Beginning in March 2018, “Bauhaus Imaginista” was held in installments: “Corresponding With,” staged in Japan and India; “Moving Away,” exhibited in China, Russia and Nigeria and “Learning From,” held in Morocco, USA and now in Brazil. Finally, its fourth and final part, “Still Undead,” will gather all the topics in a grand showing to be held from March 15 to June 10, 2019, in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin.

With knowledge of world culture playing a significant role in the Bauhaus, “Learning From” focuses on how the iconic school placed the study of pre-modern craft techniques and materials at the center of its practice in North Africa as well as in North and Latin America. Beyond German boundaries, the school’s pioneering concepts instigated designers, artists and architects to research local craft practices leading to the development of a modern idiom of forms, abstraction, and industrial design, as well as to the introduction of new methods and techniques based on indigenous knowledge. This unique view also contributed with a socio-political dimension in the cultural decolonization in these parts of the world. The exhibition in São Paulo not only explores these appropriations in the mid-twentieth century but also draws relations within vernacular and local craft practices, as well as debates these ideas in Brazil’s present context.

Paul Klee, Teppich (Carpet), 1927, India ink on laid paper.
Paul Klee, Teppich (Carpet), 1927, India ink on laid paper. © Edward Watkins/Hans Snoeck Private Collection, New York. via Bauhaus Imaginista and SESC Pompeia

How can we understand the mission of the Bauhaus from today’s vantage point?
The Bauhaus responded to a set of historical circumstances. It coincided with the Weimar republic, and finally closed by the National Socialists in 1933. It was also closely involved with developments in art and architecture of its time. So, Bauhaus pedagogy cannot be taken wholesale out of its historical context. Perhaps, in terms of its pedagogy we can discuss in particular how elements such as a foundational training in design or the emphasis on practical workshop-based learning, or the school’s fundamental goal to transform society through art, design and architecture, can be reinterpreted and assessed today in relation to current circumstances.

At the time, how did the critics see the Bauhaus experience?
The Bauhaus was highly contested, including politically—it was greatly admired but also had its fierce critics. More importantly for us is how the direction of the school was fought over within the Bauhaus itself and how we can read this in terms of its legacy. The heterogeneity of the school, its inconsistencies, its different phases—including expressionism, de Stilj, neues bauen the cooperative principle and so forth, the way that its teachers and students debated its purpose and its politics is reflected in the fact the school can’t be shoehorned into a single representation, which has meant that in considering this legacy we wanted to avoid re-inscribing a “canonical” Bauhaus. We upheld the fact that the Bauhaus was an institution in which political ideas played a critical role.