Notes on the Formation of
an Imaginist Bauhaus
What was the Bauhaus?
The Bauhaus was an answer to the question: What kind of education do artists need in order to take their place in the machine age?
How was the Bauhaus idea implemented?
It was implemented with a school in Germany, first at Weimar, then at Dessau. Founded in 1919 by the architect Walter Gropius, it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933.
What is the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus?
It is the answer to the question where and how to find a justified place for artists in the machine age. This answer demonstrates that the education carried out by the old Bauhaus was mistaken.
How has the idea of an International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus been implemented?
The Movement was founded in Switzerland in 1953 as a tendency aimed at forming a united organization capable of promoting an integral revolutionary cultural approach. In 1954 the experience of the Albissola gathering demonstrated that experimental artists must get hold of industrial means and subject them to their own nonutilitarian ends. In 1955 an imaginist laboratory was founded at Alba. Conclusion of the Albissola experience: complete inflationary devaluation of modern values of decoration (cf. ceramics produced by children). In 1956 the Alba Congress dialectically defined unitary urbanism. In 1957 the Movement is promulgating the watchword of psychogeographical action.
What we want
We want the same economic and practical means and possibilities that are already at the disposal of scientific research, of whose momentous results everyone is aware.
Artistic research is identical to human science, which for us means concerned science, not purely historical science. This research should be carried out by artists with the assistance of scientists.
The first institute ever formed for this purpose is the experimental laboratory for free artistic research founded 29 September 1955 at Alba. This type of laboratory is not an instructional institution; it simply offers new possibilities for artistic experimentation.
The leaders of the old Bauhaus were great masters with exceptional talents, but they were poor teachers. The students works were only pious imitations of their masters. The real influence of the latter was indirect, by force of example: Ruskin on Van de Velde, Van de Velde on Gropius.
This is not at all a criticism, it is simply a recognition of reality, from which the following conclusions may be drawn: The direct transfer of artistic gifts is impossible; artistic adaptation takes place through a series of contradictory phases: Shock Wonder Imitation Rejection Experimentation Possession.
None of these phases can be avoided, though they need not all be gone through by any one individual.
Our practical conclusion is the following: We are abandoning all efforts at pedagogical action and moving toward experimental activity.
Notes sur la formation dune Bauhaus imaginiste and three other texts were originally published together under the title Against Functionalism (1957), then included in Pour la Forme: ébauche d’une méthodologie des arts, a large collection of Jorn's writings published by the Situationist International (Paris, June 1958; reprinted by Éditions Allia, 2001). This translation by Ken Knabb is from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.