Last week, Openbox’s Marquise Stillwell had the opportunity to introduce The New Bauhaus to a global community of Bauhaus scholars in Weimar, Germany during the 14th International Bauhaus-Kolloquium. The film—currently in production and scheduled for release in September 2019—focuses on the life and legacy of László Moholy-Nagy. It begins with his time at the Bauhaus School in Weimar, migration to Chicago to found The New Bauhaus school of design, and his lasting influence on design and education. Rather than a historical overview of the Bauhaus at large, the film explores Moholy’s notion of pedagogy through experimentation.
Marquise notes, “you can’t just replant a movement in a different location—you have to take a seed and use the new conditions as fuel to build something new.” The symbolism of returning to Germany with a new angle on the Moholy and Bauhaus story being told in part through a Black and female perspective is not lost on Marquise. He notes the simultaneous founding of the Bauhaus with the Great Migration, which grew Chicago’s Black population by 148% in the years leading up to Moholy’s relocation there. It was an era when Chicago was seen as a land of play and experimentation prior to the founding of The New Bauhaus.
It was meaningful to be in the company of numerous scholars on women in Bauhaus who presented and attended the Weimar conference. Director of The New Bauhaus, Alysa Nahmias, is committed to telling the female story in the film. This includes Moholy’s wives, Lucia and Sibylle, who were integral to his career and influence. In many ways the film’s protagonist is Hattula Moholy-Nagy, the keeper of her parents’ story. It is in the hands of women that the Bauhaus legacy is being held and—really—that’s the way it has always been.
One hundred years after the founding of the original Bauhaus, experts and aficionados are still compelled to find new ways of understanding a movement that had such an outsized and enduring impact. Viewing filmmaking as a mode of inquiry, the storytellers behind The New Bauhaus film don’t see themselves as experts so much as provocateurs. “Our hope is that you leave asking more questions than you came in with.”