Speech by Minister of State Michelle Münteferingat the opening of the exhibition bauhaus imaginista in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

14.03.2019 - Speech

Have you heard of Allan Karssen?

In Jonas Jonasson’s bestseller, he decides to do a runner before his own 100th birthday party in his old people’s home.

Allan climbs out of the window, has some pretty bizarre adventures and finally arrives happy as Larry on the island of Bali.

With the exhibition bauhaus imaginista, we have done it the other way around. We strode forth around the world and collected the testimonies to our 100‑year-old adventurer - and are delighted to be able to exhibit these now in Berlin.

So thanks, also my own, go to: the curator team, the Goethe-Institut, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the German Federal Cultural Foundation, all those who have helped and of course also the Bauhaus Cooperation.

Bauhaus imaginista in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt is however anything but an old people’s home! This makes me all the more glad to be here.

To my mind, it is good for cultural policy when we work together for good conditions for artists, for the freedom of art and culture, for diversity!

Here, I do not just mean government and politics, but glancing around, also the many friends of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and our centenarian.

I believe we need to tap the power of culture to embark on an optimistic journey to the future. Also as a real alternative to all those who want to bury themselves in a nationalistic past.

Art and culture do not stop at national borders, they were and will remain international.

The Bauhaus can teach us a thing or two here. And despite the beautiful design, it is not simply to be considered as something to look back at.

The Bauhaus is one of the best examples for global cultural influences. For the interaction between inside and outside, but also for the shifts that art, culture and ideas make possible.

In design, but also in social terms, in our society.

The Bauhaus is a cultural ambassador for Germany. After all, the history of the Bauhaus is also a history of Germany in the world.

That is why I am delighted that we, the Federal Foreign Office, together with the Goethe-Institut, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the German Federal Cultural Foundation, are contributing to this project.

If we look back one hundred years to the Bauhaus in Weimar, we see in the same place AND at the same time the birth of the Weimar Republic.

Both represent a major new beginning in society.

A push for change, for a new democratic society which puts the focus on people and the social function of design: the Bauhaus as utopia which can provide orientation today and in the future: “We need to make the world better!”

That is also what we want, our prime political duty - to contribute to a peaceful world and be a good neighbour.

Both inside and out.

With its social ideas and its international movement, its inherent embracing of the modernity, the Bauhaus is a force that fosters peace, a force it also needs today.

For this reason, ladies and gentlemen, looking to the past is part of the journey.

But it is even more important to learn from this past for the here and now.

Even the origins of the Bauhaus in Weimar were anything but exclusively German. It sucked up many influences from other cultures and continents - it was world-minded, it was intercultural.

In 1933, Hitler’s seizure of power through the Enabling Act was the death knell of the Weimar democracy in Germany and sowed the seeds for the horrors of the Shoah.

The Bauhaus, its architects and the great minds behind it, are forced to leave Germany.

Also due its avantgardism, the idea of modernity rooted in freedom, which defined its being, it soon became the target of nationalist conservative attacks, making it a target of the Nazis.

The Bauhaus practitioners left many diverse impressions in the places where they worked after 1933, leaving their stamp on the history of national architecture and design.

Many of the examples, such as the White City in Tel Aviv right up to the influence of Bauhaus teaching on architecture today, on the language of form and design, for instance at Black Mountain College in California, are brought to light again in this exhibition bauhaus imaginista.

Today, we need to be particularly sensitive to attacks on art and culture once again.

Sadly, examples abound.

As far as Feine Sahne Fischfilet’s concert in Dessau last year is concerned, I admit that punk rock is not Bauhaus. And you can argue about art. But, clearly, to do so, it has to be free in the first place.

Looking out to the world, I believe we need much more discourse about art and culture - also internationally.

That is why our international cultural policy does not focus on exporting culture but on cooperation and coproduction.

Here, Bauhaus’ angle on the world “Form Follows Function” is certainly a rational and pragmatic angle, stretching far beyond a narrow understanding of what a product should look like.

Bauhaus means not design alone but also content!

With the possibilities provided by our international cultural and also economic policy, we are helping invigorate this discourse and make design from Germany visible as part of our cultural present.

If we are convinced that we can achieve more together than alone (which we are), if we stand up for multilateralism out of conviction (which we do), then that also means we need to negotiate the major questions of our time in cultural terms.

The digital transformation is one such major question of our time.

I’ve just returned from Austin, Texas, where I attended the South by Southwest Festival, the world’s largest digital and music conference.

There we see not just the design great-grandchildren so to speak of the Bauhaus school, Apple mobile telephones and cool smart scooters, but we have also included the Virtual Bauhaus project in the programme of the current Deutschlandjahr USA and are showcasing it there.

In a digital and interactive environment, the visitors can experience how the central ideas of the school in the Bauhaus Building in Dessau come to life.

I have no doubt that the Bauhaus practitioners would have liked it:

Thanks to Virtual Reality technology, which since yesterday is also available in its entirety online, you can construct a material study, live in student accommodation or work in a stage workshop.

This means visitors around the world have the opportunity to experience the Bauhaus first‑hand.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The socio-cultural discourse surrounding the Bauhaus was innovative, sometimes even radical.

“Thinking the World Anew” was also the social aspiration of the Bauhaus as a movement.

That is what we need today, too, when we consider how to use the new digital possibilities.

And yes, there is no light without shade. The Bauhaus was not able to live up to its own, sometimes Utopian vision of fundamentally changing the world.

The question of the women has just been raised. I believe it is good that attention has been drawn on television and in the print media to the role of the more than 460 women in the Bauhaus.

That is why these centenary celebrations are an opportunity to learn from this. These days, there are more women than men studying design.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just in time for the anniversary, the bauhaus imaginista exhibition has now returned to Germany. On its global journey to China, Japan, Russia and Brazil, it has, just like Allan Karlsson, seen a lot, has developed and grown in maturity.

True pioneers, ladies and gentlemen, think about things differently before recreating them. And sometimes, they just do a runner.

Welcome back, Bauhaus!


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