The art historian Kristina Lowis is guest curator of the exhibition “New Bauhaus Chicago. Experiment Photography and Film”. She talks to us about the influence of the Institute of Design on contemporary photography and working methods inspired by the Bauhaus.

Portrait Study of György Kepes, 1938 / Photo: Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin © Juliet Stone
Portrait Study of György Kepes, 1938 / Photo: Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin © Juliet Stone

Dr. Kristina Lowis is a freelance art historian. The main focus of her exhibitions, texts and translations is the photography
of the 19th and 20th centuries. Together with col­lection curator Dr. Sibylle Hoiman, she has been preparing the exhibition on photography at the New Bauhaus since June 2016 as a guest curator for the Bauhaus­ Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung in Berlin. On research trips to Chicago, she identified works to be lo­aned from local archives, museums and galleries in order to effectively supplement the objects from the Bauhaus ­Archiv’s own extensive holdings.

Kristina Lowis, László Moholy-Nagy brought his experience as director of the preliminary course at the German Bauhaus with him to Chicago. What did this mean for the programme at the New Bauhaus?

Not only at the New Bauhaus, which existed un­ der that name only from 1937 to 1938, but also at the successor institutions – the School of Design (1939–1944) and the Institute of Design, which still exists today – the preliminary course re­presented the “foundation”, in creative terms, a fundamental reorientation or a tabula rasa, which was obligatory for all students. The unbiased material experience and systematic experimen­tation liberated individual design strategies that, until then, tended in the US to be suppressed by the predominant, classical art academy training.

Compared with the German Bauhaus, photography as a discipline was given a whole new significance at the New Bauhaus from the outset. What infuence did the New Bauhaus, and later the Institute of Design, have on photography?

Especially with regard to photographic training, the “ID”– as the Institute of Design is known for short – has been an attested decisive infuence. The photo programme founded by László Moholy­-Nagy and György Kepes was eminently success­ful and has, since the 1940s, attracted numerous students as well as teachers such as Arthur Siegel, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. To a large degree, the graduates themselves later became teachers who, throughout the US and to this day, have conveyed an experimental, creative photo­graphic practice and influenced generations of photographers.

In 2019 we celebrate 100 years of bauhaus. Does the exhibition also open up a perspective on contemporary photography?

The exhibition devotes a whole section to the question of the continued existence of certain “Bauhaus­inspired” methods of work, thus dra­wing a link to the present. The visitors can trace this with the aid of exemplary positions culled from Chicago’s current photography scene: Is light perceived as independent matter? Is there a curious and creative use of materials? Is Chicago interesting as an urban space? Are the intrinsic qualities of the medium a subject? Are photogra­phers still enthused about serial experiments?

Thank you very much!

[NF 2017, Translation: RW]

 

 

Dr. Kristina Lowis is a freelance art historian. The main focus of her exhibitions, texts and translations is the photography of the 19th and 20th centuries. Together with collection curator Dr. Sibylle Hoiman, she has been preparing the exhibition on photography at the New Bauhaus since June 2016 as a guest curator for the Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung in Berlin. On research trips to Chicago, she identified works to be loaned from local archives, museums and galleries in order to effectively supplement the objects from the Bauhaus-Archiv’s own extensive holdings.