RETHINKING BAUHAUS

In samenwerking met het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam onderzocht een aantal studenten van de Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (KABK) te Den Haag en de Gerrit Rietveld Academie te Amsterdam mogelijkheden om het gedachtengoed van het Bauhaus naar het heden te vertalen.

Het is nu honderd jaar geleden dat het Bauhaus, de beroemde school voor beeldend kunstenaars, ambachtslieden en architecten (1919 – 1932), door de Duitse architect Walter Gropius in Weimar werd opgericht.

Na vele historische presentaties over het Bauhaus wordt hier de vraag gesteld hoe relevant de idealen en uitgangspunten van het Bauhaus nog zijn voor de huidige samenleving? Heeft het streven naar een Gesamtkunstwerk (het samenwerken van alle disciplines) nog actualiteitswaarde? Wat betekenen het principe van het Bauhaus onderwijs, de creativiteit in de omgang met materialen, de balans tussen het ambachtelijke en het industriële, het ontwerp van functionele objecten voor de leefomgeving van iedereen, vandaag de dag?

Net als 100 jaar geleden kent de maatschappij vele uitdagingen. Maar anders dan toen wordt ‘ontwikkeling’ niet langer kritiekloos geassocieerd met ‘groei’. Geconfronteerd met de downside van de vooruitgangsmythe, is een kritische herijking van onze sociaal-culturele en economische waarden noodzakelijk.

Het resultaat van dit onderzoek, nieuwe kunstwerken gemaakt door de studenten is van 8 t/m 10 november 2019 in het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam te zien: Symposium & Tentoonstelling 'Rethinking Bauhaus' in het Stedelijk.

Werken van studenten

performance, plastic latex filled with water

Three Phases of Water is a performance inspired by Bauhaus teacher Oskar Schlemmer’s The Triadic Ballet (1922), in which he uses the principle of trinity: three acts and three participants, with costumes made of the three shapes and the three colors of the Bauhaus movement.

Water is one of the few substances on earth that can take on three different states: solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (steam). This incredible property lays the foundations for water to recycle itself. However, water is also the defining crisis of the 21st century. The scarcity of safe drinking water is a larger threat to life than any war.

The costume is made of transparent plastic latex filled with water. The choreography of the performance plays with the force of gravity and transports the water within an enclosed circulation.

photography prints on paper, cardboard, tape, wood, paint

This project is built upon an investigation around concrete and questions of (re)construction, inspired by the idea of Bauhaus architecture and particularly its ample use of concrete. Photographs of concrete architecture and self-made sculptures are removed from their original context and become part of a new inventory that suggests multiple possible combinations.

Responding to artist and Bauhaus teacher Paul Klee’s words that “a painting is built up piece by piece, no different from a house,” I approached photography in the same way: the image can be constructed, assembled bit by bit from different parts.

By reshuffling the existing world into one that supports new links between elements, the idea of the project goes along with the multidisciplinary and interconnected spirit of Bauhaus and integrates thoughts we are facing in our world today. How do we relate to all the existing materials and ideas, how can we reuse and reconnect them in new ways?

handgeweven stof van gemengd garen, sublimatieprint

Op Google en Instagram resulteren zoektermen als ‘Bauhaus style’, ‘Bauhaus table cloth’ en ‘Anni Albers’ in een mix van afbeeldingen van originele Bauhaus-ontwerpen en kleurrijke producten met geometrische vormen – van tote bags tot telefoonhoesjes en gehele interieurs, selfies genomen in tentoonstellingen en op Bauhaus geïnspireerd werk van kunstenaars, modeontwerpers en hobbyisten.

Honderd jaar na het ontstaan van Bauhaus dringt de gedachte zich op dat de term ‘Bauhaus’ inmiddels niet meer (slechts) de beoogde betekenis van de eerste oprichters draagt, maar inmiddels ook een meer eclectische betekenis heeft verkregen, bepaald door de eigenschappen van het internet.

Bovengenoemde zoekresultaten zijn letterlijk verweven in een set theedoeken waarvoor gebruik gemaakt is van specifieke eigenschappen van weven, in de traditie van de Weefwerkplaats van het Bauhaus. Vrouwen werden in het Bauhaus lange tijd alleen tot deze klas toegelaten en reageerden door innovatieve weeftechnieken te ontwikkelen en het medium op de kaart zetten.

metal, wool, conductive thread, LED lighting, electronic waste

In the course of the Rethinking Bauhaus project, I was drawn to the idealism of this innovative art school and to the importance of considering what present and future societies would need from artists and designers. Rethinking both materials and environment simultaneously, I created a conductive curtain which displays how we can reuse materials efficiently to confront our current environmental problems of technological waste materials. Using conductive thread, LED lighting, electronic waste and a distance sensor the viewer lights up an almost invisible curtain suspended in midair. Inspired by the Textile Department of the Bauhaus, the woven curtain highlights how in our society today we don’t make a close enough connection between ourselves and the waste that we produce without being aware of it.

paraffin wax, video

Bauhaus wanted to deliver art and good design to the people, seeing potential in collaboration with the industry in order to mass-produce its designs and create a dignified life for the working class. Bauhaus started creating well-designed objects composed of long-lasting materials that people would cherish for decades.

