bauhaus
imaginista
●Edition 4: Still Undead / ●Edition 2: Learning From / ●Edition 3: Moving Away / ●Edition 1: Corresponding With
Sep. 20 2019–Jan. 12 2020
Exhibition

bauhaus imaginista, Bern

  • Zentrum Paul Klee
  • Monument im Fruchtland 3
  • 3000 Bern
  • Switzerland

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

Today in the twenty-first century, the question remains of how to reimagine the relationship between the arts and society. The need to radicalize art education as part of this question ran through the twentieth century, and when thinking about the historical Bauhaus an example of radical pedagogy immediately appears. Established in 1919 in Weimar as a new model of a design school in the immediate aftermath of the First World War and the German Revolution, the Bauhaus brought together a younger generation of artists and architects who rejected the nationalistic, militaristic, and authoritarian past and insisted on the social relevance of the arts in an emerging democratic society. Helping to shape this radical imagination for new practices, new forms of learning, and new lifestyles was the idea that the individual and the material environment should be freed from all that was unnecessary and that the relationship between the arts, craft, design, and the building should be rethought.

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 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.

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Mohamed Chabâa’s consciousness of his national heritage and his interest in architecture both emerged at a young age. His concept of the “3 A’s”—art, architecture and the arts and crafts—grew out of his discovery both of the Italian Renaissance and the Bauhaus School during a period of study in Rome in the early 1960s. From then on, bringing together the “3 A’s” would become a central interest, a concept Chabâa would apply in various ways and fiercely defend throughout his long and varied career. → more

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●Exhibition Film Stills
Scenes from the Most Beautiful Campus in Africa — A Film about the Ife Campus

Zvi Efrat, 2019, Film stills from the Exhibition video projection, 25 min, color, sound,

English, Courtesy of the artist. → more

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Colonial Architecture in Ile-Ife

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Nigerian Campus Design — A Juxtaposition of Traditional and Contemporary Architecture

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Bauhaus and the Origin of Design Education in India

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On Behalf of Progressive Design — Two Modern Campuses in Transcultural Dialogue

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●Interview
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After the Ball — Hannes Meyer Presenting the Bauhaus in Moscow

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Meyer’s Russia, or the Land that Never was

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From Recognition to Rejection — Hannes Meyer and the Reception of the Bauhaus in the Soviet Union

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●Article
The “School in the Woods” as a Socio-pedagogical Ideal — Functional Analyses and Photographs by Peterhans

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●Article
Communistic Functionalist — The Anglophone Reception of Hannes Meyer

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●Article
Richard Paulick and the Remaking of a Greater Shanghai 1933–1949

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●Article
The “Hungarian Bauhaus” — Sándor Bortnyik’s Bauhaus-Inspired Budapest School Műhely 1928–1938

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●Article
The Spread of the Bauhaus in China

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●Article
Modern Vernacular — Walter Gropius and Chinese Architecture

This essay explores the connection between Walter Gropius and I. M. Pei, as well as the influence of the one on the other. After completing his studies, I. M. Pei worked with Gropius on plans for a university in Shanghai, which he subsequently realized in Taiwan, than in association with Chang Chao-Kang and Chen Chi-Kuan. → more

●Video
Architects' Congress

The passenger ship Patris II transported the participants of the 4th International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) from Marseilles to Athens and back. Bauhaus teacher Moholy-Nagy, travelling as a “friend of the new building movement” produced this half-hour soundless film as a travel journal. → more

●Video
Jawaja Project — A Case study

The NID was involved in a joint venture with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in the adoption for development of a group of villages in Rajasthan. Could local self-reliance emerge from a process of mutual learning between communities and other groups of people? The film shows how leather work and weaving emerged as the opportunity and basis for sustained group effort. → more

●Article
Bauhausmoderne und Chinesische Tradition — Franz Ehrlichs Entwurf für ein Haus des Handels in Peking (1954–1956)

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●Article
Contemporary Reflections on NID History — Teaching through the Design Archive

I often stage chance encounters for students with archival materials at the NID: a rare photograph of the building in construction, an odd handwritten scribble on a drawing by M.P. Ranjan, a stunning collection of sound recordings by David Tudor and John Cage. The amazement and wonder created by this staging becomes the starting point for the pedagogical value of archives. → more

