Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bauhaus: Still Teaching after 90 Years

A fascinating exhibition opened last week in Berlin on the Bauhaus. This innovative school of architecture, design and visual arts was founded 90 years ago at the end of the First World War and was closed in 1933 by the Nazis when they rose to power in Germany. For those 14 years, however, the Bauhaus represented a vibrant interdisciplinary school and community of teachers and practitioners committed at once to re-examining the very roots of Western aesthetics and design concerns and to extending the experimentation and social critique of modernity. The current exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau is the largest exhibition on the Bauhaus in history and comprises more than 1000 objects. More info at http://www.modell-bauhaus.de .

As a laboratory for exploring artistic, educational, and social issues, the Bauhaus rewards exploration from multiple perspectives. For me, as an educator committed to interdisciplinary teaching and learning, the launching of workshops involving talented students and gifted practitioners and thinkers from different fields (Walter Gropius, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky among them) is inspiring. That this was accomplished in such a penetrating way at an historical moment of sweeping technological change and social transformation makes it all the more extraordinary. Viewing the show today, as we again confront the changes wrought by technology and a wide-scale reconceptualization of the world, Bauhaus continues to provide lessons in how we might pursue, with rigor and openness and imagination, persistent questions about creativity, what it means to be human, and how to relate to the world around us.

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