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1920s Costumes Made And Modelled By The Avant-Garde Couple Lavinia Schulz And Walter Holdt.⁠⁠

More sculpture than clothing, these outfits made for dancing often suggest a mongrel collision of characters — a buggy-eyed insect meets a jester meets a bearded tomato — and others allude to zippy motion, with eyeballs cartoonishly pulling off the face. Wires poke out and wooden blocks dangle, a bridge seesaws from shoulder to shoulder. Many of the geometric silhouettes defy anatomy; hands, feet, and heads are all boxed in, with no apparent exit. The bright, discordant colours were apparently chosen based on esoteric rules. Remarkably, Schulz and Holdt’s craftsmanship, especially the sewing, keeps pace with their imaginative reach.⁠

Schulz was indisputably the duo’s leader. She directed the costume-making, and choreographed the dances. She was also the enforcer of the artists’ distinct philosophy, which correlated aesthetic value with suffering. The raison d'être of live performance, Schulz believed, was intensity, and the performer could channel intensity only if she was herself in an intense frame of mind. Privation made this state more accessible. “Art has to be exhausting”, Schulz wrote, “otherwise it is worthless”. Austerity, deprivation, and extreme self-discipline were essential — not so as to survive the travails of a creative life, but as a pre-condition for creating anything of value.⁠

⁠Six months after these photographs were taken, on June 18, 1924, Schulz shot Holdt in the head, and then turned the gun on herself. They both died from their wounds. Their one-year-old infant son, who was there beside them, was unharmed.

Following the murder-suicide, the couple’s apartment was cleaned out, and their things taken to the Hamburg Museum of Arts and Crafts, where they were stashed in the attic. The boxes were forgotten for six decades, and luckily so; had the collection been properly catalogued, it would have likely been seized by the Nazis.⁠


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