Design in Motion
Film Experiments at the Bauhaus
- Longlisted for the 2023 Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards
428 pp., 7 x 10 in, 94 b&w photos, 20 color plates
- Published: July 19, 2022
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The first comprehensive history in English of film at the Bauhaus, exploring practices that experimented with film as an adaptable, elastic “polymedium.”
With Design in Motion, Laura Frahm proposes an alternate history of the Bauhaus—one in which visual media, and film in particular, are crucial to the Bauhaus's visionary pursuit of integrating art and technology. In the first comprehensive examination in English of film at the Bauhaus, Frahm shows that experimentation with film spanned a range of Bauhaus practices, from textiles and typography to stage and exhibition design. Indeed, Bauhausler deployed film as an adaptable, elastic “polymedium,” malleable in shape and form, unfolding and refracting into multiple material, aesthetic, and philosophical directions.
Frahm shows how the encounter with film imbued the Bauhaus of the 1920s and early 1930s with a flexible notion of design, infusing painting with temporal concepts, sculptures with moving forms, photographs with sequential aesthetics, architectural designs with a choreography of movement. Frahm considers, among other things, student works that explored light and the transparent features of celluloid and cellophane; weaving practices that incorporate cellophane; experimental films, social documentaries, and critical reportage by Bauhaus women; and the proliferation of film strips in posters, book covers, and other typographic work.
Viewing the Bauhaus's engagement with film through a media-theoretic lens, Frahm shows how film became a medium for “design in motion.” Movement and process, rather than stability and fixity, become the defining characteristics of Bauhaus educational, aesthetic, and philosophical ethos.
“The Bauhaus may not have offered film class, but, as Laura Frahm demonstrates unequivocally in Design in Motion, film was everywhere at the school, in its lecture halls and workshops, and in the art and objects made by its students and masters. This beautifully imaginative, fresh take on modernism's signal art school establishes film as the Bauhaus's most inspired medium, one fit for the machine age, as well as its most powerful metaphor, which encapsulated the school's emphasis on movement, process, and flexible design.”
Elizabeth Otto, Professor for Modern and Contemporary Art History, The State University of New York at Buffalo
“Discovering an expansive archive of work with filmic media and processes—from movie screenings and slide projections to celluloid-lined costumes and lightplays—Design in Motion opens up a whole new understanding of the Bauhaus experiment. At once brilliant and sensitive, Laura Frahm's writing zeros in on the counterintuitive connections among the workshops, process philosophy, and the Bauhaus's filmic culture.”
T'ai Smith, Associate Professor and Graduate Advisor, Art History, University of British Columbia
“In this highly original book, Laura Frahm not only a re-examines the history of the Bauhaus through the lens of film, but provides a valuable contribution to media theory by deepening our understanding of expanded cinema avant-la-lettre as a “hybrid polymedium,” and addresses the interplay of film's very material basis, celluloid, with other fields of production such as weaving and sculpture.”
Oliver A. I. Botar, Associate Director, Graduate Studies and Research, and Professor, Art History, University of Manitoba