Pressemitteilung vom 08.01.2019

How political is the Bauhaus?

How political is the Bauhaus?
Talks, artistic interventions
Jan 19, 2019, 2–9.30 pm
Free admission
Simultaneous translation German, English

Press accreditation requested:

The Bauhaus emerged from a crisis-ridden time that exhibits parallels to the present-day situation. Again the autonomy of art is in question; again attempts are being made to bind culture to nation and ethnicity. What strategies did right-wing powers use back then? And how did the Bauhaus behave in the face of these attacks? To kick-off the centenary year, the event picks up key questions about the Bauhaus – from educating society to the housing question to internationalization. What can institutions under attack from the right today learn from them?

Activists, experts, artists, and the audience will have their say on these questions.


Part 1, Introduction/ Education of Society: 2–3.30 pm

Welcoming address: Klaus Lederer, Senator for Culture and Europe, Berlin
Introduction: Bernd Scherer, Director HKW; Christian Hiller, Anh-Linh Ngo, ARCH+

Lecture: Marion von Osten, curator bauhaus imaginista
Double lecture: Mark Wigley, Columbia University; Beatriz Colomina, Princeton University
Presentation: Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, Dorothee Halbrock, raumlabor

Part 2, Urban development: 4–5.30 pm

Lecture: Philipp Oswalt, Universität Kassel
Discussion: Gisela Mackenroth, PODESTA research project (Populismus|Demokratie|Stadt); Stefan Rettich, Universität Kassel, KARO*architekten; Ulrike Hamann, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Kotti & Co; Jesko Fezer, Kooperative für Darstellungspolitik
Moderator: Thomas Flierl, architectural historian

Part 3, Emancipation / Internationalization: 6–7.15 pm

Lecture: Arjun Appadurai, New York University
Conversation: Theresia Enzensberger, author; Regina Bittner, director, Academy of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Part 4, Political Role of Cultural Institutions: 7.30–9.30 pm

Introduction: Justus H. Ulbricht, historian
Discussion: Bianca Klose, Mobile Beratung gegen Rechtsextremismus; Ayşe Güleç, activist researcher and art mediator; Joy Kristin Kalu, Die Vielen; Jacobus North, Feine Sahne Fischfilet; Schroeter and Berger, Besorgte Bauhäusler*innen
Moderator: Özcan Karadeniz, Verband binationaler Partnerschaften Leipzig

Open discussion between audience and speakers

A cooperation of Haus der Kulturen der Welt and ARCH+, curated by Bernd Scherer, Christian Hiller, Anh-Linh Ngo. Part of the opening festival 100 jahre bauhaus. Supported by the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. Haus der Kulturen der Welt is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as well as by the Federal Foreign Office.

How political is the Bauhaus?

The First World War, the November Revolution and the founding of the Weimar Republic, industrialization, urbanization, the emergence of the mass media and the global economic crisis brought profound social upheaval in their wake. The Bauhaus and the classical avant-garde claimed that design was able to positively change society. With the rise of the Bauhaus as a global brand, parts of its political content were lost. At the same time, the image of its radicalism and progressiveness is itself a myth, the result of self- and outside stylization. Therefore, to speak of its possible relevance in the year of its centenary requires a critical examination of the Bauhaus heritage: How revolutionary was the Bauhaus? To what degree was it political? Have its promises been fulfilled? What can today’s institutions learn from the history of the Bauhaus? How can they contribute to creating and securing new spaces for public and democratic participation?

Educational Theory / Education of Society

The political moment of the Bauhaus was expressed not least in its understanding of a new educational theory of social reform. The deliberate design of the architectural as well as the media environment should serve the creation of a new human, who should be enabled to find their way in a reality that is changing rapidly due to mass media and urbanization and to act with self-determination. In addition to emancipative education of the people as democratic subjects, the means of communication developed at the Bauhaus also served its own marketing.
Can the revolutionary approaches of the Bauhaus be made effective again? Can or should design be employed again today as a means of educating society?

Housing Question / Urban Development

Financially and politically under pressure from the right-wing Thuringian government, in 1925 the Bauhaus decided to relocate from Weimar to Dessau. The invitation by the Social Democrat-led Dessau city government also was linked with hopes that the Bauhaus would provide solutions to the housing crisis. The Social Democrats increasingly withdrew their support from the Bauhaus when this expectation was not fulfilled. Gropius’s workers’ housing settlement in Dessau-Törten, which offered comparatively high standards but failed to provide cheap housing for the masses, was symptomatic of this. How can housing and urban policies counteract the segregation of society? How can actual participation in urban development be made possible, contrary to populist claims?

Emancipation / Internationalization

The Bauhaus combined the hope of an emancipative model of society in which internationalism would replace nationalism and old hierarchies would give way to fairer class and gender relations. Unlike many other art academies of its time, the Bauhaus allowed women to attend classes, but for most of them this was restricted to the textiles class; they were largely excluded from the rest of the curriculum. It seems more urgent than ever that we focus on the internal contradictions of the Bauhaus in order to overcome traditional patterns of thought and to promote genuine emancipation and equality.

Political Role of Cultural Institutions

From its founding, the Bauhaus was the target of nationalist, conservative and Nazi attacks, which ultimately led to the closure of the Bauhaus, the persecution and even to the exile and death of many of its members. How can artists and institutions position themselves when the right turns against them demanding political neutrality? How can cultural institutions facilitate access for previously excluded population groups in order to secure themselves as spaces for the democratic negotiation of the many? What new alliances are necessary for this? Can they act as mediators without becoming the instrument of right-wing propaganda or contributing to the normalization of their positions?

Comprehensive texts available at:


Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Anne Maier

Leitung Presse/Pressesprecherin

John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10

10557 Berlin

030.39787 153/196