Open letter to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

Open letter to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

e-flux Architecture

Walter Gropius, Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925–1926. Photo: Tadashi Okochi. © Pen Magazine, 2010, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau.

October 24, 2018
Open letter to the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation

To the Culture Minister and Chairman of the Foundation Council of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, Mr. Rainer Robra,
To the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Mrs. Prof. Monika Grütters,
To the Mayor of Dessau-Roßlau, Mr. Peter Kuras,
To the Director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, Dr. Claudia Perren,

On October 18, 2018, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation issued a press release prohibiting a concert by the punk band Feine Sahne Fischfilet at the historic building of the Bauhaus. The concert was to take place on November 6, 2018 in the framework of the ZDF television station’s concert series zdf@bauhaus. By prohibiting the concert the government of the state of Saxony-Anhalt and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation have done serious damage to democracy and cultural life in Germany, Europe, and beyond. It is worrisome how politics is intervening with obvious directives in a cultural institution. The event’s cancellation was carried out in close consultation with the State Chancellery, led by the CDU party, after corresponding demands from CDU and AfD circles, as well as groups of the extreme right.

The band in question actively works against rightwing radicalism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, and has become an important actor in eastern Germany’s civil society, especially in its home region Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s press release of 18 October 2018 lists reasons for the ban that suggest the band advocates for “politically extreme positions” that “divide and thus endanger democratic society—on which the historical Bauhaus is also based.” The cancellation allegedly aims to prevent the Bauhaus from “once again becoming the venue of political agitation and aggression.” This is directly in response to the mobilization of rightwing extremist circles for protesting the concert.

The argument the Foundation concludes with—that the Bauhaus is an apolitical institution—testifies either to a lack of knowledge or to an ahistorical understanding of its own institution. The Foundation cites a 1920 Bauhaus press release stating “that every political activity in the Bauhaus has always been prohibited.” Ironically, this quotation was historically issued in the belief that this would protect the institution from ideological assaults from conservative and rightwing groups. But this stance did not protect the Bauhaus in either Weimar or Dessau. As we all know, in 1925, the Bauhaus was forced to leave the state of Thuringia. Rightwing polemics led to the dismissal of Hannes Meyer, the second Director of the Bauhaus, in 1930. Two years later, his “apolitical” successor, Mies van der Rohe, could not prevent the Nazi Party—which had meanwhile gained the upper hand in Dessau’s Municipal Council—from closing the state school. Against this background, the Foundation’s present decision seems alarmingly forgetful of history.

In its supposed neutrality, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation places the band Feine Sahne Fischfilet and rightwing radical groups like “Patriotic Köthen” on the same level. The concern that Culture Minister and Chairman of the Foundation Board Rainer Robra has raised about damage to the Bauhaus’s World Cultural Heritage status consciously leaves open whether the feared danger originates from rightwing radicals or leftist punk fans.

The prohibition supposedly aims to preserve an idea of the Bauhaus as an apolitical site and avoid the image of a society torn apart. To this end, pluralism and liberalism, the freedom of art, and civil society’s ability to articulate itself is being frivolously sacrificed. The consequence of this logic would be to prohibit everything that provokes rightwing radicals. Such a measure endangers the political culture of Europe. The reproachful remark that neither the State Chancellery nor the Foundation were involved in the planning of ZDF’s program also shows a distorted understanding of press freedom.

We are greatly worried about the spread of rightwing populism and rightwing radicalism in Germany and many other countries, throughout Europe and beyond. It is also alarming how casually the integrity of a cultural institution was sacrificed in Dessau. Unlike at institutes of higher education and public media, the supervisory boards of cultural institutions are usually staffed solely with representatives of the government and ministries, which increasingly treat these institutions like subordinate government offices. This is unworthy of the cultural life of a free country. We demand that in the future, at least half of the staff of the supervisory committees of cultural institutions be representatives from civil society. Only in this way can the legacy of the historic Bauhaus be preserved and the slogan currently shown on the Foundation’s promotional material be fulfilled: “The Bauhaus. Not a style, but a stance.”

