The Bauhaus was a renowned art, architecture and design school that pioneered elegant and functional design for the masses. The Bauhaus is now famous for producing objects that were elegant without ornamentation. These elements of the Bauhaus movement, as Elizabeth Otto notes, have come to be viewed as “the paradigmatic movement of rational modernism.” (p.3) Yet Otto’s book Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics challenges the view that the Bauhaus movement was simply a project of rational and utilitarian efficiency. Instead she proposes “that Bauhaus―through anti-utilitarian experiments in occultism and spirituality, communal and individual expressions of unorthodox conceptions of gender and sexuality, and radical politics―was equally engaged with a specific range of ideas that controvert this paradigm of rationality, and that these ideas were central to its project and have been systematically overlooked or relegated to the margins.” (p.3) Otto’s book takes us on a journey around a Bauhaus, whose haus is haunted. On this journey we are visited by the Geists of German idealism; the repressed and uncanny of psychoanalysis; double-exposed “spirit photographs”; nude gymnastics and breathing exercises; the masculinities of the artist-engineer and its dark side; the many women involved in the school and femininities in transformation; experimentations in sexuality and gender fluidity; and conflicts between communist and nationalist students.
Elizabeth Otto is an art historian and author of Tempo, Tempo! The Bauhaus Photomontages of Maianne Brendt, the co-author Bauhaus Women: A Global Perspective and the co-editor of five books including Bauhaus Bodies: Gender, Sexuality, and Body Culture in Modernism’s Legendary Art School. This podcast was recorded as part of the Exploding Appendix Avant-garde Art Practice and Research Group which runs regular free online art salons.