Building! Design! Gothic — India!
In May 1919 Groupius delivered his inaugural speech in front of one hundred and fifty bauhauslers. He adopted collective design work on the building and gothic architecture as a guiding principle but added to this further dimension: “building! Design! Gothic — India!” It could not have been an incidence that the cosmic curriculum of the Bauhaus that defined the organization of the institute inside out was formulated by Groupius in the same year as the Bauhaus exhibition held in Calcutta in 1922.
All the portraits of the professors who contributed to the germination of the Bauhaus as we can see in all the photographic evidences were highly curated and mystified to every inch and gesture so was Johannes Itten’s. With him situated in front of his color wheel at the back representing a halo used as an iconographic symbol to indicate himself as a sacred figure with the halo consisting a crown of rays representing the sun and the moon both at the same time. Eyes half closed looking down towards the universe, his forehead occupying a good amount of space in the image implying all-seeing third eye is about to open.
The anatomy of the curriculum
Nothing in the world could have represented the pedagogical (theatrical) performance of the Bauhaus more accurately than the Nataraja. Nataraja is a depiction of the Hindu god shiva as a cosmic ecstatic dancer with whome Johannes Itten associated himself with.
The conceptual diagram showing the structure of teaching at the Bauhaus developed by groupius has many similarities with the structure of a mandala. It also represents the invisible proportions of the world in a cyclic manner. Constantly creating, consuming and destroying everything to start a new. Mandalas usually representing Mt. meru almost always seen in plan seem flat but they always have a mound dimension to them therefore implying hierarchy in form and structure. The mandala (groupius’s diagram) represents total space for total design. It also cosmically converses with the symbolic elements of the Nataraja.
The 3 thresholds to reach to the top i.e. the bau, one has to go through the three Guna:
Tamas- basic understanding of things ;
Rajas- leaning the mediocre tools ;
Sattva- The building itself in its purest form.
Each of the Gunas in the outer circle also contain fragments of the Bau in each case and ultimately becomes everything at the top of the mountain since it includes everything in the outer circle. Because of the circular structure of the diagram it invites movement and friction causing more people on the outside and less in the inside.
Modernism, a cosmopolitan project
An Indian art historian and curator Nancy Adajania has noted—cultural geographies have been gradually redefined, based not on the reversal of the old center-periphery model, but on a new cartography founded on commonalities, reciprocal ties, and diversity.
The contemporary perception of the “Bauhaus myth” overlooks the fact that the historic Bauhaus was not a singular phenomenon, but a focal point of the widespread international avant-garde network of its day. Much of what has been attributed to the Bauhaus actually has origins and parallel developments elsewhere; nevertheles, the Bauhaus has also been highly influential. Critical to the success of the Bauhaus was its identity as a melting pot for diverse influences—a platform that brought together representatives of all kinds of backgrounds and directions. The historic Bauhaus network embraced, above all else, the centers of the European avant-garde—whether Moscow, Budapest, or Prague, Zagreb, Vienna, or Zurich, Rotterdam, Paris, or London ______ yet it also spread beyond Europe to New York and Tokyo, and of course to Calcutta.
- Sria Chatterjee Boris, Friedewald,Tapati Guha-Thakurta, The Bauhaus in Calcutta, 2013
- Archana Verma, Performance and Culture: Narrative, Image and Enactment in India,2011