The exhibition’s point of departure is Reflektorische Farblichtspiele (reflective coloured light games) by Kurt Schwerdtfeger, an apparatus he designed as a student for the Bauhaus Lantern Festival in 1922. Experiments of this kind were key elements of Bauhaus party culture, which blended music, costume and performance. They fed into the stage workshop, and would go on to find new contexts in commercial design and popular culture. Still Undead opens by locating this “light games” alongside a selection of sound and light pieces from the 1920s and early 30s.
bauhaus imaginista | Still Undead: Popular Culture in Britain Beyond the Bauhaus
- Nottingham Contemporary
- Weekday Cross
- Nottingham NG1 2GB
- United Kingdom
Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Reflektorische Farblichtspiele, 1966, 16mm film transfer to digital, sound, 17 minutes 24 seconds. Courtesy of Microscope Gallery and Kurt Schwerdtfeger Estate.
When the National Socialists came to power and the Bauhaus closed in 1933, a number of its masters and students – including Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Walter Gropius, Otti Berger, Margaret Leischner and Edith Tudor-Hart – came to Britain. A lack of stable employment pushed many of these emigrés towards a variety of projects, making everything from sci-fi special effects and documentary photography to shop-window displays.
Lux Feininger, Dancer Karla Berggruen on a table in the Bauhaus canteen wearing part of the white tulle-covered hoop costume from the Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer, 1927. Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.
László Moholy-Nagy, The New Architecture and the London Zoo, 1937. Courtesy: Light Cone & Moholy-Nagy Foundation.
The exhibition goes on to trace how Bauhaus pedagogy, including the preliminary course, reshaped British art schools in the 1950s and 60s, exploring influential courses developed by artists including Rita Donagh, Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore. Around this time, a young generation – among them, Mary Quant, Terence Conran and Vidal Sassoon – began to reimagine the aims of the Bauhaus for an era of consumerism and commercial design.
Still Undead concludes, through Bauhaus student performance work, photography and film, with an immersion into the subcultures of the 1970s and 80s – from bands and club nights to DIY publishing. This includes the outrageous costumes and performances of Leigh Bowery, borrowing from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet, as well as art-school bands such as Soft Cell. This section of the exhibition is a collage of performance, music and graphic design, which invokes the spirit of Bauhaus parties and theatre. The exhibition title, Still Undead, is borrowed from a 1982 song by the British goth-rock band Bauhaus, suggesting that these spirits linger on.
The exhibition features the work of some 50 artists, designers and musicians, including Gertrud Arndt, Roy Ascott, Bauhaus (the band), Robyn Beeche, Otti Berger, Leigh Bowery, Robert Brownjohn, Laurie-Rae Chamberlain, Edmund Collein, Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, Terence Conran, Rita Donagh, T. Lux Feininger, Ueli Frey, Maxwell Fry, Walter Gropius, René Halkett and David Jay, Richard Hamilton, Florence Henri, George Hinchcliffe and Ian Wood, Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Tom Hudson, Kraftwerk, Kurt Kranz, Margaret Leischner, Liliane Lijn, John Maybury, Lucia Moholy, László Moholy-Nagy, Victor Pasmore, Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon, Peter Saville, Oskar Schlemmer, Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Soft Cell, Frank Tovey (Fad Gadget), Edith Tudor-Hart, Stephen Willats.
Still Undead coincides with the tenth anniversary of Nottingham Contemporary – it was a shortlisted gallery for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2019. Since opening, more than two million people have visited more than 50 exhibitions of international contemporary art, as well as 1,000 free-to-attend events, talks and educational programmes. Nottingham Contemporary Director, Sam Thorne says: “I am incredibly proud of everything we have achieved in the first ten years of Nottingham Contemporary. We are moving into our second decade with a major exhibition that embodies our aims to be a space for experimentation, for debate, and for creativity.”
Continuing to address the changing shape of cultural education, in autumn 2019 Nottingham Contemporary will launch CAMPUS, a year-long and city-wide independent study programme. CAMPUS will investigate the educational role of cultural organisations, encouraging experimentation, collaborative knowledge production and innovative research practices.
bauhaus imaginista is a collaboration between the Bauhaus Kooperation Berlin Dessau Weimar, the Goethe-Institut and Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW). The research project with various exhibition stations is part of the centenary of the founding of Bauhaus. Still Undead is a chapter of bauhaus imaginista and is produced with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, and Nottingham Contemporary. bauhaus imaginista is curated by Marion von Osten and Grant Watson. At Nottingham Contemporary, Still Undead will be co-curated by them and Sam Thorne. Research curators: Olivia Aherne, Gavin Butt, Cédric Fauq, Christian Hiller and Mariana Meneses.
Nottingham Contemporary is an international centre of contemporary art with a strong sense of local purpose. Since opening in 2009, we have held more than 50 exhibitions, with 2 million visitors to date. We present innovative and interwoven programmes of international exhibitions, learning, partnerships, research and new commissions. We are committed to excellence, experimentation, ambition and innovation. Nottingham Contemporary is supported using public funding by Arts Council England and regularly funded by Nottingham City Council.
Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, Bauhaus, 1972. Courtesy of the artists and Liberty Fabrics. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.