Vkhutemas is often referred to in relation to its more famous counterpart as the “Soviet Bauhaus,” relegating it to the diminutive other, and belying an assumption of a flow of influence from West to East. In fact, an exchange of ideas moved in both directions, though only occasionally and partially. In many ways, we are looking at two distinct schools existing at the same time in different places, with some salient points of productive contact. These points were generated through a variety of modes, including correspondence, exhibitions, and travel (in the form of student exchanges and guest lectures). The intersections were likewise made visible and further encouraged in magazine publications. This platform was used across the interwar avant-gardes to strategically signal transnational alignments and to cross-promote the work of other movements, as well as to engage in a public dialogue about avant-garde aesthetics and their social utility.
'To Reach Over the Border': An International Conversation between the Bauhaus and Devětsil
In the spring of 1923, Walter Gropius (1883-1969), who was then the director of the Bauhaus and was to become one of the most famous architects of the Twentieth Century, wrote from Weimar to Karel Teige (1900-1951) in Prague: ‘It makes me very happy that I have found in you a contact with the Czech architecture movement.’Teige was at the forefront of a cohort of young artists, writers, architects, and actors who had founded the group Devětsil in December of 1920. The circle employed a variety of strategies—including publication, lectures, exhibitions, and travel—to spread its influence both at home, and abroad, and the mid-decade correspondence between Teige and Gropius is a telling indicator of the success of this exchange.
"The period between the two world wars in Europe marked a moment of intensive artistic and intellectual exchange. One way such exchange was facilitated between the avant-gardes of various countries was in print, some of the better-known examples being L’Esprit nouveau in France, the Bauhaus books in Germany, and the (typically Anglophone) “little magazines” such as Blast and the international project Broom. But the capacity for magazines published in “minor” languages—including Czech, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Hungarian—to engage in this exchange and thereby reflect and inform contemporary literary and aesthetic trends beyond their borders, has gone largely unconsidered. The MoMA Library’s current exhibition THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY: European Avant-Garde Magazines from the 1920s helps to correct this oversight, showing how important these magazines are to the history of the interwar avant-garde and to the avant-garde periodical, and gives the visitor some insight into the strategies employed in these magazines, by which their editors engaged in transnational conversations. Through the use of non-textual cues, such as photography and graphic design, as well as the employment of translation and multilingualism, the magazines included in the exhibition, such as Disk and Pásmo (Czech), Zenit (Yugoslav), Ma (Hungarian, based in Vienna), Blok (Polish), and Veshch (Russian, based in Berlin), were able to reach wide audiences at home and abroad, and visually convey their shared affinities."
Revisiting a Czech Artist’s Collages of Human Cruelty
A highly evocative record of that fateful year is captured in a series of 66 “evidence” collages by Jiří Kolář, collectively titled Diary 1968, and all currently on view at the Kinsky Palace, part of Prague’s National Gallery, in the city’s Old Town Square. They comprise the main thread of a solo exhibition of Kolář’s work, Grimace of the Century. These individual collages are are a constant presence throughout the show, hung in sequence on a wall constructed especially for them, that weaves through much of the exhibition space.
"The utopic order of the Bauhaus school was to prove insufficient when confronted with external totalitarian forces and an internal patriarchy. Bang reminds us that if its vision of a total, equalizing architecture was heartfelt in theory, its egalitarian notions could not (or would not) be enacted in practice.
With a furtive look over the shoulder, Bang urges her reader to consider a collective past in order to account for our own catastrophic moment. The penultimate poem, in which a 'a man with / moronic orange hair' appears, registers a plaintive warning: 'In November we inched closer to the ledge / over which one only falls once.'"
Reynek lived the majority of his life at his family’s farmstead in the village of Petrkov on the Bohemian-Moravian border, and many of his poems included in this collection center around the details of rural life. Dogs and cats and goats and geese roam the pages. There is a “white ox in the yard” and one finds “cobwebs wound round the empty swallows’ nest.” Even at the site of hearth and home, the day of rest requires a cat for comfort, a Sunday’s stillness complete only with “a book and kitten grey / beneath my hand.”
Between Reader and Writer: An Interview with Dubravka Ugrešić
"This time last year, I was living in Berlin, where I spent an inordinate amount of my time sleeping. The days in fall and winter there look far too much like night: the sun rises late and sets early and doesn’t really do much shining in between. The sheer number of hours I spent in bed was something I felt perpetually guilty about, until one day, a friend sent me an excerpt from a novel she was reading, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, by Dubravka Ugrešić."
"Finding Lucia in the archive was like catching a glimpse of myself. I took to her story personally; she became my companion as I mined a historical record that has not deigned to preserve many of history's women. [...] I read through her diaries, written as a young girl in Prague, and then later, as a woman at the Bauhaus, married to one of the school’s most esteemed 'masters.' And I looked through her photographs, taken of and by herself. I read her letters.
I’d stumbled upon her and looked into her life; an accidental intimacy."