The power of collecting and ordering personal belongings and works open up diverse readings about what is left behind. Personal estates narrate social and political contexts of a work as well as personal intentions, private relations, precarious existences and changing geopolitical conditions of a practice and a life. For bauhaus imaginista contemporary practitioners have been invited to respond to the estates and produce readings of material relating to the socialist work and backgrounds of the four protagonists. In the frame of the opening artists and researchers Alice Creischer, Tatiana Efrussi, Thomas Flierl, Doreen Mende, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Daniel Talesnik presented their different takes on the archives. Their work and presentations correspond with the memory work by the historical figures themselves as well as with a geopolitical condition before and after the end of the cold war as a frame of practice and interpretation.
The Archive Talks
Conversations, Presentations and Lectures by Artists and Researches
Archiv Talks, Anastasia Mityushina (curator at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art)
photo: Silke Briel.
1. Relations between the Bauhaus (1919–33) and the Soviet Union
bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect, Moscow, photo: Silke Briel.
Lecture by Thomas Flierl
Exchange between the Bauhaus in Germany and the Russian avant-garde was already established with the foundation of the Bauhaus 1919 after the Russian and German revolution. When Hannes Meyer came to Dessau in 1927 to start the newly established building department at Bauhaus Dessau these relationships were intensified through travel, guest teaching and exhibitions. In 1930 Meyer was dismissed as Bauhaus director due to rising anti-communist and fascist forces in Germany. At the invitation of the Soviet government to work on large scale building projects he and seven Bauhaus students travelled to Moscow to work on urban projects in Russia likewise other European Modernist like Mart Stam or Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky.
2. The Internationalist Architect Reading Area
Reading Area by Tatiana Efrussi and Daniel Talesnik, 2018, photo: Silke Briel.
Presentation and conversation between Tatiana Efrussi and Daniel Talesnik
In fall 1930, Meyer was hired to work as an architect in the Soviet Union and was soon joined by Bauhaus students. As the 1930s advanced, some students left, as did Meyer, while others stayed or were forced to stay. Several decades after the end of the Cold War, this “communist” legacy of the Bauhaus is a topic that remains problematic for contemporary historiography. The selection of books aims to unfold the Bauhaus not as a myth but as an institution that underwent numerous conflicts and crises during its lifetime: Hannes Meyer’s tenure at the Bauhaus, underplayed by historians for many years, and the period that Meyer and Bauhaus students spent in the Soviet Union in the context of the 1930s Stalinist regime. The selected material also addresses later stages, when both the Bauhaus and Soviet experiences were reevaluated by some of the protagonists (Konrad Püschel and Philipp Tolziner wrote about their architectural careers). Finally, in order to scrutinize the selection of primary sources, we have also included secondary sources that either analyze them or place them in a larger geopolitical context. This selection is limited to texts in English, German, and Russian.
3. To Philipp Tolziner
Alice Creischer, To Philipp Tolziner, 2018 (detail), photo: Silke Briel.
Presentation by Alice Creischer
As a Bauhaus student, Philipp Tolziner had been involved in the construction of the Balcony houses at the Törten settlement in Dessau and the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau before he left to the Soviet Union. He survived incarceration in the Usollag labor camp in Solikamsk, near Perm in the Urals. He never left the Soviet Union, working in the Urals and later in Moscow on housing projects. With precarious means Tolziner copied and reproduced files, added authors, titles, years, and inventory numbers to his personal archive, creating a private Bauhaus archive in his Moscow flat. In 1996, he donated his archive to the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, where it is stored in the same way it was organized by Tolziner in Moscow. With a new sculptural installation Alice Creischer references Philipp Tolziner’s early training as a wicker furniture maker, intimates the architect’s Bauhaus experience, and, through a series of texts that extend from the work, explores his proximity to communist ideals and his architectural responses.
4. Hamhung’s Two Orphans
Doreen Mende, Hamhung’s two Orphans, 2018, photo: Silke Briel.
Lecture by Doreen Mende
What consequences do Cold War architectures have for our contemporary condition? This research-display demonstrates the multi-layered conditions for rebuilding the city of Hamhung in North Korea, which was reconstructed by the East German Deutsche Arbeitsgruppe (German Working Group) from 1955 till 1963. The architect and urban planner Konrad Püschel, who studied with Hannes Meyer at the Bauhaus Dessau and worked with him in Moscow in the mid-1930s, was one of the leading members of the Arbeitsgruppe in Hamhung. The 1954 Geneva Conference after the Korean War and Nikita Khrushchev’s national speech on the Industrialization of Construction (December 7, 1954) were critically important for the rebuilding process. Hamhung’s Two Orphans, which borrows its title from a chapter of Chris Marker’s cine-essay Coréennes (1959), analyzes the transformation of the internationalist legacy of the Bauhaus as a result of pressure from East German socialist internationalism, when architecture operated as a state-building instrument.
5. Sketch one: Lotte and Hermina
Archive Talks, Grant Watson and Wendelien van Oldenborgh, photo: Silke Briel
Script-reading and screening by Wendelien van Oldenborgh
The script is compiled from fragments of various texts that Wendelien van Oldenborgh has encountered during her research into the voices and ideals of Bauhaus trained architect Lotte Stam-Beese and writer, editor, and fighter for equality Hermina Huiswoud. Though they never met, both women experienced the Soviet Union in the early 1930s and ended up influencing public life in the Netherlands in the 1950s. Stam-Beese was a major influence on Dutch post-WW II housing in her role as Chief Architect for Urban Planning for the Rotterdam Department for Urban Development and Reconstruction. Huiswoud, having edited the magazine The Negro Worker (1928–1937) and traveled the world for the Communist International (Comintern), became an active political voice for the Caribbean-Dutch community, notably through her close connection with artists from the Harlem Renaissance (poet, social activist, and playwright Langston Hughes amongst them). Both Stam-Beese’s thoughts on housing and Huiswoud’s struggles for racial and class equality were approached through the ideals and early practices of communism. For both women, love and friendship had a significant role in their life trajectory. A screening of research images occurs alongside a live reading of the script by the artist and four other readers.
Lotte Stam-Beese: Julia Jung
Hermina Huiswoud: Hanna Dawn Henderson
Langston Hughes: Grant Watson
Hannes Meyer: Thomas Flierl