Female Futures50 Years after 50 Years of the BauhausWürttembergischer Kunstverein StuttgartMay 4—September 23 2018
The installation explores currents of thought and practice—from 1918 to 2018 by way of 1968—that have produced alternative futures through a feminist perspective: architectural projections and speculations, utopian ideas and visions are introduced and discussed in a moment of political and social regression. Reacting to the ideological implications and effects of modernism, these works produce concepts for new material, social, political and aesthetic spaces.
If a short text by Walter Benjamin introduces the destructive character (1931) as the (modern) activity of clearing away, of making room—in need for fresh air and open space—it seems to read back a Bauhaus program. Through complete reduction, thereby deleting the traces of its age and rooting out of its own condition, the destructive character obtains the potential for a new beginning. The zero point, a tabula rasa of form, allowed the Bauhaus to start anew, to produce neutral, ultimately cleared spaces that could even impede leaving traces, as Benjamin noted in reference to glass architecture.
Once combined with a (structural) grid, glass architecture could actually deliver fresh air and open space—at any scale, be it furniture, a pavilion, school, skyscraper, or a city. The generic and radically rational nature implied in the grid system with glass surface is explored by Ludwig Hilberseimer’s project for a Hochhausstadt(1924) organizing a city of three million inhabitants upon a calculation of one square window per person. In 1933, when the Gestapo accused the German architect and planner as “problematically left-wing”, Hilberseimer emigrated to the U.S. where he started teaching in collaboration with Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Simultaneously, Walter Gropius was heading the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge. Both became those heroic figures, made in the U.S., that allowed for the consolidation (commodification)of Bauhaus modernism and its reimport to Europe.
From the U.S. Bauhausreturned not just as a style, a new tradition that allowed for the identification with a free and democratic, capitalist West against a Communist East. Bauhausalso signified a spatial matrix of recycled military technologies through which expanding capitalism could advance globally after the Second World War. Thus, it helped shaping a techno-political postwar space that was paradoxically exposed to the threat of complete destruction through a new global war.
During this cold war period, British architects Alison and Peter Smithson conceived of a House of the Future(1956) as a plastic vision and an air raid shelter at the same time. The vision of American artist and inventor Frances Gabe’s for a self-cleaning house(1979-2007) referred to the modernist design of the Frankfurter Küche(1926) by architect and communist activist Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, as a feminist appropriation of technology that even earned its inventor a patent.
If the 1968 Bauhaus exhibition at the WKV just ignored the neo-avant-garde movements in order to maintain a unified version of classical modernism, it actively excluded architecture as a mode of social and political engagement with a feminist agenda. Therefore, the installation aims at making room for a fragmentary collection and production of videos, plans, images, and models of feminist visions to fill some of the gaps and exclusions.