J. Winter

Bauhaus Un-learning 

This doctoral project is driven by an ongoing belief in the transformative potential of art school education. More specifically it is based on Bauhaus pedagogic principles, as the crucible of the modern art school. My thesis is formed as a series of propositions around a concern with the current crisis in art education and is therefore intended to contribute to wider debates around the future of teaching, learning and research. 

I’m drawn to ask whether Bauhaus pedagogy remains relevant to art students in the 21st century. This is not, then, an anthropological study of art that would turn its attention to cultural objects, classified, curated and labelled. It is rather motivated by ways of working that traverse fields and disciplinary territories.  The study therefore speaks to the questions posed by ‘Knowing From the Inside’, and in doing so aims to contribute to recent debates around the future of education across the arts and humanities in our century. Its fundamental premise, in common with that of the Bauhaus, is that knowledge is not created through an encounter between minds furnished with pre-formed concepts and theories, but grows from the crucible of our practical and observational engagement with the world around us.  It asks in a time when education across universities is facing ideological and economic pressure, what might we learn if we listen again to this reservoir of experimental approaches? Here I propose that learning does not refer to a self-contained period of time and place in which we magically transform into adults, but rather to a process of discovery that will continue to shape futures that will remain uncertain and unknown. 

Through a series of simultaneous stories, Bauhaus Un-learning creates conversations around my own art school experiences and also between art students separated by almost a century. By returning to propositions formulated in some other place and time I aim to move beyond current conversations about the neo-liberal management of knowledge to highlight instead some of the foundational questions: Should art school education be an alternative to other approaches to learning? Should the future art school be independent of academic structures?  Should it be focused on disciplinary skills or trans-disciplinary ones? Where should the art school be situated? Can art schools provide a space to explore alternative ways of living and being? Here my own un-learning comes from conversations in various and often surprising locations.

By sharing these experiences with students, I am re-casting Bauhaus pedagogy and inviting a new generation to think about how histories and imagination are continuously in conversation. With a striking sense of déjà vu, we are asking: What skills can be taught?  What approaches to visual, sensory and haptic learning are needed? How do we improve our spatial awareness? Should we be utopian? How do we bring the intellectual, emotional, social and technological components of our lives into balance? How does the art student challenge pre-formed ways of working, structures, norms and routines? What are the implications for teaching, research, learning and assessment? 

Judith Winter (Doctoral researcher)