Given our new world we will be living for at least four years, I’d like to share a directed study I did as a student at EWU. It’s not perfect and has some errors in the copy. But it’s message is less about socialism (the subject of it’s theme) and more about the narrative of design history and the ability of artists and designers to make change in the world.
Gesamtkunstwerk means all of art work. It’s about unity and flexibility. It’s about designing for form and function and the future possibilities. It’s an important ideal we should be continuing to look to no matter what political or social climate we live in. It’s about looking to the future while still designing for the now. It’s about understanding scale and relative values. It’s about designing responsibly.
One of the primary points in this project, which is titled “Gesamtkunstwerk: the means of design”, is about the abilities of the designer to cause change*. It looks at history from the Arts and Crafts period to the end of the Bauhaus and examines how all these great periods of art and design that we love so much were really about changing the world, often in a hot political climate. Despite Walter Gropius’ claims that the Bauhaus was an apolitical movement, it was a direct reaction to the socio-political atmosphere (in and out of the art and design world) of the time in post World War I Weimar. In fact, what Gropius wanted was exactly the same thing that William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts movement was calling for.
“Architects, sculptors, painters – we all must return to craftsmanship! For there is no such thing as “art by profession”. There is no essential difference between the artist and the artisan. The artist is an exalted artisan. Merciful heaven, in rare moments of illumination beyond man’s will, may allow art to blossom from the work of his hand, but the foundations of proficiency are indispensable to every artist. This is the original source of creative design. So let us therefore create a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavored to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us strive for, conceive and create the new building of the future that will unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting, and which will one day rise heavenwards from the million hands of craftsmen as a clear symbol of a new belief to come.”
What was intended to be apolitical is really just a calling for working together during uncertain times. It’s a calling for peace, prosperity and constructing the world in the best way we know how.
The motto of the Deutscher Werkbund was “from the pillow cushions to the walls”. The point being that designers can make our world from the smallest thing to the largest. We know how to solve problems. Just remember, as individuals we can design the pillow cushions. As a group we can design our world.
https://geodesicworks.myportfolio.com/gesamtkunstwerk is the project link.
* And we are all designers, trained or not.