“Fundamentals of Exhibition Design” by Herbert Bayer (p.17-25)
(excerpt from The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art by Mary Anne Staniszewski)
As Readers in Texts, Viewers in
Exhibitions with “Fields of Vision”
Although Moholy-Nagy’s Room of Our Time was also conceived as a permanent installation, it was never fully realized. For lack of funds, some components were not installed; others did not operate properly. After Adolf Hitler assumed power as head of the German state in 1933, Dorner’s innovations at the Landesmuseum were destroyed. Moholy’s and Lissitzky’s installations were dismantled and the hundreds of modern works acquired by Dorner were the greatest single source for the famous Entartete Kunst exhibition of 1937. In January 1938 Dorner immigrated to the United States; within months, he was appointed director of the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Dorner had invited Moholy to create The Room of Our Time in the summer of 1930 after seeing his contribution to the German Section of one of the most important international exhibitions of the period, the 1930 Exposition de la Societe des Artistes Decorateurs, held at the Grand Palais in Paris. The German installation was startlingly different from most of the other exhibits, which were done in a Deco-Moderne style. Under the jurisdiction of the Deutscher Werkbund, the section was a showcase for the Werkbund’s agenda to promote the new, modern German design and architecture. Walter Gropius, who had resigned from the Bauhaus two years before the show, was commissioned by the Werkbund to oversee the German Section in collaboration with three former Bauhaus members: Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, and Breuer designed one gallery each, and Bayer was given two.
The exhibit was conceived as a community center complete with swimming pool, gymnasium, cafe bar, dance floor, and reading room, which was supposed to be housed in a ten-story apartment building. Gropius designed the communal rooms (figs. 1.23 and 1.27), Breuer designed a domestic apartment furnished with his designs, Moholy presented a stage and ballet exhibit, a photographic survey of “new buildings,” a display of lighting fixtures, and a standardized post office, and Bayer created installations for mass-produced utilitarian objects, fabrics, building materials, applied arts, furniture, and architecture (figs. 1.25 and 1.26). A telling comparison that gives some sense of the impact of the Werkbund exhibition can be made between the machine age swimming pool design by Gropius and the romantic, Deco pool installed at the exposition by Henri and Jacques Rapin (figs. 1.27 and 1.28).
A paradigmatic experiment in the history of exhibition design was Bayer’s architecture and furniture gallery, which was intended to demonstrate the integration of design and industrial production. His displays included photo panels of images of architecture tilted at angles from the floor and ceiling, mass-produced chairs hung in rows on the wall, and architectural models. As a preliminary sketch for this installation, Bayer conceived his Diagram of Field of Vision, which was reproduced in the Werkbund catalogue (fig. 1.24). This diagram became the foundation for Bayer’s approach to installation design. Of particular significance are the diagram’s inclusion of a viewer within the exhibition space and the arrangement of panels and objects in relation to the observer’s field of vision. Rather than mount images flat against the wall, Bayer tilted the panels above and below eye level.
In 1935, Bayer collaborated with Gropius, Breuer, and Moholy-Nagy to create another dramatic exhibition installation for the Baugewerkschafts Ausstellung (Building Workers’ Unions Exhibition) in Berlin (fig. 1.29). Expanding his concept of field of vision, Bayer created the Diagram of 360 Degrees Field of Vision (fig. 1.30). In the 1935 diagram, Bayer placed the figure on a platform several inches off the ground, a position that augmented the viewer’s ability to scan the ceiling, floor, and wall panels. Bayer’s field-of-vision formula shares with the exhibition techniques of Kiesler and Lissitzky an acknowledgment of the relationship between the viewer and that which is viewed. Unlike the practices of Kiesler and Lissitzky, Bayer’s formulation presumes that the viewer is of an ideal height. However, Bayer’s installation design is similar to their methods in not being anchored to the physical limits of the room: the exhibited works are not lined up flat against the wall, and the entire installation is designed to create a dynamic exhibition experience. In the Building Workers’ Unions Exhibition, Bayer created an exhibit where the images were composed of louvers that would turn automatically, thereby presenting alternating images (fig. 1.31). He also guided the visitor through the show by placing cutout footprints on the floor, which in representational terms functioned as a visible trace of the spectators moving through the installation (fig. 1.32).
Bayer’s formulations take into account what has come to be referred to in the language of critical theory as “the reader in the text.” That is to say, in Bayer’s methodology an exhibition is not conceived as existing as a timeless, idealized space. Rather, the exhibition is treated as a representation experienced by an observer who is moving through the space at a specific time and place; and it is through this dynamic interrelation that meaning is presumed to be created. Bayer’s, Kiesler’s, Lissitzky’s, and Moholy-Nagy’s installation methods were all intended to reject idealist aesthetics and cultural autonomy and to treat an exhibition as a historically bound experience whose meaning is shaped by its reception.
- curved walls
- flow of spectators & visitors
- removal of glass
- bauhaus ideology
Herbert Bayer, Diagram of 360 Degrees Field of Vision, 1935
Independent Curators International (ICI) produces exhibitions, events, publications, and training opportunities for diverse audiences around the world. A catalyst for independent thinking, ICI connects emerging and established curators, artists, and institutions, to forge international networks and generate new forms of collaboration. Working across disciplines and historical precedents, the organization is a hub that provides access to the people, ideas, and practices that are key to current developments in the field, inspiring fresh ways of seeing and contextualizing contemporary art. (x)
Because I’m bored.
(brought to my attention by We love typography)
A picture in 365 slices. Each slice is one day of the year.
It looks like the idea to stage a reading of “8” here in Milan, Italy is becoming more and more probable!
Going to various theaters tomorrow to search space and then hopefully Skyping with BroadwayImpact about the details.
It’s exciting to see a project for philosophy turning into something tangible. Stoked.
Got bored so completely redid my photography ID presentation. Hah.
California Academy of Science, San Francisco California
- Articolo di arcitetturaecosostenibile.it
It may be childish and a little bit stupid, but then again, so is high school.
Going on a hunt and finding this movie to watch before I go to bed!
A C C U R A T E