the Bauhaus was vastly different. The proclamation of equal rights was dubious, as the male Masters did not judge works of female students equally nor did they offer them the necessary freedom to truly develop and expand their work. Gropius wrote in a letter in 1921: “According to our experiences it does not make sense for the women to work in the heavier workshops. (...) we generally advise, against women to be trained as architects.” The Weaving Workshop was regarded as a suitable arena. Slowly it became known as the women‘s workshop. Some female students did not mind this development, whereas others were adamantly opposed to it; they felt patronized and deprived of their equal rights. Gunta Stölzl (originally a student at the Bauhaus) was offered a teaching position for an extended time period, the only female elevated to this position. In 1926 she was asked to run the Weaving Workshop. She crossed out “student” on her Bauhaus-ID and wrote “Master Teacher” in longhand. But this promotion had an ulterior motive: it was to demonstrate the Bauhaus as open arena for all to succeed, when in fact, the opposite was the case. In this regard we can view the Bauhaus as representing false utopian ideals.

The house sits with fragility upon the seats of the burned chairs. The boards are removed and the windows are open. But, they sit low, so only those who step up closely can look through to get an image of the Victorian woman in the interior. She is moving through the space like a blind shell. In front of her a masked woman of the Bauhaus period appears to life. There is a small flame of utopia still burning. 

# vimeo.com/122331359 Uploaded

Heiko Kalmbach

Heiko Kalmbach

Filmmaker, video artist, stage director.

Screenings and shows at Anthology Film Archives New York, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Art in General NY, Pilot London, the Knitting Factory NY, Lux Centre London, Manzi Art Space Hanoi, Meta House…

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Filmmaker, video artist, stage director.

Screenings and shows at Anthology Film Archives New York, Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Art in General NY, Pilot London, the Knitting Factory NY, Lux Centre London, Manzi Art Space Hanoi, Meta House Phnom Penh, Goethe Institutes in Kolkata, Mexico City, New York and Paris, and at Festivals like Short Film Festival Oberhausen, São Paulo International Short Film Festival, South By Southwest Austin Texas, Mix Festival NY, Independent Exposure Seattle and Video Art Plastique Basse-Normandie.

Heiko Kalmbach's feature documentary IF ONE THING MATTERS – A FILM ABOUT WOLFGANG TILLMANS premiered in the Forum section at Berlin International Film Festival in 2008 and has been presented at Festivals in Copenhagen, Leipzig, Torino, Lisbon, Oslo and Toronto. Besides producing and directing his own work, Heiko has worked as writer/director, DP and editor for institutions like Rockefeller Foundation and YIVO Institute NY and for broadcasters like Arte, 3Sat, Discovery Channel Germany, SRF, M6 France, TV Ontario and SBS Australia.

His collaboration with composer Katharina Rosenberger, the interactive sound and video installation VIVA VOCE, featuring vocal artists Shelley Hirsch, Juliana Snapper and Pamela Z, was shown at Human Resources Gallery in Los Angeles in 2013 and at Sweet Thunder Festival in San Francisco in 2014. It will be on view in Berlin in September 2015.

Heiko Kalmbach’s work as stage director and projection designer has been presented at Volksbühne Berlin, La MaMa E.T.C. NY, Theaterhaus Jena, Fusion Festival, Chamäleon Theater Berlin, Aarshi Theater Group Kolkata, Schlachthaus Theater Bern, Autorentheatertage at Thalia Theater Hamburg, Crash!Boom!Bau! Festival, Dramafest Mexico City, the Kitchen NY, Schleswig Holsteinisches Landestheater, Tanztage Bremen, Roxy Basel, Stadttheater Bern, Saarländisches Staatstheater Saarbrücken, on Hapag Lloyd's MS Europa2 and on worldwide tour with the y2d/Chamäleon production LEO which was awarded the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, Three Weeks Editors Award, Scotsman Fringe First Award, Adelaide Critics Circle Award, Adelaide Fringe Award and the John Chattaway Innovation Award.

Heiko Kalmbach has been leading workshops and seminars in his fields of practice since the late 1990s. He pursued Drama, Film and Cultural Studies at Universities in Berlin and Bremen before earning a BfA in Film (Honours) at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1998. He has been teaching spatial media design at Technical University's MA Program ‚Bühnenbild_Szenischer Raum‘ in Berlin since 2011 and has been a studio tutor and lecturer for film and dramaturgy at the Architectural Association's Interprofessional Studio in London since 2009.

Individual grants and residencies include an Artist's Fellowship for Film from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Martin Scorsese Award, Russell Hexter Filmmaker's Award, Nestor Almendros Award, Artist Residencies at Camargo Foundation in France, MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, USA, kunst:raum Sylt-Quelle in Germany, Human Resources Gallery LA, USA, and at Sitterwerk St Gallen in Switzerland.

Heiko Kalmbach @ IMDB - imdb.com/name/nm1272133/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
VIVA VOCE - interactive sound & video installation - vivavoce.ch
VIVA VOCE - select clips of installation - VIVA VOCE selects
AA London - Interprofessional Studio @ Architectural Association London - interprofessionals.net
TU Berlin - Szenischer Raum / Spatial Composition - tu-buehnenbild.de/index.php
FRAMING REALITY - Taller de video-documentación - vimeo.com/user14237815
RE-MEX - el poder de las artes - facebook.com/Remex.artes
IF ONE THING MATTERS - a film about Wolfgang Tillmans, Berlinale 2008 - berlinale.de/en/archiv/jahresarchive/2008/02_programm_2008/02_Filmdatenblatt_2008_20085090.php
LEO - Video Design - facebook.com/pages/LEO/220813137947193
STABAT MATER & TOSCA, SST - Projection Design - theater-saarbruecken.de

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