The Bauhaus as the end of art as a humanizing activity. Not even the marker of Benjamin’s messianic nihilism. Just the nihilism of barbarous anonymity. A lifeless black hole. Maybe, ultimately, Bauhaus is so anti-kitsch it is kitsch. Is the Bauhaus utopia part of the road to fascism. It does have much in common with Italian futurism; the identical nightmare of rational, well-regulated and orderly aesthetics leading to a stultifying conformist society. The Bauhaus planned community was an attempt to bring traditional community and modernism to some kind of denouement though lifelessness was the end result. But, the notion behind the spirit, the zeitgeist, the esthetic fundamentals were very much in the realm of national socialism as Kuspit argues. Its a brilliant theory…..
In looking at the old film footage, the Riefenstahl extracts, the Hitler voice, half the shout of command, half the howl of mania followed by the wave upon wave of massed voices. the face of an enigma, how the commonplace and almost vulgar can come to represent- no not talking about Duchamps and his ready-made here, but the same idea- …the German were always brisk in taking actions against inferiors, in the spirit of Jung was Bahaus also a “psychic epidemic.” , a madness, symptoms of a widespread disease, an intellectual virus increased by interbreeding and mutation. Maybe that is extreme, but, the Bauhaus prescription spelled no organic connection to the past, an aesthetic equivalent of Hitler’s scorched earth policy and the nihilistic undertone of Duchamp’s dadaism. And those model city designs somehow ended up as camps in the Gulag or in Hitler’s colonized east. Functional aesthetics and a madman as art director; and being becomes a matter of functionalism.
Kuspit:No doubt every society has its defects — often conspicuous — but the defects of a Bauhaus-designed society are more subtle. The precision-obsessed Bauhaus attempted to plan the lifeworld rather than take it on its own imprecise organic terms: the planned community — an invented community, whose artificiality makes it somewhat less than cozily communal — is the Bauhaus utopia. It is the ironical realization of the Bauhaus dream of a rational, well-regulated, hyper-orderly (Germanic?) society, in which everyone fits in — a stifling conformist society in which even the self-expressive, uninhibited nonconformist has his or her built-in, foreordained place (that of a clown?). …
…(A planned community is a pseudo-community, a nominally social space in which everyone is an obedient, well-oiled robot, a nominal human being programmed by instrumental reason. At least in public; in private the robot may come apart — regress to a shabby humanity — although the Bauhaus, like the feminists whose motto is “the private is the political,” wanted to collapse the difference — erase the boundary — between the public and the private. This is partly why today the private eagerly becomes public, and why they are readily confused, as “reality television” and so-called social networking — much of it seems anti-social — show. They standardize the psychosocial just as the Bauhaus standardized art, each reducing content, be it human or esthetic, to a pro forma ritual.)…
…This desubjectification of art — correlate with its over-objectification — is exactly where the Bauhaus and the Nazis make common cause. Both regarded Expressionism and Surrealism as “degenerate.” Both sought to exterminate “low,” “fuzzy,” “surreal” subjective expression and replace it with “high-minded,” “crisp,” “real” objective art (pure, self-sufficient form not obscured by evocative decorative ornament for the Bauhaus) — self-righteously “perfect” art bespeaking an industrial idealism. Both wanted to create ideal societies. Both were ruthlessly utopian and inbred — the Bauhaus wanted an inbred art, the Nazis wanted an inbred society — forms and Aryans incestuously breeding in eugenic pursuit of an imagined pure, perfectly formed breed of art and human being. Both expected technology to do the eugenic work, as though technology would guarantee the ideal and absolutely pure and was ideal and pure in itself. The Bauhaus ideal of pure, well-managed art and the Nazi ideal of pure, well-managed Aryan society were curiously correlate however ostensibly at odds. After all, the Nazis were great advocates of industrialism, and also had a totalitarian ideology. Just as the Bauhaus wanted a one-dimensional art — totalized and stereotyped art as exclusively geometrical, with whatever pseudo-expressive variations bringing the geometry to quasi-life, like a robot going through the motions of dancing — so the Nazis wanted a one-dimensional society, that is, a society in which there was only one kind of “authentic” human being. …
In short, the Bauhaus pursuit of purity in art is peculiarly similar to the Nazi pursuit of purity in society. Both pursued technological purity for its own sake, imposing it on rather than integrating it into everyday life. For the Bauhaus, Expressionist and Surrealist art were the “impure” art of Untermenschen (social misfits, at the least, that is, those who “by nature” cannot fit into society, who are flaws in its imagined perfection). In contrast pure Bauhaus art was the art of robotic Übermenschen, that is, machine-perfected human beings (look at the half-abstract, half-human figures in Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet (ca. 1921-23) — performing zombies? — and his completely Abstract Figure (1923). Just as the Nazis believed they were a master race — superior to other human beings and thus entitled to dominate and rule them — so the Bauhaus artists thought they were a master race of artists, and as such superior to other artists, which gave them the right to rule art. Of course both wanted to rule in the service of society — that is, to engineer it into mechanical perfection and exterminate the misfits and Untermenschen Expressionists and Surrealists, or at least keep them out of the mechanical paradise.
