bauhaus
imaginista
●Edition 4: Still Undead
Sep. 21 2019–Jan. 5 2020
Exhibition

bauhaus imaginista: Still Undead, Nottingham

  • Nottingham Contemporary
  • Weekday Cross
  • Nottingham NG1 2GB
  • United Kingdom

Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Reflektorische Farblichtspiele (Reflecting color-light plays, 1922
light performance, apparatus reconstructed 2016
Courtesy of Microscope Gallery and Kurt Schwerdtfeger Estate © 2016.

Still Undead explores a range of overlooked Bauhaus genealogies in Britain, spanning art school experimentation, retail, fashion and commercial design, as well as electronic music, fanzines and club culture. Spanning the 1920s to the 90s, and including works by some 40 artists, designers and musicians, it narrates the eclectic and discontinuous ways that Bauhaus forms and ideas have been transmitted as well as appropriated.

The exhibition departs from a reflective coloured light game by the Bauhaus student Kurt Schwertfeger, an apparatus he designed for the Bauhaus Lantern Festival in 1922. Experiments of this kind were key elements of Bauhaus party culture, which included music, costume and performance. They fed into the theater workshop, and would go on to find new contexts in commercial design and popular culture. Still Undead opens by locating this light game alongside similar works from the Bauhaus, demonstrating a relationship to experimental film, music and theatre.

In 1935, László Moholy-Nagy whose film black white grey appears in this display, sought to establish himself in Britain along with a group of Bauhaus émigrés including Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Otti Berger, Margaret Leischner and Edith Tudor-Hart. Moholy-Nagy, who celebrated the ‘amateurishness’ of the British, was in particular able to find a commercial reception for his experimental approach to graphic design and shop-window display and in his photographs commenting on the British class system.

In the mid-century, Basic Design training, a radical departure in art education – pioneered by artists including Richard Hamilton, Rita Donagh, Victor Pasmore and Harry Thubron – drew on the Bauhaus preliminary course, in its exploration of abstraction, color, form and materiality. Another conduit for Bauhaus ideas came in the Royal Academy’s 1968 exhibition 50 Years of Bauhaus. This coincided with a widespread transformation of postwar British music, fashion, film and retail. Habitat’s founder Terence Conran, absorbing ideas from the Bauhaus, believed that good design should be for the whole community, and used the school’s platonic sphere, cube and cone for its logo. Mary Quant made op-inspired fashion accessible through mass production, while Vidal Sassoon invented sleek minimal haircuts inspired by the architecture of Mies van der Rohe.

In the late 1970s, Leeds School of Art was considered to be ‘the most influential art school in Europe since the Bauhaus’ with graduates including Soft Cell and Fad Gadget going on to achieve commercial success with electronic music, segues into a larger discussion of British youth culture from the late 1970s and early 80s. Here the turn towards avant-garde movements from the beginning of the 20th century such as Constructivism, Dada and the Bauhaus, took place within the vocabulary of postmodern appropriation, and include examples such as Leigh Bowery, Peter Saville and Bauhaus the band. This section of the show also invokes the spirit of Bauhaus parties, performance and theater, through the work of Gertrud Arndt, Lux Feininger and Oskar Schlemmer.

The exhibition title, Still Undead, reflects how the legacy of the Bauhaus lingers on in unlikely places. Used as a metaphor, it also points to a British relationship to the continental European avant-garde and the Bauhaus in particular. Without the direct genealogies and institutional consolidation that occurred in the United States, the British Bauhaus connection is nevertheless stronger than at first sight, even if routed through commerce and popular culture in ways that this exhibition presents as both playful and fragmented.

●Event documentation
●Locations
Locations of the Exhibition in Nottingham

The exhibition Still Undead: Pop Culture in Britain Beyond the Bauhaus takes place at Nottingham Contemporary from 21 September 2019 until 5 January 2020.

  → more

●Related Articles
●Article
Vision in Motion —> Information Landscapes — From Stage Props and Camouflage Techniques to Democratic Apparatus and Cybernetic Networks

The examination of approaches, models and strategies for a redefinition of visual culture, the control of images and the shaping of perception made former Bauhäuslers interesting to the American establishment. Their knowledge was incorporated in the development of democratization tools that aid in the fight against fascism and, later, were strategically used against Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War. → more

●Article
The Bauhaus Journey in Britain

The Bauhaus's teaching approach emphasised the idea of working as a community of creatives and producers rather than merely focusing on the traditional pupil-teacher relationship. In this essay the focus will be on the Bauhaus’s impetus to bring art and design into everyday life highlighting in Great Britain’s visual culture in the 1930s and between 1960s and 70s and how it influenced youth and popular culture during the swinging sixties in London. → more

●Article
Festive and Theatrical — The Mask Photos of Gertrud Arndt and Josef Albers as an Expression of Festival Culture

Costuming played a central role at the Bauhaus. Gertrud Arndt's mask photographs (a series of 43 self-portraits) derive directly from these Bauhaus festivals. As well as a series of nine color photographs taken in direct succession at Black Mountain College in 1940 by Josef Albers. → more

●Article
Latter-day Bauhaus? — Muriel Cooper and the Digital Imaginary

The Bauhaus is a monument—a book with the physical heft to match its scholarly ambition. Published in 1969 by the MIT Press, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago stands fourteen inches tall, ten inches wide, and two and-a-half inches thick, weighing in at over ten pounds. It is the revised, expanded, and redesigned translation of editor Hans Wingler’s 1962 German tome Das Bauhaus, 1919–1933: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin. Muriel Cooper, the MIT Press’s first Design and Media Director, consistently rated the book as one of her proudest achievements among the nearly 500 she would design or oversee during her tenure. → more

●Article
Communitas … After Black Mountain College

In the wake of Black Mountain College’s dissolution in 1954, two former students Paul and Vera Williams, left North Carolina and founded Gate Hill Artists’ Cooperative about an hour’s drive outside of New York City. “The Land,” as the Coop was often called by the artists, composers, filmmakers, choreographers, poets, and potters who built their homes and studios in this rural setting, evinced many of the pedagogical lessons of the Bauhaus translated through the American educational experiment in combining art and life that was Black Mountain College. → more

●Audio
Bauhaus — Bela Lugosi’s Dead

The influential post-punk band, Bauhaus, helped invent the musical genre and sartorial style of goth-rock. Formed in 1979, their nineminute-long debut single Bela Lugosi’s Dead includes a refrain that has also inspired the title for the exhibition chapter Still Undead. → more