Scenes from the Archive: Photography, Objecthood, and the Bauhaus
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CitationTroeller, Jordan. 2018. Scenes from the Archive: Photography, Objecthood, and the Bauhaus. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis study examines the politics of object-making at the Bauhaus from the perspective of the photographic archive. In 1921, eight years before the German school of art and design established photography as a subject of study, founding director Walter Gropius began collecting photographs of every object produced in the school's workshops, a practice that continued throughout the institution's fourteen-year existence (1919-1933). Taken by practitioners as diverse as Erich Consemüller, Lucia Moholy, Lotte Jacobi, Walter Peterhans, and Sasha and Cami Stone, the resulting corpus of photographs shares a common vocabulary: minimized backgrounds, frontal perspectives, and staged functional, so-called "scientific," qualities define the Bauhaus object as detached from both personal sentiment and historical precedent. These images were published in magazines and newspapers in an attempt to defend the school against criticisms that its denial of the past was dehumanizing. After the school closed in 1933 and its objects were left behind or destroyed, these same photographs then substituted for the missing originals, facilitating the school's subsequent historicization.
I draw on an increased attention over the past two decades to the role of the photograph in historiography to consider how it rendered the Bauhaus object both contemporary, bereft of cultural tradition, and historical, insofar as it sutured that object to a specific time and place. To do so, I focus on four distinct artworks and their political conditions of reproduction. Chapter one retraces the photographed models of Alma Siedhoff-Buscher's play cabinet in 1923-1924 to draw out their role in the socialist restructuring of early childhood education in Thuringia. Chapter two considers the photographic qualities of twenty-three monumental stained-glass windows that Josef Albers completed in 1926-1927 for the Ullstein Verlag, the epicenter of Weimar Germany's vibrant illustrated print culture. Turning to one of the era's most photographed interiors, chapter three excavates the Berlin apartment of the Communist theater director Erwin Piscator, whose glass and steel tubular furniture, designed by Marcel Breuer and pictured with Piscator's wife, Hildegard Piscator, in 1928, occasioned a stage for the politicization of identity. The final chapter positions Walter Peterhans's two photographs of Anni Albers's technologically sophisticated wall-covering for Hannes Meyer's Bundesschule in Bernau (1928-1930) as visualizing the collision between anonymity and authorship. In each instance, I read the photograph against the grain in order to recover its missing bodies, those subjects of the Bauhaus that only become visible in the imaginative space of the archive.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129122
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