Frost Bites Theatre Festival

Festival Programme & Promotional Material

Frost Bites Winter Theatre Programme
DESIGN RATIONALE FOR 'ART IS THE NEW STEEL' BRIEF

Historic Overview
Hamilton’s steel industry was established shortly before the advent of World War I with the founding of the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) in 1910 and Dominion Steel Casting Company (Dofasco) in 1912. Between 1912 and 1922 a number of other manufacturing plants were set up, including National Steel Car, Procter & Gamble, Hoover and Firestone. This rapid growth in Hamilton’s new industry paralleled Russia’s own boom following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, with a drive to push for an expanded iron and steel industry as a part of Joseph Stalin’s First Five Year Plan to implement a rapid development of the nation’s industry.

Background to Constructivism
Mirroring Russia’s industrial growth, ‘Constructivism’ was a new artistic and architectural philosophy, a development of Russian Futurism, that originated in Russia beginning in 1913 with the architect Vladimir Tatlin. The term was invented by the Russian sculptors Antoine Pevsner and Naum Gabo, who developed an industrial, angular style of work. The aim of the Constructivists was to create works that would make the viewer active with the artwork and to foster a movement which demanded direct participation in industry. Initially the Constructivists worked on three-dimensional constructions as a means of participating in industry. Later the definition would be extended to designs for two-dimensional works such as books, posters or film, with montage becoming an important concept. The key work of Constructivism was Tatlin’s proposal for the Monument to the Third International (Tatlin’s Tower) (1919–20) which combined a machine aesthetic with dynamic components celebrating technology and industry.

A number of Constructivists would teach or lecture at the Bauhaus schools in Germany, and some of the VKhUTEMAS (the Russian state art and technical school founded in 1920 in Moscow) teaching methods were adopted and developed there. Gabo established a version of Constructivism in England during the 1930s and 1940s that was adopted by architects, designers and artists after World War I.

Design Approach
Therein lies a direct correlation between ‘art', 'industry’, and Hamilton’s burgeoning art movement rising up out of the slump in its industry. Taking the Constructivists’ approach to design seemed an appropriate one for the Hamilton Fringe’s winter program, particularly when considering the philosophy “art is the new steel”. It fits with the idea of ‘the artist as the worker’, prompting the replacement of the ‘workers’ with ‘artists’, and ‘factories’ with the ‘art gallery’ (where Frost Bites took place), in its story telling of the rise of the arts being a mirror of the rise of industry in the 1910s.

The Bauhaus design school was heavily borrowed from in order to soften the severity of the Constructivist style and help create something more sympathetic to the 'arts' over the grittiness of 'industry'.

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