Abstract Films

in the exhibition »bauhaus.film.expanded«

The photo shows the exhibition room with a large canvas in the middle, depicting spheres that look like eyeballs. To the left and right there are two other canvases in the background, on which hands and black and white shapes are depicted.

»The idea was very simple – that only one surface (square or rectangle) at a time should be visible on the canvas, either standing or moving to a strict rhythm.« (Werner Graeff, 1922)

The Bauhaus film makers were already working with abstract films from the early 1920s. They created film scripts for games of form and color, partly playful, partly radically formal, partly poetic. The latest research findings prove that the Bauhaus students Lore Leudesdorff and Ré Soupault (née Erna Niemeyer) were also authors of seminal works of the German film avant-garde. In some of the »Absolute Films« by Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, and Hans Richter, they were responsible for important steps in the production process. They were in charge of the drawings, the rhythms of the images, operating the animation camera, and the hand coloring of individual frames of the film.

The central idea of the Bauhaus was not to practice »l’art pour l’art«, but to create art and knowledge for as many people as possible. The development of various industrial products was preceded by research and practical research work. Many abstract films at the Bauhaus, for example, explore how moving geometric bodies behave in space. In the films, countless possibilities of the movements of forms in different directions and from different perspectives are systematically investigated.

The greatest contrast to the abstract films at the Bauhaus were the utility and advertising films, since they did not directly pursue artistic aims. Leudesdorff’s and Ruttmann’s advertising films exhibit both abstract and representational elements and reflect her special interest in the formal aesthetic vocabulary of modernism. In Alfred Ehrhardt’s cultural films, the influence of the Bauhaus is clearly visible. They deal with abstraction, archaic primal forms, surface structure, ornamentation, rhythm, polyphony, and seriality. The abstract films »Composition I/1922« and »Composition II/1922« by Werner Graeff, refer to the pure observation of form in space. Like Kurt Kranz and Kurt Schwerdtfeger, Graeff only realized his films later at the Werkkunstschule Folkwang. His black and white »Composition« was created in 1959 and the colored version not until 1977.

Films in the exhibition »bauhaus.film.expanded«

Some films in this section were available online until August 23, 2020. The release was accompanied by a live discussion on May 7, 2020 at 6 pm between Malte Hagener, Markus Heltschl and Stefan Drößler, moderated by Teresa Retzer