A century later, in the abundance of accessible goods, something has gotten lost along the way. Good design is often stripped down and copied into cheaper versions with a limited life expectancy. Objects are discarded as soon as they have a flaw or aren't fashionable anymore.

I created archetypes of objects in paraffin wax, trying to understand and reveal the detachment of people towards objects. In the video, when the object becomes flawed or uninteresting after use, it is thrown away. It is expected to just disappear, no matter how or where. A new object will appear anyway, regardless of where it comes from.

photography and steel letterpress printing

My interest in Bauhaus comes from a long personal fascination with imagery and spirituality. Over the past years I’ve been dedicated to an intuitive research, where books, images, places and people have played a fundamental role. The chance to continue this theoretical curiosity and turn it into something visual was possible with the Rethinking Bauhaus project.

The presence of artists like Josef Albers (1888-1976), Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Paul Klee (1879-1940) show us that there’s more to Bauhaus than modern architecture. Their unconventional approach and spiritual quest has taught me about the importance of art as something that is connected to society, but also to an inner need expressed through materials, shapes, colors and words.

Through the use of photography and my hands at the letterpress, I’ve transformed a philosophical response to our current society – standardization, environmental and spiritual crisis – into a personal visual language.

Bio-Plastic and Kombucha Leather

It is impossible to imagine a world without plastic. Plastic has been a useful and consistent material for over a hundred years, yet its inability to break down is undeniably harming our environment.

This project explores how we can begin living with plastic in a positive way. Currently the pressure is on consumers to cut down plastic use by reducing, reusing, and recycling. However, the consumer still remains powerless regarding the production of plastic.

What if we created our own plastics? Compostable plastics? Plastics that can be grown, cooked, reheated, reshaped and reused repeatedly?

The Bauhaus’ teachings emphasize learning through doing. The original meaning of the word plastic is ‘to mold’. By creating our own plastic – be it through cooking, growing, or molding – we can gain deeper understanding and control of our plastic use and waste, which will allow us to figuratively and physically shape the future we want to see.

The body always works. It needs to. We use it without thinking, it is impossible to forget the movements we have performed all our lives.

Taking the pragmatic Bauhaus concept of combining functionality and art as a starting point, this work deals with the question of what happens when one takes away the simplest and most functional movements from people.

The performance deals with these everyday movements by starting a new creative process in the course of which they seem to become non-functional. Failure and uselessness become a creative stage. Just by the lack of the desired function, the challenged body writhes itself into something new.

According to Bauhaus design, form follows function. We have been surrounded by modernist design for over one hundred years. Things that are designed to fit the industrial production system are convenient, functional, practical and economical. But there’s no occasion for us to view and appreciate these objects outside of their functional context. On the other hand, sculptures intrigue us and stimulate our curiosity and emotions. But sculptures don't exist everywhere in everyday life and by being shown mostly in the context of exhibitions or collections create a certain distance between people and the objects.

My starting point was this question: Can't furniture exist in our daily lives with the characteristics of sculpture? And what if sculpture took on the properties of furniture? With this work, I would like to ask what function means to us and what really inspires us in daily life.

laser cut, assembled wood, glass plate, resin

A Lost Flock is a performance for lantern, music ensemble and actor. Through the utopia of a Gesamtkunstwerk I am rethinking the ideals of Bauhaus. During my process I adopt several ideas from Bauhaus teachers Walter Gropius (1883–1969) and Gertrud Grunow (1870–1944).

I developed the performance through the unity of senses, which is the central concept in Grunow’s classes on the theory of harmonization during the Weimar period (1919-1925). The idea is to find a balance between sounds, visions and sensations, to harmonize them towards a living form of expression. Carpentry shapes music composition, music composition shapes engineering. I open up the different senses and practices, so they can freely influence each other.

Artist and artisan. Thematic and theme-less. Timed and time-less.

By rethinking this Bauhaus concept I embrace the reformative process of practice, reject the safety of formats and open up new radical perspectives.

Project details

Partners

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam

Work

Exhibition, Seminar

Year

2019

Studies