First signatories
Ursula Achternkamp, artist Anhalt, Dessau
Claudia von Alemann, Film Director, Producer, Cologne / Berlin, Professor i.R., Fh Dortmund
Ulf Aminde, time-based arts | * foundationClass, Weissensee Academy of Art Berlin
Ingeborg Arnold, vice chairman of the Circle of Friends of Bauhaus e.V.
Christoph Asendorf, Professor of Art and Art Theory, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)
Veronika Aumann, Textile Design & Research, Weissensee Kunsthochschule Berlin
Shumon Basar, Writer, Editor and Curator, Berlin / Dubai
Birgit Bauer, Professor of Design Conception and Theory, HTW Berlin
Leonie Baumann, Rector of the Weißensee Kunsthochschule berlin
Fred Baumgartner, planner, Bern
Verena von Beckerath, HEIDE & VON BECKERATH / Professor of Design and Housing, Bauhaus University Weimar
Mario Bialek, coordination cosmopolitan Saalekreis
Tim Birkholz, IRS Erkner
Daniel Birnbaum, Director Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Julia Blume, art historian, HGB Leipzig
Harald Bodenschatz, Professor a.D. for Planning and Architectural Sociology, Berlin
Stefano Boeri, architect, Milan
Gui Bonsiepe, design theorist, La Plata / Buenos Aires, Argentina
Peter Brandenburg, lawyer, Leipzig
Fabian Brenne, Brenne Architects, Berlin
Micha Brumlik, Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin / Brandenburg
Alliance of Young Cooperatives (BJG), Berlin
Margitta Buchert, Professor of Architecture and Art, 20th / 21st century, Leibniz Universität Hannover
Axel Busch, Professor em. for urban planning, Berlin
Beatriz Colomina, Professor of Architecture, Princeton University, USA
Angelika Dahmen, doctor, board Forum Kreuzberg Förderverein e.V., Berlin
Brenda Danilowitz, Chief Curator The Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany, Connecticut, USA
Susanne Deicher, Professor of Art History, Architectural Theory, University of Wismar
Theo Deutinger, architect, Amsterdam and Salzburg
Diedrich Diederichsen, author and lecturer, Vienna / Berlin
Karl Clauss Dietel, designer, Chemnitz / Saxony
Keller Easterling, architect, writer, and professor, Yale University
Zvi Efrat, Professor of Architecture, Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem
Lorenz Engell, Professor of Media Philosophy, Co-Director of the International Center for Cultural Technology Research and Media Philosophy, Bauhaus University Weimar
Jesko Fezer, Professor of Experimental Design, HfbK Hamburg
Jens-Uwe Fischer, historian, Berlin
Ole W. Fischer, Professor History Theory of Architecture, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
Ralph Fischer, Freelance Photo Designer, Stuttgart
Angelika Fitz, Director Architekturzentrum Wien
Gerd Fleischmann, typographer, Ulrichshusen
Thomas Flierl, journalist, chairman of the Hermann Henselmann Foundation, Bauhaus Institute Weimar, Senator a.D., Berlin
Alexander Flohe, full-time Lecturer in Urban Research / Urban Sociology, Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences
Benjamin Foerster-Baldenius, raumlaborberlin, Dean of the Floating University, Berlin
William Forsythe, choreographer, New York
Eva Franch, Director Architectural Association
Salomon Frausto, Director Berlage Center, Delft
Holger Friese, artist, Berlin
Marc Frohn, Professor for Space & Design, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Kim Foerster, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal
Wulf Gallert, member of the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg
Stefan Gebhardt, Member of Parliament Saxony-Anhalt
Sokratis Georgiadis, Prof. em. for architectural history and theory, Stuttgart
Andreas Gelies, Chairman of the Kiez e.V., Dessau-Roßlau
Olaf Gisbertz, Professor i.V. for architectural and architectural history, FH Dortmund
Amos Gitai, film maker, Tel Aviv
Jörg Gleiter, Managing Director of the Institute of Architecture, TU Berlin
Douglas Gordon, artist, Berlin
Christoph Grafe, Professor of Architectural Theory, University of Wuppertal
Carles Guerra, Director Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona
Max Welch Guerra, Professor Spatial Planning and Space Research, Bauhaus University Weimar
Marc Guntow, architect, vice rector of studies and teaching, University of Applied Sciences Schwäbisch Gmünd
Peter Hahn, Director of the Bauhaus Archive / Museum of Design Berlin a.D.
Simone Hain, Professor of Architectural History, Berlin
Jana Hainbach, Dipl. Restorer Brenne Architects, Berlin
Susanne Hauser, Professor of Art and Cultural History, UdK Berlin
Tim Heide, HEIDE & VON BECKERATH, Berlin
Juan Herreros, Architect, Director Advanced Studios GSAPP-Columbia-NYC & Chair ETSAM-Politécnica-Madrid
