CAMD faculty member Gloria Sutton, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, recently participated in an international symposium honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Bauhaus, a school of art and design that was active for only fourteen years but is known to have had a lasting impact on modernist art. In fact, some have argued that the Bauhaus was the single most influential school of art, architecture and design in the 20th century, with its approach to teaching – and to the relationship between art, society, and technology – having a major impact both in Europe and in the United States long after its closure under Nazi pressure in 1933. The event, entitled political imaginista and held at the Haus der Kulteren der Welt in Berlin, focuses on strategies of resistance against the new right, raising questions about internationalism and cultural appropriation, as well as ways of politicizing art, technology, and popular culture. political imaginista stems from a larger multi-institutional event of global scale, bauhaus imaginista, which consists of a major exhibition along with several conferences and research workshops that transpired in Rabat, Hangzhou, New York, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Lagos, and Delhi. This year, in addition to Professor Sutton, other participants in potlitcal imaginista include globally recognized artists and scholars: Kader Attia, Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan, Rustom Bharucha, John Blakinger, Beatriz Colomina, Alice Creischer, Iris Dressler, Kodwo Eshun, Thomas Flierl, Christian Hiller, Nataša Ilić, Susanne Leeb, Sebastian de Line, Doreen Mende, Wendelien van Oldenborgh, David Riff, Mariko Takagi, and Paulo Tavares.
“The concept of interdisciplinary work, which is essential to CAMD and which still forms the cornerstone for most current art and design departments in universities, was first introduced through the bauhaus. The lessons of the bauhaus extend beyond pedagogy, and the exhibition and symposium in Berlin, bauhaus imaginista, is an attempt to foreground urgent questions for cultural production today which I think has deep resonance with CAMD,” said Professor Gloria Sutton. “For example, how can we imagine the necessary shift from ‘thinking globally’ to being relevant for different cultural contexts? What is gained by thinking and acting across the divide between art and design? How can we make these insights work for art and design institutions today? Or, do we need to imagine new institutional infrastructures? Importantly, operating under political duress and extremism in the 1930s, the bauhaus also offers lessons about the stakes for cultural production in the face of political challenges.“
Rather than extolling the legendary history of the school, the symposium and Professor Sutton’s work focuses on rereading the Bauhaus as a cosmopolitan project with global resonances. Specifically, Professor Sutton was asked to speak about her scholarship on Stan VanDerBeek, an American artist who followed the path of Bauhaus artists before him. Titled Art and technology, Art by technology or Art for technology, Sutton’s work explores how VanDerBeek advanced the concept that art is central to a democratic society and how he questioned art’s ethical mandate to consider how people absorb the world around them. Sutton also investigates VanDerBeek’s intention to combine the essences of painting, film, photography, dance, television, and computer programming to explore how art moves under technological and digital pressures. In addition to speaking at this symposium, which took place on March 16, Sutton also contributed to the publishing branch of the event.
“For me, what’s exciting about participating is that the bauhaus was an ambitious attempt to fully integrate aesthetic disciplines — art, design, architecture – with all aspects of society including urban planning, education, transportation, communication, health, and really all facets of modern life,” Sutton explained. “Essentially shuttered by the Third Reich and the Nazi regime in 1933, many of the faculty became refugees and extended the ethos of the Bauhaus globally. I organized a symposium at Northeastern in 2015, about the Black Mountain College exhibition, which, in conjunction with the ICA, examined the impact of the school that opened in 1933, after the Bauhaus closed. Black Mountain College was essentially Bauhaus in America.”
Professor Gloria Sutton is affiliated with Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern, is a faculty advisor for Art History and Visual Studies, and also holds a position on the Executive Committee for the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. Congratulations on this meaningful speaking engagement.
Recorded audio from the March 16th symposium can be found here.