Think of Germany in 1919. A country after WWI, battered and bruised and fuck all broken, trying to bring itself back together. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the opening of Das Bauhaus doesn’t help much.
Opened in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, Das Bauhaus was the epitome of this God awful new wave of modern art that took such a strong hold in the early years of the 20th century. Technically Das Bauhaus was a ‘Schoold of Fine Arts and Crafts’ which is just a pompous way of saying ‘we make tea cozies from strips of old underwear’. They had departments in metal working, wood working, weaving, potter, painting, so on and so forth, which thankfully allowed students a full range of mediums, though if their instructors had any hand in helping to guide their learning it’s hard to say.
Das Bauhaus wasn’t only a school, it acted as a dormitory as well. Imagine every self important ‘free thinking’ highschool artist you have ever known, the kind who dream of a ‘Utopian Society where there are no rules’ and essentially no work or bills to pay. That’s Das Bauhaus. Students lived, slept, ate, worked, socialized within the walls of this school which no doubt only added fuel to the fire when it came to those strange, cultish groupings that art students tend to form.
Now that’s all fine and dandy, but the art that Das Bauhaus produced is, in my humble opinion, laughable. While some products of their students, such as tea kettles with clean lines and light weight steel chairs are commendable and influential, they appear to be more design then art. Theater productions, which were common, consisted of students in robot costumes of primary colors and the most rudimentary shapes lifting their arms and turning right or left in time with God awful music. Das Bauhaus wanted to simplify art down to its very being, which included abstracts of shapes based on how the made them feel (Kandinsky) and mobiles made of paper that look strikingly like vaginas (not uncommon in art, really). All in all, this ‘House of Construction’ served very little purpose, except in helping to design those hand little tea steepers you can now get at Ikea for $3.50.
Das Bauhaus, in theory, could have helped to construct a Utopian society concerned not with the past but with progressing our world to a place of higher understanding, where innovation and the imagination ruled supreme. What they didn’t factor in was the human element; that we cannot forget out past, no matter how much hollow steel tubing or basic blue we use, and that the lack of structure and direction leads to a single carriage being pulled ten different directions by ten different horses.
Plus, Hitler didn’t like them much. There were strong Socialist undertones, not to mention an outspoken Socialist Head Master (Dessau) and these ‘rebellious’ students were never popular with their quiet suburban neighbors. Das Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau to Berlin, three campuses in 14 years, and was finally shut down in 1933 by the Third Reich.
I’m gonna say it, and you’re gonna hate me for it, but the only thing the Nazi Party ever did right was to shut down Das Bauhaus. Sure, they figured out how to build low cost housing (that was ugly as sin) and gave us the model for the first uncomfortable office chair, but a few do-dads in a sea of painfully abstract and vague art hardly constitutes a standing ovation.
In short; Das Bauhaus was a safe and glorified haven for well off liberal bohemes, too ‘special’ to get a real job, who instead spent their days whittling Ikea furniture and painting it in painful primary colors and calling it art.