●Interviw
The Bauhaus Manifesto — Conversation with Magdalena Droste

Gropius wrote his Bauhaus manifesto shortly after the end of World War I. The German empire had collapsed, Russia had undergone a revolution and a second revolution in Germany was in the process of being suppressed. Throughout Germany people felt the necessity for a social and intellectual change. → more

●Article
“The Attack on the Bauhaus” — A Collage that Became a Symbol of the Closure of the Bauhaus

For the Yamawaki couple, their studies at the Dessau Bauhaus ended with the closure of the Dessau site. Iwao’s luggage for his return home also included his collage Der Schlag gegen das Bauhaus. It was first published in the architecture magazine Kokusai kenchiku in December 1932. Iwao let the collage speak for itself, publishing it without comment. → more

●Article
Santiniketan — Rules of Metaphor and Other Pedagogic Tools

This essay was occasioned by the Delhi exhibition of the Hangzhou chapter of bauhaus imaginista and the accompanying seminar in December 2018. The overarching brief of the seminar was to discuss the pedagogic aspects of schools in various parts of the world that are relatable to the practices of Bauhaus. Specifically, the essay attempts to capture the foundational moments of Kala Bhavana, the art school in Santiniketan that, incidentally, also steps into its centenary year in 2019. → more

●Article
Gertrud Grunow's Theory of Harmonization — A Connection between European Reform Pedagogy and Asian Meditation?

In this essay Linn Burchert sheds some light on the darkness obscuring Grunow’s practice by presenting the background and details of Grunow’s teaching, concluding by examining the striking parallels between her harmonization teaching and meditative and yogic practices, which had already been introduced at the Bauhaus in Johannes Itten’s preliminary course. → more

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Reclaiming the National — Against Nationalism

The question of how one resists populist nationalism is both obvious and fiendishly difficult. This sounds like a paradoxical proposition, and, indeed, it is. I am inspired by an early critique of nationalism which bears an uncanny resonance in today’s world: a critique that was made in 1916 by the Bengal poet and visionary, Rabindranath Tagore, during a lecture tour in Japan, in the midst of the First World War. → more

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Bauhaus Calcutta

ln December 1922, ‘The Fourteenth Annual Exhibition of the lndian Society of Oriental Art’ was held at Samavaya Bhavan, number seventeen Park Street. Paintings by artists from the ‘Bengal school’—all of them members of the lndian Society of Oriental Arts—were exhibited. Most of these artists painted in a manner, which would have been recognisable as that school’s invention, a particularly lndian signature style, with mythology as preferred subject. Hung on the other side of the hall was a large selection of works from the Bauhaus.  → more

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“The Art!—That's one Thing! When it's there” — On the History of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst in the Early Weimar Republic

Even though the progressive artists of the interwar period ultimately failed in their plan to realize the new, egalitarian society they had envisioned, their influence was lasting. The international avant-garde produced some of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, some members of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers council for art) occupied important positions at the Bauhaus—above all, its founding director Walter Gropius. → more

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Bauhaus Weimar International — Visions and Projects 1919–1925

Although the Bauhaus opened its door in 1919, it took more than three years for Gropius to fully organize the school’s faculty, since with the departure of several of the old art school’s professors, such as Max Thedy, Richard Engelmann and Walther Klemm, open positions had to be regularly filled. But Gropius’s first appointments indicated the course set toward an international avant-garde school, a school of invention. → more

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Shifting, Rotating, Mirroring 
 — Lena Bergner’s Minutes of Paul Klee’s Classes

Lena Bergner developed carpet patterns applying specific methods learned from Paul Klee discernible in her finished work. The results, however, are quite unique. This is precisely what Klee sought to achieve with his classes at the Bauhaus: to point to paths of design so that the formal language is not arbitrary, without, however, prescribing predetermined outcomes. → more

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Naked Functionalism and the Anti-Aesthetic — The Activities of Renshichirō Kawakita in the 1930s

Kawakita called the educational activities that developed around the central axis of the School of New Architecture and Design “kōsei education.” The term “compositional/structural education” is often taken nowadays to refer to a preparatory course in composition derived from the Bauhaus—plastic arts training in which plastic elements such as color, form and materials are treated abstractly.  → more

