A 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 Kenkyūsho (Research Institute of Life Construction, later: Shin Kenchiku Kōgei Gakuin (School of New Architecture and Design)) in Tokyo between 1931 and 1939.
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 Kosei Kenkyusho. 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.