Today’s POP is Stephanie listening to Can’s Paperhouse from 1:35 to 1:50 on repeat from Montecatini to Florence to Montecatini to Forte dei Marmi and back.
The recently opened
One of the most recognisable schools of art,
Why has the Barbican chosen to produce a show surrounding the Bauhaus today? The school’s strong emphasis on craft-making – material, experience and production – as well as its socialist context and socialist principles feels extremely relevant. Chaotic times seem to reflect chaotic times.
For many different reasons really. In terms of the school’s emphasis on craft, in the early days the school had a master of form who was an avant-garde artist or painter such as Klee, who would work alongside a master of craft, who was a very skilled, expert technician who knew how to make metalware or weaving, and together they would teach the students. So this kind of dual structure was very interesting I think.
But they also thought of very creative ways of trying to get the students to let go of their conventional training. So for example in the preliminary course, Johannes Itten, who was very influential in the early structure of the Bauhaus, would sometimes ask his students to make toys instead of art. So this was a kind of way to get back to the roots of creativity – to the way you might think as a child rather than as a trained artist.
With the digital age, I think there’s a lot of new opportunity to do things and thus throw out the old, because those ways of working don’t really link up with modern life anymore. So I think its just about finding ways of re-introducing [craft] or some of the school’s principles.
Which I think is really important and relevant because I think we need to get back to this process of thinking and learning and move towards something most primitive.
I mean people think too much about training for a profession rather than education for the sake of education and it might lead you in a different way than you might have originally thought.
I think there’s a lot of theory, a lot of didactics, especially in museums, and not enough attention to experience and physicality. I’m also interested in how the Bauhaus attempted to alleviate the sort of Hierarchies of Knowledge, something Michael Foucault speaks about in The Order of Things. So for example this gap between “Art” and “Craft”. The Bauhaus attempted to promote craft and diminish the classist distinction between the artist and the craftsman. But of course these hierarchies still very much exist.
Well I think a lot of artists now can’t draw or make things themselves, and I think you learn a lot through process – by actually making as oppose to producing an idea and having someone or something else execute it. You know, once you learn how to make a weaving or how to make a piece of metal, it might change how you think as well as how you even approach making something. So while I’m not an advocate for only a craft-based or skill-based training, I think it’s a really important part of study.
And in relation to studies, learning was such a key element of the movement. How do you see the influence of the Bauhaus on art institutions of education today?
I think a lot of the ideas from their preliminary course remain in the notion of what we know as Foundation courses today for example. Where the students have time to figure out what they enjoy doing before the declare specialisations. As well, on a more social level, in the exhibition you can see the photographs and the rebellious spirit of the students, which I think is very much mimicked today.
Where else do you see the most resonance of the Bauhaus today?
I think it’s pretty ubiquitous. I mean if you look at art, modern architecture, furniture – Ikea has become a symbol for the Bauhaus – everybody’s trying to do simple, good design, but it’s quite hard to get it right. I think even in advertising and graphics – the use of all lower-case letters for example, or text at an angle all comes back to the Bauhaus and we just take it for granted now because it’s become so common and universal.
In regards to the Bauhaus’ relationship with De Stijl and Van Doesburg, what do you see as the major points of differentiation between the two movements which often overlap and are extremely close in many ways.
I think De Stijl was more rigid. In fact, Theo Van Doesburg wanted to teach at the Bauhaus but I think Gropius probably didn’t think that he would be open enough to work at the Bauhaus. So I think that is one of the major things. The Bauhaus had a period where yes, they were very much influenced by the Avant-Gardes and Constructivism, but they were also very open to other things – to bring in other influences like Dada for examples, or even Surrealism.
What’s most impressive for me about the Bauhaus, and most visible through the exhibition here, is how consistent they were with their ideas through each and every media they practiced.
But also there are moments when you see they’re trying to try something new. And it’s these sort of moments of experimentation which I think are also quite important.
Bauhaus: Art as Life is on at the
- POP 885 Thursday 12 April 2012
- POP 882 Weekend 6-9 April 2012
- POP 1016 Friday 5 October 2012
- POP 899 Weekend 28-29 April 2012
- POP 930 Jubilee Weekend 2-4 June 2012