From cultural to national unity
An exhibition under discussion
Sat, 1 December 2018
“Weit ist der Weg zur Normalität” (It’s a long way to normality) was the title of a review that appeared in the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in 1988, a year before the reunification of Germany. The article discussed the exhibition Experiment Bauhaus of the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin (in West Germany), which was shown in the Bauhaus Dessau (in East Germany). But the review was dominated not by the show’s 340 exhibits, but by its political relevance: as a “symbol of the cultural commonalities of the two German states” and as a contribution to “the development of normal neighbourly relations”.
The Bauhaus exhibition harked back to the 1986 agreement on cultural exchange between the two German federated entities, and was a fixed part of this agreement. Had the Bauhaus already become a symbol of Germany’s cultural unity before the fall of the Berlin Wall? In 1986 the Bauhaus Dessau was re-established as a “Zentrum für Gestaltung” (Centre of design). In addition to events on urban planning and design, with its stage it provided a platform for the alternative arts scene in the GDR. Many artists gave their final performances here before being banned. And although this East German avant-garde played no role in the official announcements of the GDR’s representatives, many thousands of visitors are likely to have associated Experiment Bauhaus with not only historic exhibits, but also those cultural and political experiments that the contemporary context provoked.
In 2018 this exhibition, which was so significant as regards the German-German reception of the Bauhaus, lies 30 years behind us – long enough ago to discuss this experiment with the protagonists, eyewitnesses and visitors of the day. Shortly before the centenary of the Bauhaus in 2019, the discussion will provide an opportunity to reflect on the various expectations and hopes associated with the Bauhaus in a reunified Germany.
Dr. Peter Hahn, former director of the Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin
Prof. Rolf Kuhn, former director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
Dr. Regina Bittner, Head of Academy and Deputy Director