Until recently, very limited research was carried out on the activities of the school’s graduates and teachers during the Third Reich. The revelations about Ehrlich only bolster the idea that the institution’s heritage is much more complex than what is familiar to Israelis, such as Tel Aviv’s architecture. Attractive furniture, anarchistic masks and costumes, bold graphics and innovative architecture are only one chapter in the creative oeuvre of Bauhaus alumni.
On January 1, 1972, the “Vienna Auschwitz trial” began in which two high-ranking architects, Walter Dejaco and Fritz Ertl, were in the dock. The two men had planned Auschwitz-Birkenau, where up to around 1.5 million Jews were murdered. Ertl, scion of a well-known family of architects, was a Bauhaus graduate who was drafted into the military arm of the SS in 1939. Two years later he was assigned to the construction bureau at Auschwitz, where he oversaw the camp’s expansion. He planned the gas chambers that were labeled in the blueprints as “showers for special needs.”…
…Prof. Robert Jan van Pelt, a historian at the school of architecture at Ontario’s University of Waterloo, is a leading scholar on Auschwitz. He followed the trial and says it was Ertl who signed off on all the construction plans and who admitted in court that he was the death camp’s architect.
“Ertl claimed that he’d tried a few times to avoid the work assigned to him, and I believe him when he says he was disturbed by the acts of the SS,” Van Pelt says. “During the trial he claimed he was anti-Nazi, and he seized on the Bauhaus’ democratic image. He told the judges he was a progressive person but was forced to keep bad company.”…
…A few years after the trial, in which Ertl was acquitted, it was revealed that he had been present in 1942 when the Nazis decided to build the crematoria and gas chambers intended for Jews.
…Van Pelt’s research turned up another fact linking Auschwitz and Bauhaus. Ertl was one of the most enthusiastic students of the architect Ludwig Karl Hilberseimer, who was known for his progressive ideas on urban planning. Some of his trademark principles are easily discernible in the Auschwitz plans.
The metamorphosis of modernist, enlightened ideas from Bauhaus to the Third Reich is also evident in construction methods. The book of construction guidelines and regulations written by Ernst Neufert, another graduate of the institution, had a powerful influence on the Nazis. The book is still on the shelves of nearly every architectural office in the world.
“If you study the monumental and symbolic Nazi architecture, you see that it is absolutely opposed … to the language of Bauhaus,” says van Pelt. “But in terms of the management and industrialization of construction, it drew a lot of inspiration from Bauhaus. Neufert is the bridge that links the 1920s with the Nazis …. The dimensions of the prisoner barracks, for instance, were set based on Neufert’s dimensions. Bauhaus ideas eventually became a significant tool for the Nazis.”
New revelations notwithstanding, there is a big gap between Bauhaus’ progressive ideas and Nazi theory. The school was maltreated by the Nazis and closed in 1933. Sixty-one of its students and instructors were arrested or imprisoned. Several of them, including textile artist Otti Berger, died at Auschwitz.
How should history deal with the school’s graduates who collaborated with the Nazis? “There is an opportunism here in which they did not care who was heading the regime, as long as they were allowed to work,” says Prof. David Bankier, head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem.
“You have examples of this in every field, such as the conductor Herbert von Karajan. After the war, they found a word for these people: Mitlaufer. This was someone who collaborated not out of wholehearted belief in ideology. Of course, there were also those who worked with the Nazis under threat, or who did so for professional advancement.”
Brau says Ehrlich “did not have to be an architect in the service of the SS. Apparently, this was a great dilemma for him.” She insists there’s a difference between Bauhaus and its clean image. “In the end, only 16 of 1,400 students were persecuted,” she says. “Bauhaus was not part of the resistance movements. I think you could even cautiously say that it could have continued to exist in one form or another under Nazi rule.” Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/members-of-the-bauhaus-movement-cooperated-with-the-nazis-too-1.261332
Van der Rohe of course famous for his Chicago skyscraper designs (he co-designed Seagram’s); Gropius for his housing projects in Berlin, Karlsruhe and Dessau; Le Corbusier for his “scorch and burn” approach to architecture. Le Corbusier once described New York as hideous. In “The Architect as Totalitarian,” writer Theodore Dalrymple, states that Le Corbusier willingly served both Stalin and Vichy. “He wanted to start from Year Zero: ‘Before me, nothing; after me, everything.’ By their very presence, the raw-concrete-clad rectangular towers that obsessed him cancelled out centuries of architecture. Hardly any town or city in Britain (to take just one nation) has not had its composition wrecked by architects and planners inspired by his ideas.”
Harsh words indeed, but how could it be otherwise for an egomaniac who dreamt of “cleaning and purging cities,” and who wanted to level Paris, Oslo, Moscow, Berlin, Algiers, and Buenos Aires? Read More:http://thomnickels.blogspot.com/2010/02/moma-bauhaus-from-icon-magazine.html
…This thought led to the creation of row houses, and whole districts of buildings where there was a social need, a Utopian model city concept that in the end produced ultiliarian structures one can almost describe as Stalinesque or pre-fascistic. Again: Bauhaus as the pre-cursor the architectural style of the National Socialists or the Nazis, despite the fact that the Nazis termed Bauhaus architecture as “degenerate and un-German.” … ibid.