Specifically, it will explore questions of appropriation and representation and the ‘learning from’ in the work of Bauhaus émigrés and their students who collected a wide range of materials indigenous to the Americas. These questions will be considered in tandem with where these debates stand today.
From the beginning, the Bauhaus school aligned with a modernist tendency to study cultural practices from outside the European mainstream, including African sculpture, Indian temple architecture, Andean textiles and European folk traditions. In the aftermath of the school’s closure, Bauhaus émigrés such as Josef and Anni Albers, Marguerite Wildenhain, Hannes Meyer and Lena Bergner travelled variously in the US and Central and South America to observe, document and collect the work of Pre-Columbian and contemporary Indigenous cultures.
The symposium will also explore the gaps in these histories of study and collecting—notably the perspective of communities from whom such materials were sourced—including arguments for the repatriation of artifacts, the use and context of objects in their original setting, as well as the wider impacts of European colonization.
Prior to the symposium a group of artists, designers, curators and art historians including symposium participants, will make a study tour to museums archives and studios in New York—including the National Museum of the American Indian, the American Museum of Natural History, the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation—to examine and discuss materials ranging from Mesoamerican artefacts to the work of the mid-century artists who found inspiration in these collections. A report from this tour will be presented at the symposium.
Speakers will include: Marion von Osten, Grant Watson, Erin Freedman, Sebastian de Line, Virginia Gardner Troy, Cecilia Vicuña, Elissa Auther, Candice Hopkins, Elvira Espejo, and Luiza Proença.