Remembering Weimar (2021)
2019 marks the centennial of the Bauhaus and of the first German democratic republic, both famously established in the same rather provincial city. The considerable nostalgia for the cultural products of the Weimar Republic, for which the Bauhaus has come to stand, has rightly never been matched by a desire to return to Germany’s tragically ineffective attempt between 1919 and 1933 to establish a stable middle ground between imperialism and communism. Because their coolly machined abstraction has so often since seemed universal, the Bauhaus building in Dessau and the most celebrated products created in the school’s workshops in the course of its final decade obscure the degree to which these exciting experiments were inextricably intertwined with political conditions that were and remain literally terrifying. What now appears as reassuringly classic modernism was originally indivisible from the same instability captured by the artists Max Beckmann, Otto Dix George Grosz, and the opportunities opened up briefly for the architect Erich Mendelsohn. Their metropolitan art and architecture otherwise kept them at a considerable remove from the Bauhaus, at least until the school was briefly based in Berlin before finally closing months after the Nazis came to power.
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