●Edition 1: 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

Interdisciplinary Symposium 'bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With' in Tokyo — 4 August 2018

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
●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 Work
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

●Slide Show
Workshops at the Bauhaus

Views into the mural painting, metal and weaving workshops in Weimar and Dessau, 1923–27. → more

●Slide Show
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

●Brochure and wall text
Brochure and Wall Texts of the Exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art, 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

●Related Articles
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It’s widely known that Johannes Itten had an interest in Asian philosophy and art. He had a series of fruitful encounters with Japanese artists while leading his Itten-Schule art institute in Berlin (1926–34). In this article Yoshimasa Kaneko presents his research of these exchanges: In 1931 Nanga painter Shounan Mizukoshi taught Japanese ink painting in Nanga style at the Itten-Schule; in 1932 Jiyu Gakuen students Mitsuko Yamamuro and Kazuko Imai (Married name: Sasagawa) studied there; and finally, in 1933 the painter and poet Yumeji Takehisa also taught Japanese ink painting (including Nanga style) at Itten’s invitation. → more

Three Preliminary Courses: Itten, Moholy-Nagy, Albers

It was the special qualities of the Swiss artist Johannes Itten, whose career as a primary and secondary school teacher was characterized by adherence to the principles of reform pedagogy, to have introduced a stabilizing structural element into the still unstable early years of the Bauhaus: the preliminary course which—in addition to the dual concept of teaching artistic and manual skills and thinking—was to remain a core part of Bauhaus pedagogy, despite considerable historical changes and some critical objections, until the closure of the school in 1933. → more

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Das Bauhaus wandte sich von Anfang an vom Nationalismus ab und dem Kosmopolitismus und Internationalismus zu, eine Orientierung, die es schließlich mit dem emporkommenden Nationalsozialismus in Widerspruch brachte. Die Schule korrespondierte auch mit zeitgenössischen Bildungsinitiativen in anderen Teilen der Welt, darunter die Kala Bhavan (Kunstschule) in Santiniketan, Indien. Das Bauhaus wirkte durch seine Schriften und Studierenden auch auf andere Schulen in Japan. → more

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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

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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●Text Compilation
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

“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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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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Focus on the Bauhaus Educational Principles — An Interview with Yuko Ikeda and Helena Čapková

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