●Edition 3: Corresponding With
4 August 2018
Exhibition and Symposium

bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With, Japan

  • The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto
  • Goethe-Institut Tokyo

This desire to radicalise art and daily life through a new approach to education was already on the international agenda in the early twentieth century and reflected in Gropius’s 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto. A return to the traditional crafts, as propagated by the Bauhaus, was also pursued by the Kala Bhavana (Institute of Fine Arts) in Shantiniketan, India from 1919 and Bauhaus ideas were combined with Japanese aesthetics at the experimental Seikatsu Kōsei Kenkyushō (Research Institute for Life Configurations) in Tokyo between 1931 and 1939.

Nandalal Bose, Instructions for Mural painting, early 1930s, Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, India, © Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan.

The exhibition Corresponding With in The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto traces the tangible connections and commonalities between these three schools as well as the differences in their pedagogical models. When these Asian schools are taken into account, the Bauhaus pedagogy becomes just one position in a series of European and non-European approaches to art education.

Kala Bhavana established by the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1919 drew on resources from the past as well as to the British Arts and Crafts movement. It looked to ancient Indian forest schools (tapovan), India’s craft traditions, the cave paintings of Ellora, and laterally to other Asian cultures but also to the continental European avant-garde. The display in this exhibition includes instructional postcards by Nandalal Bose the artist who developed the school’s curriculum as well as pedagogic writings outlining the school’s philosophy. In keeping with an ethos which saw the art craft continuum as serving the community, it features rare examples of textiles, ceramics and furniture design as well as of mural painting.

The architect and editor Renshichirō Kawakita is considered a key figure in the introduction of Bauhaus’s pedagogical principles to Japan. In the 1920s and 1930s he maintained a close exchange with the former Bauhaus students Iwao and Michiko Yamawaki and Takehiko Mizutani, who taught at the school he founded in Tokyo in 1931, Seikatsu Kōsei Kenkyushō. Earlier, in association with Mizutani, Kawakita had designed an experimental exhibition that combined the design principles and preliminary course praxis of the Bauhaus with the Japanese modernist movement and local crafts. For bauhaus imaginista, the artist Luca Frei restages this historic exhibition as a sculptural installation, including historical photographs and textile elements.

This transnational art education movement of the early twentieth century provides the point of departure for a symposium at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo. Here, designers, artists and academics from Japan, India and Germany will explore the extent to which these schools have had an impact on their respective societies.

Luca Frei, Design for pillows, 2017, Gouache, pencil and collage on foam core, photo: Karl Isakson.

●Event documentation
bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With — Exhibition at MoMAK in Kyoto

The exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With presents and compares educational practice and philosophy at the Bauhaus (Germany), Kala Bhavan (India) and Seikatsu Kōsei Kenkyūsho (Japan), which, although operating in different socio-cultural contexts, were in contact through letters, the movement of people, and art works. → more

●Announcement and Programme
Interdisciplinary Symposium 'bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With' in Tokyo

This international and interdisciplinary symposium is designed to explore ideas suggested by the exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With, held in the National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto. An experimental format will present a curated composition of short presentations, discussions and artistic interventions/screenings and performances at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo on 5th of August. → more

●Slide Show
Photo documentation of the exhibition in Kyoto
Locations of the exhibition and symposium in Japan

The exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With takes places at The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto.


The international and interdisciplinary symposium is hosted by Goethe-Institut Tokyo. → more

Focus on the Bauhaus educational principles — An Interview with Yuko Ikeda and Helena Čapková

From 4th to 8th October the exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With will move to The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto. With Yuko Ikeda, curator of the exhibition, and Dr. Helena Čapková (Curatorial Researcher of the bauhaus imaginista project) we talked about the universal educational principle of the Bauhaus and its importance for Japan and India. → more

●Visual documentation
In a new light — Bauhaus paper studies by Eric Gjerde

For Luca Frei's artistic display in the bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With exhibition in Kyoto, paper artist Eric Gjerde reproduced selected works from the Bauhaus preliminary course by Josef Albers.  → more

●Related Articles
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

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

Bauhaus manifesto re-cap — Historical background and content

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

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

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

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

●Artist Text
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

●Artist Text
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

●Artist Text
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

●Artist Text
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