Bauhaus X Opendesk: Craft becomes local

The most influential Art & Design school of the 20th Century, the Bauhaus will be 100 years old in 2019.

Opened to the public on the 12th of April, Opendesk is featured in Craft Becomes Modern, a major exhibition forming part of the preparations for this upcoming centenary. It’s located within the original 1925 building designed by Walter Gropius in Dessau, Germany. ‘Craft becomes Modern’ is the first time the tools and processes used by the master craftsmen and women in the Bauhaus workshops have been exhibited. They tell ‘the story of the workshops from the perspective of craft’ where ‘relationships between art, applied art, industrial production and craft were discussed in more radical terms than elsewhere’.

Bauhaus Museum in Dessau

As the most influential art and design school of the 20th Century, the Bauhaus shouldn’t need much introduction. It set the standards for the avant-garde, while at the same time becoming an agent of social transformation. Yet, whilst the school was arguably more about a way of thinking than any one aesthetic style, it was also conceived as ‘laboratories for industry’ where much of the experimentation was of a material kind done by hand in the Dessau workshops.

Here, curators Reneé Padt and Regina Bittner introduce ‘Craft becomes Modern’ as an exploration of the changing role of production and it’s relationship to society in both the 1920s and 100 years later:

‘A changing society calls for new ways of making. Defined by the relationship between man and machine, the craft has always operated at the interface of cultural, economic and societal contexts. New technologies not only alter the way we make things, they also influence the way we think about production.

Post-industrial, post-Fordist and globalised, the industrial revolution has now been replaced by the digital revolution. We have entered the information age. With natural resources almost exhausted and the climate changing, we are moving into the Anthropocene, a new geological era in which man has a decisive impact on the state of the earth.

The twentieth century witnessed an unparalleled growth of manufacturing and its by-products, an excess of waste and ecological damage, while mass-production and standardisation led to extreme uniformity. This triggered a critical debate on the relationship between design and industrial processes and sparked a renewed interest in the handmade and in traditional craft skills and knowledge, in relation to the maker and independent small-scale production.

A changing society calls for new ways of making. New technologies not only alter the way we make things, they also influence the way we think about production.

Reneé Padt and Regina Bittner

The environmental crisis requires sustainable solutions that generate transdisciplinary research into new materials and production processes. In contrast, DIY, recycling and upcycling promote a more humane and ecological attitude towards production. Simultaneously, digital technologies (often seen as disrupters of craftsmanship par excellence) paradoxically have opened up alternate ways of production and skills-sharing.

The Anthropocene requires a radical new approach to making and consciousness of materials. Today craft is no longer simply defined by categories or materials. The boundaries between design and manufacturing become blurred. The hybrid space that craft occupies today allows for a more human-centred vision, for trial and error, for hands-on experiences, for thinking through making, for change.’

Opendesk was also invited to exhibit in the context of the Bauhaus for the Vitra Design Museum’s ‘Alles ist Design / It’s all Design’ in 2015. When looking further into the Bauhaus’ founding principles at the time we found a surprising resonance with the mission behind Opendesk.

Photos by Josh Worley, Corinne and Mluzmilan

Designs seen in this article: