bauhaus imaginista

March 2019 - January 2020
Soft Cell installation at Still Undead: Popular Culture in Britain Beyond the Bauhaus, exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, 2019. Photo: Gavin

Gavin was invited by Bauhaus Imaginista chief curators Marion Von Osten and Grant Watson to help assess the legacy of the Bauhaus in post-war UK art education and to chart the impact of modernist experiment in British popular culture. Leeds was chosen because the city’s College of Art was a UK pioneer of the Bauhaus-inspired pedagogy of Basic Design in the post-war decades, and Leeds Polytechnic was renowned for student work in performance art and post-punk music in the 1970s and 1980s. The aim of Gavin’s contribution was to show how performance and sound recording facilities at Leeds Polytechnic, alongside avant-gardist studio discourse, facilitated the creation of 1980s pop and electro-pop music and their associated subcultural street-styles.

Video of Soft Cell installation at Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin. Videographer: caitlin.ricaud on instagram

Both exhibitions showed the role played by purpose-built performance and sound studio facilities at Leeds Polytechnic in making futuristic electro-music and new street styles possible. Audio recordings were presented in the gallery alongside film and video works, performance documentation, club ephemera, musical notation and sketchbook material. Vinyl records by Fad Gadget/Frank Tovey were available for visitors to play on turntables in the final room of the exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary alongside the artist’s Bauhaus-style photography on the walls.

“The results of Basic Design course are presented in the final room of the exhibition, which is dedicated to work connected to Leeds Polytechnic in the 1970s and 80s […] a rousing finale.” – Will Gompertz, BBC

Also at Nottingham Contemporary, exhibiting artists Hinchcliffe and Wood reconstructed their 1978 experimental sound work Dehbye. Made from an unconventionally long, spliced tape loop, it moved across spools on the gallery wall to played through a reel-to-reel tape recorder for visitors. This was the first time the work had been presented for gallery exhibition since its creation.