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The International Bauhaus Colloquium is one of the oldest and renowned conferences on questions of theory and history of architecture. The Colloquium was first held in Weimar in 1976 to celebrate the restoration of the derelict Bauhaus building in Dessau and discuss the legacy of the school, and was staged every three or four years thereafter. The invitation of international guests to the GDR (East Germany) marked not only the relative openness of the start of the meltdown years of the Soviet bloc but also an important shift in the reception of Bauhaus history, a legacy previously ignored in East Germany as too individualistic. Each of the meetings in Weimar brought together scholars, theorists, artists, architects and former students from both the East and the West. Given the political climate, presentations necessarily tested the limits of political speech and laid the foundation for an imagined, and indeed fragmented, collection constrained by geopolitical and ideological divisions. The discussion was conditioned by the different ideological positions and offered divergent readings of the school in a conference room that has become one of the heated, if tamed, arenas for Cold-War encounter. It was only when the Iron Curtain was fully drawn aside that a set of historical black boxes, locked up in state and private archives, was opened, allowing for new light to be shed on the period and the ideological colouring of the divergent stories. The conference has become one of the most important institutional events in the international academic landscape – an important site of academic experimentation and reflection upon not only the history of the Bauhaus but also that of modernism, within which it is situated.
XIII. Internationales Bauhaus-Kolloquium
Dust and Data
26–29 October 2016
In 2016 the 13th International Bauhaus-Colloqium at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar will be titled “Dust and Data”. It will reflect both on the almost hundred year old history of the Bauhaus at it original sites Weimar, Dessau and Berlin, but also at the history of its international reception and migration. Because the unique history of the conference has made it a historiographical laboratory of sorts, a barometer of shifting political landscapes, the 2016 iteration, 40 years after the original event, will celebrate this legacy by examining both architectural history and historical methods in order to address contemporary political transformations. It is in this way that the 13th International Bauhaus Colloquium, together with the Young Bauhaus Research Colloquium that invited internationally for contributions through a Call for Paper, intends to set the scene for the centenary of the Bauhaus in 2019. Internationally renowned architects, artists, historians, theoreticians, media theorists and researchers will present new projects and methods of their praxis in the thematic sections objects, archive, migration and data.
Conference theme “Dust and Data”
Contemporary cultural theory has recently begun problematizing the very tools of history and thus our ability to comprehend and present the meanings of events unfolding around us. So-called object-oriented ontologies aimed to reframe the question of the object, and thus its place in history and in contemporary events. Possessing their own agency, their materiality considered animated and vibrant, objects started claiming their place alongside subjects and textual production in the making of historical relations. What bearing does this have upon architecture? While on the one hand objects – and thus also buildings – seem to ooze with agentic power and vibrant materiality, on the other hand they are undone and dematerialized into codes and algorithms, invisible infrastructures, networks and databases. The contemporary challenge of historical research is simultaneously concerned with addressing the materiality of the object and with establishing networks of relations, connections and patterns between them.
This latter development might be able to help plot a complex circuit of circulations, migrations and forms of connections otherwise invisible to architectural history. Furthermore, the history of the Bauhaus is indeed a history of migration: its architects, artists, documents, objects, and of course its ideas, have splintered across a fragmented world, leading to disputes and sometimes to legal challenges concerning authenticity, physical and intellectual ownership, and copyright. Some of the protagonists of the Bauhaus-founded schools, in both the East and the West, that were dissident either politically or to professional orthodoxies – from the Chicago Bauhaus and Black Mountain College to the continuations of the school in the Ural, Africa, Latin America or in Ulm – provided spaces of free thinking and imagination.
Just as in the Bauhaus and post-Bauhaus years, architecture is again entangled in geo-political transformations on a global stage. Refugees are arriving in Europe in numbers not seen since the end of WWII, demanding that we rethink identity, the city and housing. From a different perspective, the entangled crisis of conflict and climate change means that traditional modes of inhabitation need to be rethought and questions of preservation take on more than just historical meaning.
Under the theme Objects we will explore the recent challenges of architectural research to approach and capture the objects of its history through practices of critical material analysis employed in restoration and conservation. How have new surveying and reproduction techniques challenged traditional processes of reproduction? What questions do they raise in relation to authenticity, fakeness, authorship, copyright and copy-left?
The thematic section Archive will be assembled to discuss both old and new critical archival practices in architectural history. Topics such as physical and digital storage, classification and collection will be examined as ways to rewrite and reconsider historical narratives and the spaces that bring them into being. We will ask how changes in the documents that compose architecture – from physical photographs, documents, drawings, models and letters to digital production – challenge classification, collections and curatorial practices.
The section entitled Migration will debate new historiographical approaches towards narrating the histories of modernism and their various afterlives. While we will discuss the story of the Bauhaus and its historiographies, we will also look at the migration of international modernism and in particular its entanglement with colonial history. How can we capture colonial modernism’s own complex and circuitous paths? The question might be most urgent in the Middle East – where a legacy of modernism has only just begun to be explored, but has become vulnerable to decay, neglect and most dramatically to destruction through war and wilful demolitions.
Within the section entitled Data we will assemble papers that open architecture, urbanism and infrastructure onto the challenges of data; that is, the dematerialization of the architectural object into networks and larger environments. The section will encapsulate topics such as migration (of people) and circulation (of objects) in space, as well as the calculation and prediction of change across larger environments. Could tools of data analysis and even big-data, born in the research and development labs of western militaries and financial institutions, be subverted to be critically employed to help provide the historian with tools to comprehend, compose and recompose the relation between architecture and history? What Faustian pacts, dangers and complicities are involved in adopting such methods? And how can we assess the potential entanglements of humans, digital databases and machines?This conference will place Bauhaus culture within a contemporary global discussion on the most urgent questions of architecture and other disciplines. Following the interdisciplinary tradition of the Bauhaus – which fostered extreme juxtapositions of material production, design and avant-garde performances – the conference will juxtapose with presentations by international scholars, architects and artists with performance lecturers. The conference will thus simultaneously become the site of scholarly production, artistic experimentation and the exposition of architectural innovation. It will deal with the most current and burning issues facing the world today and the responsibility of the architect and the designer in the face of global politics, a position held by the Bauhaus in the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic.
The conference language will be German and English.