Bauhaus Open Studios – Teaching Models
The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO) carried out a joint project for teachers of creative disciplines as part of the Year of Germany in Russia. The main goal of the project was to popularise unique educational methods of two legendary design schools: the German Bauhaus and the Soviet VKHUTEMAS. The project was also aimed at strengthening long-term intercultural cooperation between the two countries. Elizaveta Zemlyanova, the project’s curator in Russia, told about the event’s programme in detail.
Dean of the Faculty of Design of IGUMO, Curator of the Days of Contemporary Art (DOCA) international festival
The online practical course focused on studying the pedagogical legacy and innovative concepts of the two design schools took place on October 15-17. Professionals from the Bauhaus and Russian experts delivered the intensive course. For 3 days, the speakers were giving lectures and practical classes where they shared their knowledge and experience in original teaching methods.
The first day of the intensive course included a virtual tour of the Bauhaus Dessau school for the participants. During their lectures, the experts paid attention to not only the history and development of that institution but also Russian-German cultural exchange. The second day of the event was mostly practical. It included working with the Bauhaus school’s preliminary course module. During the third day, the participants learned more about the history of the VKHUTEMAS as an innovative Soviet design school and about its legacy.
The Bauhaus and the VKHUTEMAS are the design schools that were created at the same time. They not only developed simultaneously but also had a great impact on each other. Meanwhile, the online intensive course was the first to combine the methods of these two outstanding institutions.
Masters and theorists from the Bauhaus have published many books related to teaching models and art theory. The legacy of the VKHUTEMAS is less known in the world. Many methods are described only based on the memories of students and colleagues of the authors. However, the school’s legacy is still actively used by teachers in practice, often on a subconscious level. Meanwhile, it is the relationship with the origins that make it possible to preserve the cultural legacy of the VKHUTEMAS and pass it on to future generations centuries later.
“In fact, I am also the heir to the traditions of this school. I graduated from the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow. It appeared during the disintegration of VKHUTEMAS. The methods of that school are especially valuable and close to me. If we miss the moment and don’t pass this cultural heritage on to other teachers, we risk losing not only our unique knowledge but also a significant part of our history. It was important for us to bring together and structure the methods within this special course”, comments Elizaveta Zemlyanova.
Elizaveta Zemlyanova believes that one of the most interesting parts of the legacy of VKHUTEMAS is the propaedeutics introductory course taught by leading Soviet artists. Their methods were truly innovative and capable of changing artists’ minds.
The intensive course turned out to be very extensive and rich in content. Elizaveta Zemlyanova, as the project curator and acting pedagogue, emphasized the difficulty of finding such information in the free access. That only increases the cultural value of the project.
Each participant of the project received special materials via mail in advance. Those were zines and guidance books worked out by experts within the project. It was important for the organisers to make sure that the teachers not only expand their worldviews but also manage to apply the studied methods in their professional work with maximum efficiency.
The course was focused on research and preservation of the heritage. In addition to that, it contributed to the cultural exchange between Russia and Germany. The programme ended with communication between participants and speakers every day. They exchanged their opinions and knowledge.
“One hundred years ago, the professors of the Bauhaus and the VKHUTEMAS communicated a lot with each other exchanging their experiences and ideas. We are happy that we continued that tradition and thus contributed to strengthening intercultural relations”, says Elizaveta Zemlyanova.
The online workshop brought together 160 designers and teachers of creative disciplines from all over Russia. A live meeting was impossible because of the pandemic but the current situation helped to bring people from remote regions of the country together.
Holding an online workshop is just one step within the cooperation between the Bauhaus and IGUMO. Elizaveta Zemlyanova believes that it will be possible to hold an offline meeting with representatives of the German design school at IGUMO in the near future. During the intensive course, the speakers emphasized their interest in studying the heritage of the VKHUTEMAS and the need to broadcast its value in the professional community.
“The online format is a very effective way of communication. However, it does not presuppose a full exchange of emotions, which is so important in establishing an intercultural dialogue”, comments the curator of the project.
“We will use all the materials created during the course in the educational process at our Institute. We believe that it is especially important to involve young people in the study of culture today. That requires competent methods and experienced teachers who love their work.”
Today, many people believe that cultural education is of little value in the era of digitalization and the fourth industrial revolution. Elizaveta Zemlyanova has a completely opposite opinion.
“People’s cultural development can be compared to a healthy diet. We make a choice of eating healthy food or fast food. Although the difference is not always obvious in the beginning, our body begins to feel the harm or benefit over time. The same can be said about information. If people surround themselves with works of art, begin to read quality literature, and listen to classical music, their thinking and consciousness will be significantly different from that of people who consume ‘fast food’ information”, she explains.
Elizaveta Zemlyanova believes that the main task of the teacher is to guide students, direct them to the right path, and show them the value and depth of art. After all, culture is not just interesting. It can change a person’s life.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov