On ‚Collective Dialogue ‚Gertrud Grunow‘‘ by Paulina Olszewska

Gertrud Grunow was born in 1870 in Berlin. She was a trained singer and pianist and taught as a teacher from 1920 to 1924 at the Bauhaus in Weimar. She came to Weimar on the invitation of Walter Gropius, whom she met in Berlin in 1913 during the 1st Conference on Aesthetics and Art History. Based on the method of rhythmic education by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Grunow developed her own lesson, the so-called harmonization theory, which formed part of the preparatory course for the first semester students at the Bauhaus in Weimar. In harmonization theory, Grunow focused on three principles: color, sound, movement, bringing them together in a very interdisciplinary way, from our perspective. The focus of the lesson was on practicing balance and concentration, which originally played a central role at the Bauhaus. Grunow was the only woman in the position of the master at the Bauhaus, but she never got that title. According to records and reminders of former students, staff and official documents, their teaching and teaching were very popular and appreciated. She left the Bauhaus in 1924 after the school program became more commercial and practice-oriented. Grunow’s harmonization did not fit the new program. She moved to Hamburg, where she lectured at the university, later also in other cities, and remained active until the end of her life as a teacher and theorist. In 1944 she died in Leverkusen. Although her time at the Bauhaus was relatively short, Grunow played an important role in the art and science development of entire generations of students, who in future would be significant artists and art theorists of the 20th century.
The year 2019 in Germany is strongly influenced by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus. The city of Weimar plays a special role. The program of the celebration picks up on the intentions of the school and addresses the new ideas for teaching and education, designed by artists such as Johannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky or Oskar Schlemmer and implemented in the lessons afterwards were. Issues such as concentration, seeking balance and balance, as well as mental and intellectual development were considered to be very important foundations for the education of young students. The harmonization doctrine united these principles and encouraged the participants to interdisciplinary and abstract thinking and acting.

The centenary celebrates Grunow’s underestimated and almost forgotten teaching methods and, with a view to the present, interprets and applies them in the current context. As with many other female biographies, it is necessary to resort to reconstructive research, since documentation is incomplete and testimonies have been lost (Jenny Brockmann: ‚Gertud-Grunow-Vitrine‘, various materials, 2018, BILD. …).

The artist Jenny Brockmann deals with the personality of Gertrud Grunow and her teachings. Jenny Brockmann (born 1976 in Berlin) studied Fine Arts at the University of the Arts in Berlin as well as at Hunter College in New York City and was a master student with Rebecca Horn. In her artistic work she uses different, sometimes even opposing disciplines and materials, so that in the end her works receive a deeply interdisciplinary and multifaceted character. Brockmann’s work balances at the interface of art, the humanities and science. The artist often invites experts from various disciplines to her projects: scientists, researchers, thinkers and artists: dancers, musicians or performers in order to work with them to work through phenomena that form the basis of our thought system nature – biological, physical, chemical – and cultural – social, economic and political events. The result is projects for which process, development and development are characteristic.

As an introduction to the exhibition, which is planned for 2019, Brockmann is already preparing three events as part of the Weimar Art Festival 2018, each with a focus on the teachings of Grunow and her time in Weimar with the problems that the teacher has in her theoretical and practical life To engage in work, to deal with it. Each event picks up different questions. Together with art scholars, musicians and dancers, Brockmann analyzes the method taught by Grunow with a focus on the human body and its action, which is realized simultaneously in three dimensions: temporal, spiritual and spatial. The invited experts look at Grunow’s thinking using contemporary research apparatus. The question that was so strongly present at the Bauhaus – how do you learn? – is again posed by Brockmann and transformed into a discursive process. The cultural scientist Sophia Gräfe (article page …) and the designer Adrian Palko of Space for Visual Research (article page …) analyze what lies behind the term of the instruction in Gertrud Grunow’s teaching. Following the texts and notes of Grunow, the artist, together with the invited guests architectural theorist Ines Weizman (article page …), philosopher Hartmut Böhme (article page …) and the participating public reflect on the social and ethical aspects of the artistic action regarding the historical and contemporary perspective. Moreover the oeuvre of Grunow is commented by the dancer Katja Erfurth (article page …), the jazz singer Sophie Grobler (article page …) and the performer Miet Warlop; and the artistic work of Grunow’s contemporaries, the artists Ljubow Sergejewna Popowa, Hilma af Klint or Katarzyna Kobro is faced. This records similarities between different European art circles and the active zeitgeist of the time.

In each event Brockmann finds a starting point for the extension of her own artistic practice. All three events are intended as a kind of laboratory in which both sides: invited guests and the audience are actively involved. They have a strong performative character and become one-time unrepeatable events. In connection with Grunow’s theory Brockmann connects her own artistic work and refers to her own working method. Since Grunow’s lessons did not follow a concrete scenario, the individual processes are known only thanks to the transmission and notes of former students. It not only proves that lessons were different every time, but also benefits Brockmann and opens the door to further artistic processes. Based on the information conveyed and Grunow’s writing, the artist defines certain frameworks, but also retains the space for further events, which develops as the event progresses. The result is, as in a scientific experiment, unknown and forms only during the event.

Brockmann describes this kind of action as a „discursive dialogue“ in which three elements are necessary for its creation: the space, the time and the interaction between the objects and the people that are within space and time. Such assumptions are basic definitions for the sculpture, which always arises simultaneously in three dimensions: material, temporal and spatial. Brockmann comes directly from this tradition and works with exactly these conditions.
Historically, her working methods have been the basis for the succession of the Bauhaus idea, which evolved and developed in the second half of the twentieth century in the artistic circles and at universities in the United States. In Brockmann’s works, sculpture functions as a creation process and has a strong performative character. In the way in which all three events are conceived, references are made to Allan Kaprow and his happenings. The happenings defined and carried out by him were a hybrid form of a performative event: without recognizable dramaturgy and with collage-like, often simultaneously organized events, with blurred boundaries between the performers and the audience. Often, the happenings were based on chance and improvisation and Kaprow used a variety of art media and ordinary everyday objects.

It is possible to look even further into the history of the Black Mountain College of the 1950s, where the Bauhaus teaching method was developed further by former professors and students and both art and art education opened up for experimental and new ways of thinking. There John Cage performed his revolutionary „Untitled Event“ in 1952, which was defined as the first happening. The artist priscribed the participants – students from different faculties – the times in which they should show something, should take a break or be silent, whereby the exact activity was freely selectable. What John Cage did back then was setting the framework and opening the wider artistic action to a process and further uncontrolled development.

With this idea, Brockmann unites her „discursive dialogue“ with „public dialogue“, which was conducted by Joseph Beuys in the 1970s. The format, in which the question as well as the interaction between the participants is defined as a central point, is for Brockmann a working method in itself.

In the present context, Brockmann’s thinking and style of her artistic practice is in line with the approach of the Polish artist Paweł Althamer, known for his participatory and performative art actions. In his works, the work of art is only created through the participation of the participants and in the process. However, the process remains more important than the end result itself. Only the fields of artistic interests of Brockmann and Althamer differ. For him, the social context plays the main role, for her it is the scientific and interdisciplinary approach from which sociopolitical structures are critically questioned.
Brockmann works with three elements: the space, the artistic object and the body of the visitor. Based on the given space, the existing object and the material body, a relationship of dependence and interdependence is formed. Only in this field the exhibition is created.

Similar to the kinetic art of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Naum Gabo or even the spatial constructions of Katarzyna Kobro, space and material form influence each other and together create a series of tensions between the dynamic and the static, depending on the reference point of the beholder. For Brockmann, the movement of objects has two different perspectives: the space in which the objects move and the space that makes them move. It means that the objects are moved mechanically and move in the context of the concrete space. In addition, the movement also passes around the static object and is caused by the space and the existing optics.

Brockmann creates a close relationship between body and object, because only in an interaction between them the work of art can be formed. As a student of Rebecca Horn, Brockmann uses the instrument of the prosthesis, understood as an extension of the human body. In her 1970 series „Extended Body,“ Rebecca Horn created various objects that should serve as a specific and symbolic enhancement of human abilities. Brockmann takes over this idea of ​​expansion and improvement and adds further aspects to it. In her objects, this extension is a means or tool for a continuous investigation within the exhibition, where further artistic processes take place. In terms of this, Brockmann’s objects not only function as an extension – a prosthesis, but are also devices – tools that unify the body and the object. Without this connection, they are meaningless. Similar to the plays of Tadeusz Kantor, in which there was neither classical decoration nor props and the stage was a place of constant transformation. The apparatuses made by the artist were „dressed“ by actors or moved in various ways.

In Brockmann’s exhibition, various objects become tools that can be compared with the role of objects in the actor-network theory coined by anthropologist Bruno Latour. Using the example of the ‚Berliner Schlüssel, Latour sees the objects as accumulations of social practices and actions. These take on the role of a „mediator“ and his action is the mediation between people and things, which in turn makes the mediators a social actor. According to Latour, things and people can not be considered separately. They are interconnected and share properties and abilities. Accordingly, actions or social interaction arise through the interweaving interaction. The mutual role assignments and role assumptions of both actors create a relationship. Latour refers to this relationship as a
BILD: Jenny Brockmann: Forschungsgruppe ‚Kollektiver Dialog ‚Gertrud Grunow‘‘, 2018
network in his theory. Such a network also emerges within the exhibition of Brockmann: between her objects, invited guests, the audience and the space.

What role does Brockmann ultimately play in her own exhibition? Jenny Brockmann gives the participants the first impulse, introduces her ideas, images and references, and then does not influence further the process. Instead, she analyzes and collects the results, as in a mobile experimental research station, in which all contributors temporarily work, learn and research together and in conjunction with the audience and at the same time are part of the experiment. Brockmanns presence is realized in the complex creation of the process.

This also happens during the events which part of the art festival in Weimar 2018. After the three discursive dialogues around the theory and teaching method of Gertrud Grunow, Jenny Brockmann collects what is produced and continues to process it. This means that the events are to be understood as an integral part of the multifaceted process and can be found in other forms during the anniversary exhibition of the Bauhaus in Weimar 2019.