Jotta: The life of the Bauhaus students and their relationship with their teachers is relayed through photography and anecdotal text - how important was it to include this aspect of the school and the community it created in the exhibition?Lydia Yee:
We are trying to offer a new perspective on the Bauhaus and its significance as a school rather than a style or movement. So it's important that we introduce some of the key teachers and pedagogical ideas. Photography and anecdotes are probably the best vehicles to do these things; they give a sense about the experience of life and work at the school. Bauhaus were the pioneering school to unite art and technology- this legacy has lived on and is obviously so relevant in contemporary art & design. How are their methods and teachings reflected in current practice such as open source processing?
Bauhaus had several different approaches during its fourteen-year history. Initially, it strove to unite art and craft before shifting to an emphasis on art and technology. The school’s founder Walter Gropius was always looking to find ways to reconcile opposing fields. From the beginning, he sought to collaborate with industry - although for many years mass production was more of an ideal than a reality. What is relevant for contemporary practice is the dialogue among the school’s teachers, known as masters, and the students. For example, in the area of furniture design you see examples by Josef Albers and Marcel Breuer (who were both students before becoming young masters), which are in a dynamic dialogue or even competition with each other. One would design a chair or nesting table and the other would respond with a similar piece using different materials. It's apt to present a show about the world's most famous art school at a time when art education is in transition and under scrutiny. What was the most unique aspect of the Bauhaus education model?
I think the unique aspects of the Bauhaus curriculum were the workshop structure and the preliminary course. The workshops were led by a master of form, usually an avant-garde painter, and a workshop master, a skilled technician. The preliminary course was an opportunity for students to study form, colour and nature and to try working with a variety of materials before choosing an area of specialization. This is the basis of the foundation course in art and design education today. And how does the Art School Lab programme reflect this?
The Art School Lab will draw on Bauhaus educational principles and tools – such as the manifesto, multidisciplinary learning and collaboration, working with new materials and new technologies, and incorporating performance in other areas of practice – and explore how these are applied today in the work of contemporary practitioners. Is it important when curating exhibitions to consider the elements which could encompass the different areas of the Barbican centre?
Some exhibitions lend themselves to this approach but not all. The Bauhaus was very cross disciplinary so has connections with other areas of our programme, some of which we’re exploring through our talks, films and other events. How long have you been preparing for the exhibition?
For over 2 years. What is your favourite piece in the show?
It's hard to pick a single work. Kandinsky painting Circles in a Circle, Moholy-Nagy’s photograms and film Lightplay: White-Black-Grey, Gunta Stölzl’s weavings and Theodor Bogler’s combination teapots are a few favourites. For a show about the most influential design school, the choice of exhibition designer must have been difficult- how was this made?
We considered a few different designers and selected architects Carmody Groarke and graphic designers A Practice for Everyday Life (APFEL). Carmody Groarke did the design for another Barbican exhibition a few years ago so they knew the space. Working with APFEL, they constructed walls and used the double height space to create different views, in a manner similar to lot of the Bauhaus photography which was taken from unusual angles. They were also inspired by the Bauhaus wall painting workshop which used various colour schemes for the school’s interiors. So colour is used to demarcate different spaces within the exhibition. It seems quite unique amongst larger institutions for exhibition design to be intrinsic to the show and create a dialogue with the works...
Some institutions try to create a neutral space and make the architecture disappear. At the Barbican, the architecture is very strong so that’s not really an option! We try to make the most of the unique qualities of our space and use it to its best advantage.
Bauhaus: Art as Life is at Barbican Art Gallery until 12 August 2012