Shadow Casters, Shapes in Light

Playing, investigating and collecting with the Bauhaus Agents in Dessau's Bauhaus Museum

The Bauhaus Museum in Dessau opened on 8th September 2019. The museum sees itself not only as an exhibition space telling the story of the "Versuchsstätte Bauhaus", but also as an open stage, a space for learning, action and encounters. Our tour of the museum with the agents shows the part played by the work of the Dessau Bauhaus Agents and what additional offers await interested visitors.


Bauhaus Museum Dessau at night (Image: Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau / Thomas Meyer, OSTKREUZ, 2019)


How do you exhibit a school? This question was key during curatorial considerations regarding the new Bauhaus Museum in Dessau. "We are concerned with the path of learning, of unleashing and rejecting ideas," explained Regina Bittner, co-curator and deputy director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation at the opening. The interactive information stations that the Dessau Bauhaus Agents have developed for the exhibition in the new museum building, designed by the Berlin office chezweitz, take up this same approach.

The show begins in the foyer of the glass building block, which the Dessau museum makers see as an "open stage" – for discussions, performances and workshops. This generous space is intended to provide a link to the city, a freely accessible venue for encounters and communication. It is here that museum guests and passers-by–who are perhaps just looking for a shortcut from the shopping centre opposite to the city park–can meet, for example, at "ALMA 100". This ensemble of play and seating elements was designed by the Leipzig office LUKS and was inspired by the toys of Bauhaus designer Alma Siedhoff-Buscher.

The "Spielomat" offers a wide range of additional games free of charge for players of all ages. The device has 100 ideas for indoor and outdoor games, developed by pupils from the partner schools in Dessau and Halle together with the Bauhaus Agents. The apparatus was designed by the Büro für Sinn und Unsinn (Halle/Saale). Simply select the desired playing time, the degree of activity, the number and age of the players, crank the handle firmly – and off you go!

The Spielmöbel ALMA 100 in the foyer of the Bauhaus Museum in action (Image: Bauhaus Agent / Anne Schneider)

A playful Beginning in the Foyer

"A playful beginning  (undisturbed by theory, thus without preconceptions) develops courage, leads to discoveries". These are words once used by Josef Albers, who had a decisive influence on the preparatory course at the Bauhaus Dessau. In this sense, the Spielomat awakens a spirit of discovery and some games may require a bit of courage: "Change your hair" is one of the game instructions. "Do weird hairstyles for each other, look for inspiration in the museum. How about Walter Gropius' hairstyle, for example?" Another suggestion is the game "Typo-Salat", developed by a 16-year-old pupil, Gerdis: "Explore the terrain and find all the letters of the alphabet". The role that typography played at the Bauhaus can be seen in the exhibition one flight of stairs further up.

One of 100 game ideas from the Spielautomat (Image: Bauhaus Agenten / FE)

Questions right at the Start

The exhibition floor is divided into three zones–eight questions are formulated at the beginning in the so-called "testing area" in the south wing. "Can there be a universal alphabet?", "Can light be a means of design?", "What is the origin of all creativity?" or "How does design become tangible?" Selected works by Bauhaus artists, studies and contemporary documents offer initial answers and comments. What co-curator Dorothee Brill describes as "a loosening-up exercise for visitors" could also be understood as a work assignment for the Bauhaus Agents. The hands-on stations developed by Tabea Kiessling, Anne Schneider, Philine Sollmann and Silke Wallstein offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy their own personal experience with the design practice of the "Bauhaus School of Ideas" by actually doing and becoming active.

Casting shadows and modelling light

The "Experimental Space" of the Bauhaus Agents occupies a central position in the main exhibition area. "It is the most active element of the exhibition," says Dorothee Brill. Here, the agents are not only showing documentation of their project work with the 15 partner schools from Dessau-Roßlau and Halle (Saale). At the "Shadow Caster", visitors can also become active themselves. This light show apparatus was inspired by Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack. In 1922, as a Bauhaus student, he discovered quite by chance the phenomenon of "coloured shadows", which are created by superimposing different light sources. In the exhibition, the "Shadow Caster", which was created in collaboration with designer Leander Leinenbach and pupils from the primary school "Am Akazienwäldchen", can be used in numerous variations to test how light can be a material of design.

