From its inception, the Bauhaus was internationally oriented; students and teachers travelled from different parts of Europe and Asia to become part of the school. As curators of the bauhaus imiginista project understands the global circulation of Bauhaus ideas not in terms of impact, but rather through its participation in international networks prior to 1933 and how this was mirrored in the school’s afterlife. The rise of the right wing forced the Bauhaus to move from Weimar to Dessau in 1925 and to Berlin in 1932, before the National Socialists seized control and perpetrated their violence through the state apparatus. Consequently, as many international students and masters fled Germany to settle in different parts of the world. It is the transmission of knowledge that bauhaus imaginista follows: a transfer via migration of students and teachers, but also via the interpretation, appropriation, and imagination of diverse Bauhaus ideas, in China, North Korea, India, the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Brazil.
The multiyear research (2016–19), which bauhaus imaginista was able to gather in collaboration with international researchers and cultural producers from Brazil, China, India, Japan, Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, shows to what extent and under which local conditions new design ideas and Bauhaus pedagogy were taken up and developed further. In this way, the project opens up a perspective on a transnational history of modernist art and design, marked by wars and dictatorships, non-aligned movements, the Cold War, and the processes of decolonization. bauhaus imaginista traces the history of a twentieth-century transcultural exchange from the perspective of international correspondence, relationships, encounters, and resonances. Putting this approach into practice in 2018, over the course of a year bauhaus imaginista has realized a series of transnational exhibitions and events with international partners: Le Cube—Independent Art Room, Rabat; the China Design Museum, Hangzhou; the Goethe-Institut and partners in New York, the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; the Garage—Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; the SESC Pompéia, São Paulo; the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, and University of Lagos; and the Kiran Nadar Museum, New Delhi, as well as the Goethe-Institut in each location. Important elements of the results will be on show in Berlin and Bern in 2019.
The anniversary exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) is divided into four chapters. Each chapter departs from a focal object selected from Bauhaus masters and students. What these four objects have in common is their propositional character and their material ephemerality. They include a copy of the Bauhaus Manifesto and first curriculum by Walter Gropius of 1919, the drawing Teppich (Carpet) by Paul Klee of 1927, the collage ein bauhaus-film by Marcel Breuer of 1926, and the “Reflecting color-light plays” by Kurt Schwerdtfeger of 1922.
These four objects pose questions that are still vital today. Yet, while our curatorial approach has been to decipher these objects in relation to their own historical specificity, we have also sought to make sense of what they suggest going forward as a genealogy of forms, practices, and concepts. Each chapter in the exhibition features historical and archival material but through our research, we have tried not only to explore the international reception of the Bauhaus in the twentieth century but also to understand the stakes of each chapter, its themes and ideas, in terms of a contemporary politics. The question of the contemporary emerges in particular through the artist commissions, through discursive events, but also, we hope, in the reflections and responses of the audience.