bauhaus imaginista: Corresponding With
Curated by Marion von Osten and Grant Watson
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Photo: Laura Fiorio/HKW
15.3 - 10.6.2019
bauhaus imaginista is a narrative of the international histories of the Bauhaus. After its founding in 1919 the school was in contact with other avant-garde movements worldwide. Since March 2018, the research project has been tracing transnational relations, correspondences and narratives of migration going beyond the years the Bauhaus was active as a school and revealing its significance for the present-day.
The exhibition chapter Corresponding With departs from the 1919 Bauhaus Manifesto published by Walter Gropius, who argued that in the future there should be “no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman.” The Manifesto was of its time, drawing on a radical cultural movement that wanted to overcome existing academic art education, and understood the social and material value of craft to redress the alienation and destruction of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism. The Bauhaus school was, from its inception, at the confluence of international ideas on modernism and radical educational reforms, rethinking the relationship between the applied and non-applied arts and manual and cognitive knowledge. As a pedagogical experiment, it was exceptional in putting various ideas and practices into a new curriculum and rethinking the role of the arts in the creation of a new socialist and democratic society.
The Bauhaus opened in April 1919 in the same year the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore inaugurated the art school Kala Bhavana at Santiniketan, an already existing utopian community on a piece of land 100 miles north of Calcutta (today Kolkata). Like the early Bauhaus, Kala Bhavana developed a modernist language while referring to resources from Indian traditions as well as, for example, the British Arts and Crafts movement. In 1922, the Austrian art historian Stella Kramrisch, who taught at Kala Bhavana, wrote a letter to Johannes Itten in which she pursued the possibility of a Bauhaus exhibition in India, prompted it is believed by Tagore’s visit Germany a year earlier. This exchange of correspondence resulted in the first international Bauhaus show, which took place at the Indian Society of Oriental Art in Kolkata in December of that year.
Another Bauhaus-related educational experiment—Seikatsu Kōsei Kenkyūsho (Research Institute for Life Design)—was founded by Renshichirō Kawakita in Tokyo in 1931 and later renamed Shin Kenchiku Kōgei Gakuin (School of New Architecture and Design). Like the Bauhaus in Weimar, the Tokyo school combined modernist crafts and industrial forms of production with in this case traditional Japanese ideas of aesthetics. In 1934 Kawakita published (with Katsuo Takei) a book on Kōsei education, Kōsei Kyōiku Taikei (Handbook for Teaching Design) which worked alongside the school to transform specific Bauhaus principles into a new, modernist Japanese art educational theory.