Camberwell students will be collaborating with Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and other museum’s galleries and foundations this academic year to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the influential German art and design school.

Fine Art students will take part in different activities both inspired by and taken from original lessons at the Bauhaus as part of their study. The project will culminate in a performance and display in Germany at Bauhaus Dessau as part of their centenary celebrations in September 2019 in the Open Stage programme and with an exhibition, conference and performance at Camberwell in October 2019.

Students experiment with paper to create costumes inspired by Xanti Schawinsky's Play Life Illusion during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

Students experiment with paper to create costumes inspired by Xanti Schawinsky’s Play Life Illusion during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

The Bauhaus was a school of design founded in Weimar, Germany in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. Its approach to teaching revolutionised creative and artistic thinking and work in art, design, architecture and theatre all over the world and its influence is still felt today.

Daniel Sturgis, Programme Director of Fine Art at Camberwell said “The opportunity to re-think aspects of the Bauhaus’s pedagogy – and how they can be adapted, questioned or interpreted now – is proving hugely exciting for students and staff at the college. We are really interested in thinking about how the art school relates to its social and political context and how visual literacy is learnt and developed, both ideas which were central to the Bauhaus and its trans-national legacies. Both strands of our enquiry have led us to form new partnerships with different museums, foundations and galleries.”

BA Fine Art Painting students and faculty kicked off the project this term with a series of initial activities inspired by Bauhaus teaching. The first of these saw BA Fine Art Painting students making “kites as paintings”, inspired by the Bauhaus Kite festival which used to take place every October in the early 1920s. Of these events, Felix Klee (son of artist Paul Klee, who was then teaching at the Bauhaus) recalled that “after making the kites, we went to one of the nearby hills, where we flew the abstract constructions in the autumn wind, to the astonishment of the local populace”. Following in these footprints, students took a trip with their completed kites to fly them together on London’s Primrose Hill.

Scenes from Xanti Schawinsky's Play Life Illusion as shown to students during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

Scenes from Xanti Schawinsky’s Play Life Illusion as shown to students during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

Students involved in the Open Stage project have been meeting this term to develop, write and brainstorm their performance which will re-interpret a piece of work by the artist and Bauhaus teacher Xanti Schawinsky. Daniel Sturgis explained: “For the Open Stage project with Bauhaus Dessau students will be reinterpreting scenes from Xanti Schawinsky´s ‘Spectodrama’ Play Life Illusion which was part of the curriculum in Dessau (1925-6) and later at Black Mountain College in America (1936-8). It is an extraordinary multimedia performance that uses the body, mobile paintings, sounds and even readings from the news to form an expressive “lecture”. Students are loving thinking how this might work now and what it would mean to be a contemporary ‘Bauhausler’.”

Staff and students experiment with paper to create costumes inspired by Xanti Schawinsky's Play Life Illusion during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

Staff and students experiment with paper to create costumes inspired by Xanti Schawinsky’s Play Life Illusion during an Open Stage programme workshop at Camberwell in the autumn term.

Working collaboratively with a teaching team from both Camberwell and Bauhaus Dessau whose practice can be seen to intersect in different ways with some of the Bauhaus’ teaching methods and themes, these students will create a performance that embraces ideas of social togetherness, motion and play through exploration of form, space and sound.

More activities, visits and workshops will continue to take place at Camberwell and be documented on this blog across the year.

Find out more about the Bauhaus100 celebrations taking place all over the world next year at bauhaus100.com

To find out more about studying BA Fine Art Painting at Camberwell, visit the course page.

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