Florian Hertweck, Professor of Architecture, University of Luxembourg
Nikolaus Hirsch, publisher e-flux Architecture, New York
Fabienne Hoelzel, Professor of Design and Urban Design, State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart
Carolin Höfler, Professor of Design Theory and Research, Cologne International School of Design
Christian Holl, freelance critic and curator, publisher of
Judith Hopf, artist, professor at HfbK Städelschule Frankfurt
Ranjit Hoskote, writer/curator, Mumbai
Mechthild and Manfred Hübler, association baudenkmal bundesschule bernau
Hannah Hurtzig, Mobile Academy Berlin
Anne Imhof, artist, Frankfurt am Main
Malte Jacobsen, graduate of the Bauhaus University Weimar, Berlin
Mona Jas, Honorary Professor of Art Education and Cultural Education KHB, Director (Ver) Mittlung 10th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin
Franz Jaschke, architect, CEO of Docomomo Deutschland e.V., Berlin
Wolfgang Jonas, Professor of Design Science, University of Fine Arts Braunschweig
Jutta Kalepky, city councilor a.D, architect, Berlin
Matthias Karch, Professor of Medial Design, TU Braunschweig
Wolfgang Kil, architecture critic, Berlin
Michael Klar, Professer em. for Visual Communication, UdK Berlin
Bernd Kniess, Professor of Urban Design, HafenCity University of Hamburg
Jan Kobel, monument Milchhof, Arnstadt
Jens-Uwe Köhler and Andreas Barz, student village Schlachtensee eG, Berlin
Kasper König, exhibition maker, Berlin
Ulrike Köppel, Managing Director weimar GmbH Society for Economic Development, Congress and Tourism Service, Weimar
Norbert Korrek, architect, Bauhaus Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture and Planning Weimar
Pirko Krause, teacher, Berlin
Joachim Krausse, Prof. em. of Design Theory, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Deutscher Werkbund Sachsen-Anhalt, Berlin
Mateo Kries, Director Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein
Prem Krishnamurthy, curator and designer, Berlin / New York
Cilly Kugelmann, Scientific Advice, Jewish Museum Berlin
Nikolaus Kuhnert, publisher ARCH+, Berlin
Detlef Kurth, Professor of Urban Planning, TU Kaiserslautern
Werner Landwehr, Banker, Forum Kreuzberg Wohngenossenschaft eG, Member of the Board, Berlin
Ulrich Lange, self-employed, Dessau-Roßlau
Cédric Libert, Director Contemporary Department Civa Brussels
Herbert Lindinger, Prof. em. for Industrial Design, Leibniz Universität Hannover, formerly HfG Ulm
Bart Lootsma, Professor of Architectural Theory, Architectural History and Conservation, University of Innsbruck
Andrea Maglio, Professor of Architectural History, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
Elena Markus, Architectural Theorist, Research Associate TUM Munich
Kay Marlow, MOSAIK architects bda partnership mbb
Reinhold Martin, Professor of Architecture, Columbia University, New York / USA
Ian McLaren, Professor em. of Visual Communication, Middlesex University
Julia Meer, designer and design historian, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Humboldt-Universität Berlin
Hans-Rudolf Meier, Chair of Preservation and Architectural History, Bauhaus University Weimar
Markus Miessen, architect and professor of design, HDK Gothenburg
Philipp Misselwitz, Professor for International Urbanism and Design, TU Berlin
Michael Müller, Professor of Art and Cultural Studies, Bremen
Ruth Noack, author and curator (among others documenta 12), Vienna
Alexandra Nehmer, editor ARCH+, Berlin
Network showroom postwar modern, Berlin
Anh-Linh Ngo, publisher ARCH+, Berlin
Hans Ulrich Obrist, director, Serpentine Galleries, London
Vera Oelschlegel, actress and director, Zurich
Jutta Oesterle-Schwerin, MdB a. D., Berlin
Monika Ortner-Bach, Librarian for Scientific Bibl., Munich
Marion von Osten, Professor at the Center for Postcolonial Knowledge and Culture, Berlin
David Oswald, Professor of Interaction Design, Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd
Philipp Oswalt, Professor of Architectural Theory and Design, University of Kassel
Nina Pawlicki, Research Associate, Natural Building Lab, TU Berlin
Jörg Petruschat, Professor of Theory and History of Design, Weißensee Kunsthochschule berlin
Klaus Jan Philipp, Professor of Architectural History, University of Stuttgart
Philippe Pirotte, Rector HfBK Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main
Thomas Präger, City Council Alliance 90 / THE GREENS, Dessau-Roßlau
Tobias Rehberger, artist, professor at the HfBK Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main
Nikolai Roskamm, Professor of Planning Theory, Urban History and Urban Design, FH Erfurt
Sascha Roesler, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Theory, Accademia di architettura, Mendrisio
