Discipline and Introspection at the Bauhaus
This chapter examines the role that kinaesthetic knowing played at the Bauhaus, even after the epistemological principle had fallen out of favor elsewhere. László Moholy-Nagy, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee used instruments, methods, and techniques borrowed from experimental psychology. Primary amongst these were techniques of introspection. Especially within the basic design course (Elementarunterricht, Vorkurs, Vorlehre, or Grundkurs), the first-year course that dismissed the boundaries between the applied and the fine arts and posited formal manipulation as the basis of all artistic activity, design was defined as a process whereby haphazard self-observation was disciplined with the help of rigorously defined procedures. The chapter concludes with an extended discussion of the Bauhaus curriculum diagram drawn by the school’s founder and first director Walter Gropius. By the time that the school moved from Weimar to Dessau and was incorporated into the German university system, the school had abandoned the transdisciplinary ideal suggested by Gropius’s diagram and implemented a curriculum encouraging specialization. Even though the school’s initial claim that design education was the quintessential educational model for modernity was abandoned, the formalist techniques that were developed there would become the backbone of design education in the twentieth century.
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