Bauhaus in 360°
As director of the Interactive Media Foundation, you deal almost daily with the relationship between humans and machines that had once fascinated the members of the Bauhaus. What is a “human” in the technological era, in the age of artificial intelligence?
Well, people are people, and today we seem to communicate almost continuously with machines. The knowledge possessed by these machines previously had its origin in people. Artificial intelligence promises to automatically generate new knowledge and to better evaluate existing knowledge. The fact that we are still at the very beginning is demonstrated by people’s reactions, which cover the entire spectrum: from a fear of doom to the hope of salvation.
How do you enable a user of digital media to experience the “immersive” experience we hear so much about?
It seems to me that many artists have always sought to enthral their viewers, readers, or spectators with their respective artworks, both yesterday and today. And also the “basic ingredients” seem the same, whether in the real or virtual world: the concept and its realisation must resonate.
Chance is such an essential element in the way we experience reality. What role does it play in virtual “reality”?
In the digital world itself, as things stand today, chance can only be simulated. The real element of chance comes from the “human factor” and the unpredictability of people’s behaviour. People behave just as differently in virtual worlds as they do in the real world, and that’s part of the fascination.
One highlight of the opening festival for 100 Years of Bauhaus is the virtual reality installation “Das Totale Tanz Theater” – The Total Dance Theatre. This piece was your idea. How did it come about?
The idea of creating a multi-part project for the Bauhaus centenary came from Filmtank. Thomas Tielsch got the ball rolling with his plan to create a documentary film. What emerged was the cross-media project BAUHAUS SPIRIT, which, in its various components, transposes the spirit and attitude of the Bauhaus artists into the present and future.
As a team, we looked at various aspects of the Bauhaus. The stage works and the developments they spawned still seemed relevant to us today, for example Gropius’s idea of “total theatre” and Oskar Schlemmer’s artistic work with the theme of “man and machine”. What sounds so straightforward to us today at the conceptual level was not self-evident back then. At some point I looked at all the loose ends and went back to my office with a rough conceptual sketch. The result was “Das Totale Tanz Theater”.
Based on your concept, Richard Siegal developed a choreography for “Das Totale Tanz Theater”. Why did you choose this artist and specifically how did the collaboration take place?
Once we were convinced enough about the idea to take the next steps, it quickly became clear that – for the first time – we’d have to work with a choreographer. That was an exciting thing for us simply because we knew absolutely nothing about that world. We then had discussions with several choreographers and were pleasantly surprised by the open-mindedness shown toward us and the project.
With his “if–then” method, Richard seemed like a particularly good fit with our project. After all, we weren’t envisioning a continuous, linear choreography but rather a choreography that’s always coming together in a new way. The first step was then for everyone on the team, which comprised such a heterogeneous mix of disciplines, backgrounds and “languages”, to get to know each other better. There was a convergence of completely different ways of working – and that was certainly a challenge for the whole team to deal with.
“Das Totale Tanz Theater” is just one of four pieces that you and your colleagues have developed and that will be performed as part of 100 Years of Bauhaus. What themes and media occur in the other productions?
I’m really glad you asked because the other productions equally exciting. First there’s Thomas Tielsch’s documentary theatrical film “Vom Bauen der Zukunft” – Building the Future. It tells the story of the Bauhaus and inquires into its significance today as an artistic and social attitude. Then there’s the audio concept album “Audio.Space.Machine” produced by the artistic duo wittmann/zeitblom, which uses a binaural [3D] technique to acoustically, substantively and technically redefine Bauhaus ideas for the present. Last but not least, we’ve produced a 360º music video entitled “Das Totale Tanz Theater 360”, which immerses the viewer in the world and scenography of The Total Dance Theatre as well as Richard Siegal’s choreography and a new song by the band Einstürzende Neubauten.
At the Bauhaus, the symphony of the disciplines – design, art, stage work – was all about architecture. What disciplines and what objective would a contemporary Bauhaus have to teach in order to be “up to date”?
I’m not a Bauhaus expert, so when I look at the Bauhaus, I see the fascination with the Bauhaus up to the present as stemming from its heterogeneity and radicality. So much of what was radically rethought and put into practice at the Bauhaus has retained its validity to this day or is now mainstream. A Bauhaus today would presumably also embrace the knowledge, tools and resources of the digital world.
Ms. Schniedermeier, thank you for the interview.
This article was written by Nicolas Flessa and translated by David Koralek for our partner website www.bauhaus100.de.