M+M Program in Media and Modernity presents
John R. Blakinger : Undreaming the Bauhaus
[response by Irene V. Small]
Tue October 22, 2019 @5pm
Princeton University – School of Architecture – Room N107
What happened to the Bauhaus dream during the Cold War? This talk considers the legacy of Bauhaus modernism through the work of artist, designer, and visual theorist Gyorgy Kepes (1906-2001), who taught at MIT from 1945 until 1974. Kepes was a relentless advocate of interdisciplinary exchange, or what he called “interthinking” and “interseeing.” He collaborated with a surprising constellation of colleagues, including scientific experts involved in war research with applications in Vietnam. Drawing from his new monograph on Kepes, John Blakinger explores the progressive potential of Kepes’s projects but also Kepes’s reactionary entanglement in the military-industrial-aesthetic complex. In attempting to “undream” the Bauhaus into existence once more, Kepes faced profound resistance. He inspired a dramatic backlash. This talk demonstrates the continued relevance of Kepes’s interdisciplinary experiments, and the backlash against them, in a contemporary age again dominated by science and technology.
John R. Blakinger is Departmental Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Oxford, where he was the 2018-2019 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art. He is the author of Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus (The MIT Press, 2019). His other writing has appeared in Tate Papers, Design Issues, CAA Reviews, and in edited volumes; a book on camouflage was published in French translation in 2015. He is now working on a new project examining recent political controversies in the arts.
Irene V. Small is an associate professor in the Department of Art & Archaeology at Princeton University.