Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Reflektorische Farblichtspiele, 1922
light performance, apparatus reconstructed 2016
Courtesy of Microscope Gallery and Kurt Schwerdtfeger Estate © 2016.
László Moholy-Nagy, The mechanics of the light prop, 1930
Watercolour, ink and pencil on circular paper, mounted on round hardboard, diameter: 52 cm
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, photo: Hermann Kiessling.
Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, Colour Chord 21-stringed flat sound box, n.d. (c. mid-20th century)
Grainger Museum Collection, University of Melbourne.
Gift of Olive Hirschfeld, 1980. 01.0017.
György Kepes, Simulated effects of a proposed mile-long
programmed luminous wall, suggested for the Boston Harbor
Bicentennial, 1964–65, photo: Nishan Bichajian
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in
Art, Culture and Technology.
Muriel Cooper, 1969, Promotional Poster for Bauhaus:
Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, Image courtesy
Muriel R. Cooper Collection, Morton R. Godine Library, Archive
Massachusetts College of Art and Design, reprinted by
permission of the MIT Press.
Stan VanDerBeek, Movie-Drome, ca. 1963, Courtesy: Estate of Stan VanDerBeek
Photo: Bob Hanson.
Richard Hamilton, Diab DS-101 Computer, 1985–89
Tate-Modern, © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018
Photo: © Tate, London 2018.
Bauhaus punk band
New Styles New Sounds, from October 1981, p. 29.
The edition Still Undead explores the immaterial, the ephemeral and the performative and departs from Kurt Schwerdtfeger’s reflecting light plays, which was produced for a Bauhaus party in 1922 and later on became important for the evolution of film subculture including expanded cinema. It will show how the playful avant-garde spirit of the Bauhaus was kept alive throughout the twentieth century, from experiments in moving image, sound and kinetic sculpture, to academic research into photography and visual communication, through to the world of popular and youth culture.
Still Undead traces how, in the United States, Bauhaus experiments were given institutional backing and helped contribute towards the development of experimental photography as well as towards a new language of visual communication and digital design. Also, how in the slipstream of punk, the Bauhaus was seen as a transgressive forerunner whose iconoclastic approach to cultural norms and formal innovations could be appropriated by a new generation. In Britain this came through grass roots street style, graphic design and electronic music made by a generation, many of whom had trained in British art schools transformed by the introduction of “Basic Design”. As concerns electronic music, to give an example, the German band Kraftwerk went “back to the Bauhaus School” and and tried to break down “the barriers between craftsman and artist” in “the marriage of art and technology”.
The materials explored in Still Undead constitute a surplus from within the Bauhaus legacy, beyond the imperatives of commodity production and social value—seen in fantastical costumes and elaborate machines designed and oriented towards optical complexity without purpose. It is a queering of that legacy in the hedonistic and the affective, and its translation into social settings and technological formats, that was prefigured, but unimaginable, in the early years of the twentieth century.