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141 C o n c l u s i o n On Weaving , on Writing The Bauhaus in Berlin closed in 1933 and that year, with the political situation growing increasingly difficult for Jewish citizens and artists in Germany, Anni and Josef Albers left for new faculty positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina.WhenthecoupletraveledbyshiptoAmerica,under a visa provided with the support of architect Philip Johnson (then director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Architecture), they brought with them relatively little in the way of things.1 They did, however, bear the imprint of a certain field of thought that would carry out in their work as teachers. The internally complex event that was the Bauhaus (an event that became visible as such only after the fact, in its emigration to other contexts) had embedded itself in their thinking. And so they, like many of their colleagues who fled to America around the same time, continued to see themselves as Bauhäusler—­ a certain kind of subject circulating in a particular set of truths about or approaches to practice and pedagogy, especially as those two were linked. To grapple with the aftermath of the Bauhaus in America —­to consider the context in which the weavers’ thoughts on weaving ended up, and the purposes they came to serve—­ is to reconsider, first of all, where those discussions have been. Recall that the Bauhaus weavers, in their practice and in their essays on their craft, absorbed the languages of other media. In their wall hangings, for example, the weavers adopted the formal principles of expressionist painting; in their workshop’s prototypes for architectural textiles, they assumed the functionalist vocabulary of the Neues Bauen; for their fabrics found in Neue Sachlichkeit photographs and glossy magazines, they considered the limits of optical and tactile perception; and within patent documents, one weaver sought intellectual property protection for her textile inventions . In the first three instances, weaving’s identity came 142 C o n c l u s i o n out of a struggle between different material disciplines associated more or less with the arts—­ this craft simultaneously took on and rejected the lexicons of painting, architecture, and photography. In the fourth instance, the medial relation was that of a slippage between two properly linguistic discourses: the discursive identity of the medium, now found within a Patentshrift, had moved over smoothly into an object of legal rhetoric. Either way, each instantiation of weaving was on some level only ever a mediation of other media. And so all media involved in this process (not just weaving, but also painting, architecture, etc.) were in turn shown to be specific only insofar as they had a textual apparatus to circumscribe themselves as such. Each medium’s identity was never purely material or formal; to be understood as such, it had to pass through (be encoded by) a written text. This is something the weavers grasped, if only intuitively, when they harnessed the terms of other media to define their own. But this question became more pronounced in the American context. For it is here that Anni Albers began to write more prolifically, as she struggled to articulate the goals and parameters of her practice. Having been the first to theorize the Bauhaus approach to weaving in 1924, subtly attentive to the specific (modernist) features of that technique, she began after 1933 to reflect on the process that encodes (or translates) practices and materials into words. Pursued over several decades after immigrating to America, her writings in English attempted to come to terms with the particular practice the weavers had developed most uniquely: their writing on weaving. At first, in the essays written between 1937 and 1959, leading up to the initial publication of On Designing, Albers was interested in the problems but also the possibilities that ensued from such a translation. What gets lost, she seemed to ask, in the movement between these media, these different languages? The question would come down to her insistence on avoiding the intellectualization and professionalization of her discipline in a theory or anything that obfuscated experiential practice.2 And this, even as she sought to advocate in teaching a fundamental approach to the material —­ a “starting at point zero”—­ a general ethos for action.3 The act of writing thus provided Albers with a possibility for articulating her goal of bringing material practice to the fore of education, C o n c l u s i o n...


Subject Headings

  • Textile design -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Weaving -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women textile designers -- Germany.
  • Bauhaus.
  • Modernism (Art).
  • Art and craft debate.
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