“Bauhaus Is Still Putting Us on the Right Track”
Bettina Wagner-Bergelt on the Opening Festival
Bettina Wagner-Bergelt (Munich) is artistic director of the opening festival of 100 years of bauhaus. Until 2017 she was head of dramaturgy and deputy director at the Bayerisches Staatsballett, and she has curated various festivals and exhibitions.
Concerts, installations, theater, dance, discourse, workshops and a club: The nine-day festival under the artistic direction of Bettina Wagner-Bergelt offers new encounters with the Bauhaus stage in a variety of formats. It aims to bridge the gap between the outstanding historical credentials of the Bauhaus and today's avant-garde and the traces and impulses that the Bauhaus has carried into contemporary art. We talked to her about modern Bauhauslers and the (ostensible) contradiction between sensuality and rationality.
Ms. Wagner-Bergelt, what criteria are used to select the contributors to an opening festival for 100 years of bauhaus?
The unbelievable artistic potency, the open-endedness of the teaching concept, the pleasure in collectively researching and experimenting with material and form, the international opening of the school and everyone’s hopes for attaining new impulses and conquering new horizons in this way, the mutual respect, and the conviction that art and design can change the world for the better: That was a very daring and radical concept. I’m interested in this radical attitude towards art as a communicative and interactive act, towards the creation of art intended to exert an influence within society, towards a coexistence that is to become more humane through
art and our occupation with it. The questions of the Bauhaus – what is a body, how does it define itself, how historically determined is it, how does it operate on the stage – are obviously also relevant for today’s protagonists. I therefore invited artists (established artists as well as many young newcomers) who are dedicating their attention to themes or performative forms in which I recognize fundamental lines of inquiry and positions of Bauhaus artists – works that emanate the spirit of this freedom, experimenta- tion, togetherness, openness and democracy and simultaneously display this formal will. My aim is that the festival will become an intelligent and stimulating journey among artistic working methods and performances, that aesthetic process will become visible, that exciting results can be seen, but that fragments, rudimentary concepts and experimental arrangements will also be accepted. People should become aware that the di erent techniques developed by members of the Bauhaus – and also their approach – have not become antiquated, but instead put us on the right track, precisely in the present political situation.
Do you have a few names for us of people who triggered this recognition in you?
I think Bob Wilson has realized a lot of this in his magnificent theatrical work, without making explicit reference to the Bauhaus as far as I know. Or take Richard Siegal: In his work Ballet of Difference, he programmatically realizes an intercultural approach in which the way of working in a group, the nonhierarchical interaction of its members, make the curiosity and respect of the political utopia of egalitarian choreographic research a reality. A deep humanity. Take the pianist Michael Wollny: Jazz is a musical genre in which the Bauhaus ensemble itself engaged withwonderful dilettantism, but which is also defined by the principle of improvisation, in which what has been learned is combined in new ways. The more creative the musician, the more fantastic the compositions that emerge in the moment of making music, whether alone or additionally spurred on through the impulses of other players.
There is, of course, the cliché of the rational and predominantly unemotional Bauhaus. Now you’re opening the Bauhaus year with a celebration of sensuality. Is this contradiction intentional?
Of course, looking at the architecture or the Bauhaus Stairway by Schlemmer, it’s possible to initially think of coolness, but he was interested in the essence of the human in the form. And there were festivals and celebrations, the pleasure found in discovering, exploring together. Schlemmer must have had a sense of humor, and sensuality, when he appeared in the wonderful, boldly colorful, indeed, sensual costumes of the Triadic Ballet. After all, what drove him was investing the stylized universal form with a soul through human beings.
The Bauhaus stage formed, so to speak, the physical center of the Dessau Bauhaus. What role does the site of your festival, the Akademie der Künste building on Hanseatenweg, play in terms of a space?
The architecture of the academy is very important. I love this place, be- cause it’s special and many-faceted and makes it possible for visitors to wander from one exhibition gallery to the next, from audio theater to an installation to a concert, from one space to the next and then onto the stage or into the club. It is an intimate space. The best thing would be to come every day and immerse oneself in this organism.
How do you connect your work with the other areas of activity that played a role at the Bauhaus, such as architecture, design or visual art?
Today, many artists work with every means available to them. Just like it happened at the Bauhaus. There is no longer any boundary between the art forms and not between art and scholarship either. In concrete terms: There are three thematic exhibition galleries. A three-part installation will take place in one of them: a virtual part, an audio production and an exhibition of materials – the figurines by Oskar Schlemmer dressed inside out, so to speak, thus granting visitors a look inside their inner life for the first time. There is also a gallery of installations and one of games. And here, there will also be formats in which the audience can participate: Signalraum, for example. Here the musicians/performers/researchers work with “one-of-a-kind” pieces, using instruments built by themselves to try out new performative forms in interaction with their audience. Or the blind dates: Which aesthetic experiences are we actually having? Are they changing our lives and, if yes, how? The answers will in turn become the material for a performance.
The Bauhaus stage was not just a venue for performances, but also a regular workshop. Does this ambiguity play a role during the opening festival?
There is no stage workshop, because today performance works a great deal with technology, electronics and projection and less with constructed sets or props. However, in Signalraum/Best Practice, for example, the workshop character is a theme. There we meet artists who personally build everything they use.This format creates itself, so to speak, during the performance – through the artists and the audience.
What stage does education need?
Very, very little “Bologna” and lots of Bauhaus! With all its passion, courage and adventurousness and this open-ended thinking. After all, learning means asking: What does the world cost and how do we really get it right?
Bettina, thank you for the interview!
This article was originally published in the third issue of the “bauhaus now” magazine.
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