Visitors are also introduced to "Light Theory" at the hands-on station on the opposite side of the exhibition course. For instance, the famous lamps designed by Bauhaus member Marianne Brandt on behalf of Kandem were also the result of intensive research into light. Together with designer Oliver Proske, the Bauhaus Agents have developed an analogue-digital experimental station with which visitors can change beams of light on the lamp model using different mechanical settings, and so continue the Kandem light studies themselves.

Schattenwerfer in the experiment room (Image: Bauhaus Agent /FE)

Combining Forms and trying out the preliminary Course

At the third hands-on station design is presented "tangibly", in the truest sense of the word. It is located directly beside Marianne Brandt's tea infuser and Theodor Bogler's tableware collections in the exhibition. Ceramic artist Sami Ben Larbi dismantled the objects into their individual parts, and these magnetic parts can now be combined into new objects. Thus the principle of modular design, which played a major role at the Bauhaus, is explored playfully.

Visitors can also experiment with shapes and different surfaces and colours at the fourth outreach station. Shortly before entering the north wing of the exhibition, a screen prompts: "Become a Bauhaus student". Here, forms can be combined freely into virtual objects and designed with a wide variety of materials and colours. "Those who like to can work according to instructions from the Bauhaus preliminary course written by Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy or Wassily Kandinsky," explains Bauhaus Agent Anne Schneider. Just as the pre-course teachers entered the classroom, gave suggestions, and then allowed the students to continue working on their own, there is an option here to show or hide the pre-course instructions in the virtual design space implemented by the interactive designers of A.MUSE (Halle/Saale). Finally, everyone can have their own work sent to them by e-mail.

A Compilation to take away

To conclude, visitors can pursue their own passion for collecting in the north wing, which is dedicated to the development of the Dessau Bauhaus Collection. The "compilation" invites visitors to put together a very personal exhibition catalogue based on 60 motifs–with favourite pieces from the exhibition and further suggestions relating to topics such as "Bauhaus on the Road" and "Bauhaus at Home"–and to take it away with them. In 2017, the Bauhaus Agents had already received a very positive response to the offer of a personally compiled "catalogue" to take away at the exhibition "Craft becomes modern" in the Bauhaus building in Dessau. Now, they have implemented the idea together with the design office NODE (Berlin/Oslo) for the permanent exhibition in the Bauhaus Museum Dessau.

Bauhaus Museum Dessau
Mies-van-der-Rohe-Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Architectur: addenda architects, Barcelona
Exhibition design: chezweitz, Berlin

Hands-On-Stationen: Bauhaus Agents Dessau (Bauhaus Agents: Tabea Kießling, Anne Schneider, Philine Sollmann, Silke Wallstein / Project Management: Jutta Stein / Leitung Kuratorische Workshop: Karin Kolb)

Opening times:
9.9. – 31.10.2019: daily 9 am – 6 pm
1.11.2019: daily 10 am – 5 pm

Learn more

Outlook: Explorers' Booklets, Tours & Co

The work of the Bauhaus Agents will continue even after the opening of the museum. In the coming months, the agents will work together with young people to develop special guided tours of the museum, the documentary film workshop will continue to accompany the development of the museum from the perspective of Dessau schoolchildren, and various "discovery books" will be published in the autumn. These publications about the Bauhaus buildings have been developed by the Bauhaus Agents together with their partner schools. The Bauhaus building also hosts an open workshop every Wednesday with various themes, and school classes can explore the Bauhaus buildings with tours such as "Bauhaus researchers" and "Bauhaus detectives".

(FE 2019)

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