Updated: Mar 19, 2021
Last year’s Bauhaus centenary celebrations saw a number of imaginative tributes to the design movement, but Vic Reeves’s 'Bauhaus rules' series on BBC Four is truly a cut above the rest. It follows six deadpan Central St Martins art students, as they compete in a variety of challenges which reflect the legendary way of life and learning at Walter Gropius's original Bauhaus School in Dessau.
The BBC's modern-day answer to the Bauhaus professors are sculptor David Batchelor, furniture designer Kate Butler and fashion designer Holly Fulton. They instruct and mentor the students through their artistic challenges in a range of mediums, from photography (without cameras), to costume design where the allocated theme is simply ‘metal’.
After a busy week of challenges, the participants throw a Bauhaus costume party to show off their metallic costumes and set design to fellow students. They serve glittery cupcakes (nut-free and vegan of course, we are in the 21st century despite appearances) and perform a dance choreographed according to the Bauhaus School rules as they were in the 1920s: ‘in pairs but without touching’ and ‘leaping and wild stamping of feet are absolutely essential’.
It’s strangely… heart-warming to see the students’ cool frowns melt away as they giddily dart around in their tinfoil hats. There’s something magical about the Bauhaus way of teaching. It perhaps explains why back in the 1920s, the students stayed loyal through hardship, repeatedly rebuilding the school after being pushed first out of Weimar, then Dessau, under political pressure from conservative circles and a disapproving Ministry of Education.
Bauhaus parties were an opportunity for the artists to create completely original costumes. In his essay ‘Life at Bauhaus’ (1925), architect Farkas Molnár describes the surreal scenes: “Kandinsky prefers to appear decked out as an antenna… Feininger as two right triangles… Gropius as Le Corbusier… Klee as the song of the blue tree. A rather grotesque menagerie…” For a taste of the Bauhaus school with a contemporary twist, check out the programme on iPlayer.