Prima Materia, 1986-’87
Notes by visual artist/collaborator, Carol Law
For many years Nancy and I both had an interest in the Bauhaus artists and their fascination with finding universal images of communication through the exploration of color and shape. Particularly important were the works of Oskar Schlemmer (the purity and serenity of his strong object-like costumes and accompanying movements) and Wassily Kandinsky’s theory of correspondence between shape and color in the triangle, circle and square. In creating the environment for Prima Materia, I wanted to explore the nature of our relationship with the “materials” of earth and the tendency to imprint these “prima materia” with numinous qualities, ideas. My dialogues with Nancy Karp also informed the design for this work.
In previous choreography, Karp often had moved in complex geometric patterns, ranging widely and swiftly across the stage. I wanted to echo this geometric force by re-creating the shapes in the set and combining the objects with powerful color effects. Large “granite rocks” were introduced on stage as objects with which the dancers, guided by the choreography, could interact.
The visual environment was created primarily by a complex lighting system allowing greater fluidity than provided by traditional sets. The work offered an investigation of the relativity of color, space, time, psychological perception in conjunction with specific movement, and the psychological experience of all of these elements.