„Only our questions and our curiosity will make history relevant for us.“
Interview with Ines Weizman
An international colloquium in the jubilee year: Will it be dominated by the look at the past or by the current relevance of the Bauhaus, Ms. Weizman?
Naturally a scientific conference such as this colloquium will look at the past, but the way in which we do that, what our focus will be and the new methods of exploring this history also involve new knowledge, new research formats and new theoretical concepts showing us how the complex history of modernity can be read and analysed today.
What kind of research formats are we talking about?
I think that if we look at a history of ideas such as that of the Bauhaus we quite automatically use the new media, we research in the internet, we delve into online archives and we explore the history by images, films and perhaps film shots. Although we can no longer ask the members of the Bauhaus, we can still speak with families or art collectors or with the inhabitants of houses who can tell us about the work of the artists and architects. In addition, the works themselves have changed during these past one hundred years. They show traces of their appreciation and of the political times which they have survived. Reading these traces is important to me.
Are there still aspects of the historical phenomenon of the Bauhaus which have so far not been discussed?
Yes, certainly. There are many relationships that still need to be explored. Without being able to address the still incomplete history of the works or the persons of the Bauhaus, despite the already available research in Weimar alone, at the site of the beginnings of the Bauhaus, there are interfaces with the predecessor institutions such as the Art School and the Arts and Crafts School under the direction of Henry van de Velde that are extremely interesting, but also the post-history of the Bauhaus in the successor institution, the State High School for Crafts and Architecture under Otto Bartning, and of course also the treatment of the Bauhaus under the National Socialists and in the later architecture schools in Weimar. Similarly one could also look at the pre- and post-history of the Bauhaus in Dessau and Berlin. In the colloquium this year, we will begin with a focus on the year 1919 look again at the early period of the Bauhaus. But we will also concern ourselves with the difficult relationship of the Bauhaus with industry and with its cooperation with economic capitalist interests.
Which area is of special interest to you as a scientist?
I look at, among other things, the history of the exile of architects who had to flee from Germany in 1933. We can see that a lot of research and documentation work still needs to be done in order to present the work of protagonists both in Germany and on the routes of exile.
What are you especially looking forward to in the context of the colloquium?
Naturally, I look forward to meeting speakers whom I otherwise only know from their books or exhibition projects and films. And I am especially looking forward to the exclusive preview of a film from Chicago about László Moholy-Nagy, which will come to the cinemas this year and which will be presented to us by the producer Marquise Stillwell. That will be something special.
Is a special place devoted to the theme of the women of the Bauhaus?
Women will be present in three different ways. First, as speakers. This time, as during the last event in 2016, the colloquium will have a majority of female speakers. The section which is directed by myself will consist entirely of women. This section will also be concerned with women and gender policy at the Bauhaus. I very much look forward to having Elizabeth Otto here who will talk about the Queer Bauhaus and who is currently presenting an exhibition in Erfurt in the Angermuseum on the women at the Bauhaus. Yes, and third, there is feminist theory and epistemology, as a method of reconstructing situated experience and generating knowledge.
You live in Weimar and London. Does one have a different perspective there on the debate in the German feuilleton which has partly complained about the „Über-Bauhaus jubilee“?
Quite honestly, virtually nothing can be heard in London about this debate at the moment because of the continuous Brexit discussion in the media. There was a very beautiful big exhibition of Annie Albers at the Tate Modern which was received enthusiastically by the public. I think people are very interested in the history of the Bauhaus there, especially since so many Bauhaus exiles such as Walter and Ise Gropius, Marcel Breuer, László Moholy-Nagy and Lucia Moholy, Margaret Leischner or Edith Tudor-Hart came to London and partly also stayed in Britain.
A small forecast: What will happen with the Bauhaus after 2019?
I believe that things will really take off after 2019. The many wonderful exhibitions and projects on the occasion of the jubilee show that there are still so many questions regarding the history of the Bauhaus. Archives and private collections perhaps discovered only in the context of these celebrations that they have documents or objects which have so far not been noted or included in the history of the school. And every new discovery also involves new connections and questions which turn history into a dynamic affair. History only becomes relevant for us by our questions, our searches and our curiosity. It is not simply there to be studied. Rather the point is to enrich this history through our questions from the present.
Thank you, Ms. Weizman!
Ines Weizman is the Director of the Centre for Documentary Architecture (CDA). She teaches at the Bauhaus University in Weimar as Professor of Architectural Theory and is the Co-Director of the Bauhaus Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture and Planning. She studied in Weimar, Paris and Cambridge, taught at the Architectural Association, at Goldsmiths College in London, the Berlage Institute of Architecture in Rotterdam and the CASS School of Art and Architecture at London Metropolitan University. In addition to several books she published texts in AA Files, ADD BEYOND, AD Magazine, JAE, Future Anterior, Harvard Design Magazine, Perspecta, Volume, The Routledge Companion to Photography and Visual Culture and The Sage Handbook of Architectural Theory, among others. Her installation »‘Repeat Yourself’: Loos, Law and the Culture of the Copy« was first shown in the Arsenale at the Architectural Biennium of Venice in 2012 and subsequently also at the Architecture Centre in Vienna and at Columbia University, New York. In 2016 she conceived the XIII. International Bauhaus Colloquium under the title »Dust and Data«, which will be featured in a publication in 2019 (Spector Books). She will be the Conference Director again at the XIV. International Bauhaus Colloquium in 2019.
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