“We want to create some Chaos”

Thomas Pearce
Filmstill / Jakob K. – Der Neue Mensch

About K.ollektiv

“K.ollektiv” was founded by the three Hamburger choreographers Heike Bröckerhoff, Moritz Frischkorn and Jonas Woltemate. The architects Mara Kanthak and Thomas Pearce are also part of their collective.

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There was no limit to the imagination: In 1919/1920, numerous architects of the New Architecture movement participated alongside Bruno Taut and Walter Gropius in the so-called “Crystal Chain”. They dreamed of massive urban restructuring and the fantastic, radiant crystalline “city crowns” to come. Who limits the Bauhaus to facts, does not understand the Bauhaus – that's true even 100 years later.

Who the Heck is Jakob K.?

Jakob Klenke or Jakob K. for short, is a dance instructor, artist and activist. We invented him. So far there are two rumoured birth dates for Klenke. It has been ascertained that he was born at the end of the 19th century. As a young man he worked as a choreographer in Paris for a while and was employed as Oskar Schlemmer’s assistant at the Bauhaus in Dessau from 1926 to 1929. Then he taught at the Kunsthochschule (art academy) in Hamburg. Apart from that he’ s pretty evasive. There are no photos. We only know that he looked ascetic, lived as a vegetarian and was a big fan of the outdoors. He constantly went for walks – which he referred to as “frischluftieren”: to celebrate being outside in the fresh air, going for walks while debating about various topics.

Klenke didn’t want to be part of eternity. This proved challenging for us, because K. is also the name of our artistic project. We reconstruct Klenke’s works as well as his kinematics and thus create new knowledge through speculation. The fiction is an invitation for the audience to speculate together with us: What if Klenke had really lived? This works really well: Recently, while teaching Klenke’s gymnastic exercises at a gym during the “Hamburger Architektur Sommer”, a woman told us that Klenke had been corresponding with Sigmund Freud – a piece of information that was completely new to us.

Why are you devoted to the Bauhaus – an institution of art history that is 100 years old?

The Bauhaus is the central place of reference for modern design in the inter-war years. We want to create some chaos. We reconstruct things and dances that actually never existed and thus want to restore the heterogeneity of the Bauhaus.

Unfortunately we are not always successful at this. We would have liked to put a stronger emphasis on the Bauhaus women, who only had a limited area of responsibility. Therefore we were wondering if Jakob K. might have been a woman. But then Walter Gropius would have sent her to the weaving workshop. In order to secretly introduce our invention in different disciplines, the person had to be a man.

We equally want to recall the esoteric physical practices and diets at the Bauhaus: Gymnastics were carried out in the nude, one exposed oneself to the elements and the Bauhauslers were encouraged to eat (raw) onions and garlic. K. takes up these trends and pairs them with an enthusiasm for technology, which he copied from Oskar Schlemmer.

We don’t only want to change the Bauhaus’ historiography, but also critically evaluate the present. For instance when we exhibit K.’s movable devices. This mix between furniture and fitness device should be thought-provoking and let us assess how we deal with technology today.

Filmstill / Der Neue Mensch
Anja Beutler
Filmstill / Der Neue Mensch

You say that Jakob Klenke was a gymnastics teacher at the Bauhaus. What’s the deal about his gymnastics?

Klenke intensively engaged with gymnastics. Why? At the time the prevailing ideal was that the body had to be strengthened in order to depart into a modern life. Yoga, Pilates and gymnastic exercises – primarily from the life reform movement – were also practised at the Bauhaus.

Klenke’s fitness programme combines physical exercises with awareness training. We found journal entries proving that Klenke often walked through the Stadtwald in Dessau (forest park) with coloured glass. He thus wanted to test how his orientation in nature would change. These experiments were also part of his “exercises for the body and mind for everyday use”.

During the “Hamburger Architektur Sommer” there will be the possibility to do Klenke’s gymnastics with 3D glasses. For instance the “three-leaved clover”. This exercise makes the pelvis rotate and looks like Jane Fonda’s aerobic exercise.

We will also set up a food vending machine: colourful fruit and vegetable essences. Klenke was on strict diet, didn’t eat any meat and didn’t smoke or drink.

We would thus like to draw the comparison to the trend of self-optimisation that is currently so omnipresent.

What is your connection to Hamburg? And what is Jakob Klenke’s connection to this city?

Most of us in the collective live and work in Hamburg. One could thus say that Hamburg is the hotspot for research on Klenke. After his time at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Jakob Klenke also felt an urge to go to Hamburg. He had accepted a position as assistant at the Kunsthochschule (art college) am Lerchenfeld. And here in Hamburg he also went on extensive walks and refined this form of movement practice.

The walks are more than just walking around in nature. They’re Klenke’s form of mass choreography. The walks were always group walks, invariably accompanied by intensive conversations with debates on various topics: one’s own perception, or questions of self-optimisation.

What was so special about these walks is that the constellation of the group would constantly change, depending on who happened to be talking. E.g. there is one formation in which the speaker is walking backwards, looking at the group and being directed by the group. If somebody else says something, the whole group needs to re-organise itself. At the “Hamburger Architektur Sommer” you can try out the different formations with us on 09.07.2019 on a group walk in the Wacholderpark.

Performance Jakob K. / Der Neue Mensch
Anja Beutler
Performance Jakob K. / Der Neue Mensch

Jakob K. appears in performative interventions in different locations during the Hamburger Architektur Sommer. Each event has a different colour. Why?

Colour was very important at the Bauhaus. Klenke was particularly interested in colour on an experimental level. He was wondering how colours could help us to orientate ourselves in our surroundings. Klenke experimented with coloured haze in the cellar of the Hamburger Kunsthochschule and built an apparatus with which he could produce gradual colour gradients. I hope that we will still find sketches of this apparatus. Colours are also interesting for Klenke, as they can evoke emotions on a non-verbal level. We’re pretty sure that Klenke would have been a fan of virtual reality.

In reference to K’s concept of colour, the events in Hamburg have different colours. Together these add up to a fragmentary reconstruction of his practice here in the city. For instance the gymnastics class in which we taught K’s physical exercises was indigo. A film contribution is orange. The group walk on 9th July is green. And we conclude with the colour gold for a costume party we’re hosting. The Bauhaus also hosted fantastic costume parties and Jakob K. greatly enjoyed partying. At our party you will even be able to lend costumes. Isn’t that great?

Performance Jakob K. / Der Neue Mensch
Anja Beutler
Performance Jakob K. / Der Neue Mensch

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Thank you for the interview!

 

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