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Life at Santiniketan

The art school Kala Bhavan was founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1919 at Santiniketan, a utopian community about 100 miles north of Calcutta established in the previous century by the poet’s father, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. Born out of the need to rehabilitate traditional Indian culture after the demoralizing impact of British rule, the school was established as an experiment in education that broke with academic tradition, and created a form of rural modernism decoupled from industrial modernization. → more

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Johannes Itten and Mazdaznan at the Bauhaus

Having experimented with Mazdaznan’s teachings on nutrition, breathing and character while studying at the Stuttgart Academy of Art (1913–16), Johannes Itten used these findings for the first time as a “teaching and educational system” while directing his Viennese painting school (1916–19). By 1918/19 at the latest (still before his move to the Bauhaus), Itten had also learned about Mazdaznan’s racial model. But how did the racialist worldview of the Swiss Bauhaus “master” affect Bauhaus practice? → more

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A Mystic Milieu — Johannes Itten and Mazdaznan at Bauhaus Weimar

Mazdaznan had a significant although often misunderstood impact on the life and work of Johannes Itten, a key figure in the development of the Weimar Bauhaus. A devout practitioner of Mazdaznan, he was responsible for introducing it to students of the Bauhaus in the early 1920s. This essay explores the intimate relationship between Itten, Mazdaznan and the Bauhaus and, in so doing, also underscores how in its infancy the Bauhaus was very different from its later incarnation as a school associated primarily with technical innovation. → more

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The O Horizon — A Film Produced for bauhaus imaginista

The Otolith Group have been commissioned to produce 'The O Horizon' for bauhaus imaginista, a new film containing studies of Kala Bhavana as well as the wider environments of Santiniketan and Sriniketan. Through rare footage of art, craft, music and dance, it explores the material production of the school and its community as well as the metaphysical inclinations that guided Tagore’s approach to institution building. → more

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The Legacies of the Bauhaus — For the Present and the Future

"My method of bringing new life to archival images is to look at what happens at the margins rather than the center of a picture. I am also obsessed with making links, based on the belief that everything is connected. And also with what I call “narrative environments,” mediating spaces facilitating new forms of engagement." Luca Frei is a commissioned artist for bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With. He talks about his approach to his installation for the exhibition at MoMAK in Kyoto. → more

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News from Santiniketan — A Text Compilation of Educational Texts from Santiniketan

Unlike the Bauhaus, Kala Bhavana had no written manifesto or curriculum. However, a corpus of writing developed around the school, largely produced by the school’s artists and teachers. The academic Partha Mitter, whose own writing has explored the interplay between the struggle against colonialism, modernism, and the cultural avant-garde in India, has selected a group of texts on education in Santiniketan. → more

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The Bauhaus and the Tea Ceremony

The impact of the Bauhaus teaching methods reached far beyond Germany. Conversely, throughout its existence, a Japanese sensibility permeated the Bauhaus, springing from the Japonisme of individual professors, until its closure in 1933. This article analyzes the reciprocal impact of German and Japanese design education in the interbellum period in order to shed new light on the tightly knit network of associations then connecting Japan and Europe. → more

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Open Your Eyes — Breathing New Life Into Bauhaus Papercuts

My artistic practice working primarily with abstract folded paper objects led me to Josef Albers and his similar obsession with paper as an instructional medium. Initially looking for pleated paper forms and to learn more about the history of these techniques, I have since been swept up in the maelstrom of Albers' pedagogical mindset. It's difficult to look at one area of his thinking and not get pulled into many other directions, finding yourself challenged at every turn. → more

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The Egyptian Postures

In the late nineteenth century the self-styled Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish founded Mazdaznan, a quasi-religious movement of vegetarian diet and body consciousness, which flourished across the USA and Europe until the 1940's. The Egyptian Postures is a guide to the most advanced Mazdaznan exercises that Johannes Itten taught his students at the Bauhaus. This edition of Dr. Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha’nish’s original instructions has been newly edited and illustrated by Ian Whittlesea with images of actor Ery Nzaramba demonstrating the postures. → more

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Three Preliminary Courses: Itten, Moholy-Nagy, Albers

Coming soon... → more