My Heart Belongs to Dada: Ruth Bauer and "The Blue Flower"

by Katherine Agard

"They told me I could do whatever I wanted. As long as it was fireproof."

So begins the artist Ruth Bauer on the open-ended goals for her huge vision of a Dada-esque installation in the lobby of the Loeb Drama Center during the run of "The Blue Flower" opening Dec. 1 at American Repertory Theater.

Ruth Bauer and her husband, the musician Jim Bauer, have been working on "The Blue Flower" for the past 10 years. The play is a "Dada-inspired romp" complete with the use of the language "Maxsperanto," a score of "Kurt Weill going tete-a-tete with Hank Williams" and a plot which involves three artists and a scientist drawn together by their distant goals in the "mud of the First World War."

When Charlotte Alter ’12 asked Bauer about the script, Bauer responded: "It’s text and video and music at once. I’ve never seen a script like it."

If you are reading this and aren’t curious about "The Blue Flower," let’s just say that after Bauer's session last night, it’s nearly impossible to imagine someone not being curious about the realization of these elements on the stage. Even Bauer, after 10 years, seems curious to see her work finally realized on the stage.

And yet, her open-endness in the description of the installation -- a cheerful "Do what you want!’ -- has tinges of curiosity, a genuine curiosity and excitement to see student work take a pivotal role in setting the mood of Dada in the shadow of the first World War. The student-driven installation, which will be created in a series of sessions over the next two months, will begin the audience's journey into "The Blue Flower" and Weimar history.

The question is: What do you get when you put together 14 students from happily discordant backgrounds, a bunch of recycled materials, the Adams Art Space under the influence of Dada and a distant December deadline?

We’re all interested in finding out.

What the work will result in, we have no clue. It will be huge. Bauer repeated this several times; the scale of the project (to fill a very large lobby space) almost inevitably guarantees excitement.

What we do know is that the work will definitely engage these 14 students, and that the pace of a Harvard afternoon with its steady inflow of papers and problem sets will now include the search for found art. In the same way, it's likely the completed installation will disrupt the experience of the audience member to think "Oh dear, I’ve walked into something special."

[Caption: Ruth Bauer, co-creator of the A.R.T. production "The Blue Flower"]