Eike Roswag-Klinge, Professor of constructive design and climate-friendly building, Natural Building Lab, TU Berlin
Katrin Rothe, film director, Berlin
Florian Rötzer, Editor-in-Chief Telepolis / Philosopher
Andreas Ruby, Director Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel
Ilka Ruby, publisher Ruby Press, Berlin
Carsten Ruhl, Professor of Architectural History, Institute of Art History, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
Judith Rüber, monument Milchhof, Arnstadt
Andreas Rumpfhuber, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
Tomás Saraceno, artist, Berlin
Amandus Samsøe Sattler, architect, Munich
Matthias Sauerbruch, Director of the Section Architecture, Academy of Arts, Berlin
Walter Scheiffele, design historian, Berlin
Peter Cachola Schmal, Director German Architecture Museum (DAM), Frankfurt am Main
Birgit Schmidt, city planner, Dessau-Roßlau
Florian Schneider, Professor Trondheim Academy of Fine Art
Tatjana Schneider, Professor of History and Theory of Architecture and City, TU Braunschweig
Angelika Schnell, Professor of Architectural Theory, Architectural History and Design, Academy of Arts Vienna
Carolin Schönemann, Secretary of the Section Architecture, Academy of Arts, Berlin
Barbara Schönig, Professor of Urban Planning, Bauhaus University Weimar
Christian Schöningh, The Collaborators, Berlin
Schroeter and Berger, designer, Berlin
Steffen Schuhman, Professor of Visual Communication, Weißensee University of Arts Berlin
Felicity D. Scott, Professor of Architecture, Columbia University
Babette Scurrell, Thünen Institute e.V., Berlin
Michael Siebenbrodt, director of the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau 1986-88, director of the Bauhaus Museum Weimar 1992-2017
David Skopec, Professor of Visual Systems, UdK Berlin
Erik Spiekermann, designer, Berlin
René Spitz, Professor of Design Science, Rheinische Fachhochschule Köln
Henrik Spohler, Professor of Photography, University of Applied Sciences Berlin
Klaus Staeck, graphic designer and publisher, Berlin
Laurent Stalder, Professor of Architectural Theory, Head of the Institute of History and Theory of Architecture, Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich
Jason Stanley, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
Thomas Steinberg, journalist, Dessau-Roßlau
Anne Stengel, Building Researcher, University of Kassel
Hito Steyerl, artist, Professor of Experimental Film and Video, UdK Berlin
Fritz Stuber, architect and urban planner, Zurich
Alexander Stumm, Architectural Historian and Journalist, Berlin
Niloufar Tajeri, Research Associate, Institute of History and Theory of Architecture and City, TU Braunschweig
Pelin Tan, Professor University of Cyprus
Meredith TenHoor, Associate Professor, Pratt Institute, New York
Philip Ursprung, Chair for the History of Art and Architecture, ETH Zurich
Christiane Voss, Professor of Media Philosophy, Bauhaus University Weimar
Georg Vrachliotis, Professor of Architectural Theory, KIT Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Alla Vronskaya, Assistant Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago / USA
Grant Watson, curator, London
Jakob Uwe Weber, co-founder of the initiative “Land-needs-city,” Dessau-Roßlau
Nicholas Fox Weber, Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
Gernot Weckherlin, Visiting Professor of Architectural Theory, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg
Markus Weisbeck, Professor of Graphic Design, Bauhaus University Weimar
Ines Weizman, Professor of Architectural Theory, Bauhaus University Weimar, co-director Bauhaus Institute for History and Theory of Architecture and Planning, Weimar
Frank Rolf Werner, Professor em. for Architectural History + Architectural Theory, Münster
Daniel Wetzel, Rimini Protokoll, Berlin / Athens
Mirjam Wenzel, Director Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt
Axel Wieder, director, Bergen Kunsthall
Mark Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York
Karin Wilhelm, Professor em. for architectural theory, Berlin
Henry Wilke, Consultant for Settlement Development, NABU Germany e.V.
Theodor Winters, Managing Director S.T.E.R.N. GmbH, Berlin
Imke Woelk, architect, IMKEWOELK and Partner Architektur, Berlin
Andreas Wrede, Professor of Identity and Design, Cologne International School of Design
Ana Maria Zahariade, Editor-in-Chief Journal sITA / ‘Ion Mincu’ University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, Romania
Tino Zaumseil, Dipl.-Ingenieur, Berlin
Mathias Zeiske, Editor Edit, Leipzig
Katrin Zickler, artist, Dessau-Roßlau

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