We recently paid a visit to MoMA’s Bauhaus Lab as one of the free art-making workshops was concluding. There, we met two stragglers, Jeff and Sarah, who spoke to us as they continued tinkering with their creative constructions. Two young artists, they were exploring form, texture, color and improvisation in this workshop based on the practices of Paul Klee and Johannes Itten.
What brings you to this workshop today?
Jeff: Well, we’re actually artists. We’re part of a collective called Hit Factorie. There’s about twenty of us working collaboratively in Brooklyn. They [the Bauhaus artists] were masters of collaboration, and we wanted to learn from that. We’re really interested in these ideas of collectivism and immediacy.
So, what did you think of the activity?
Sarah: I love the idea of using these exercises to warm up your creativity. There’s something open and democratic and inclusive in doing these strict exercises and thinking only about texture. It’s great to do something so structured, to have the limitations outlined for you and have to work within those parameters. The restrictions set you free. It’s definitely helpful to get you to a different space before you start a project.
Jeff: These are good tools for experimentation because it forces you to stop competing—I mean, no one’s good at this stuff. Who’s awesome at drawing with two hands? We live in such a specialized world and this forces you to step outside of that.
Sarah: I’m a graphic designer, so it was challenging for me to not think about composition and to concentrate on texture, which was the goal of this exercise. I don’t really know what I’m doing here, but I guess I’ve been drawing inspiration from my environment because I saw that other piece over there [points] emerging from the flat surface and I knew right away that I wanted to do something three-dimensional.
How does this relate to the ideas of collectivism and immediacy you brought up earlier?
Jeff: Well, at the Bauhaus they did everything. There was an opportunity for multiple fields to come together, and you sort of lost your expertise. Since that time, there’s been a move toward a more specialized world—this is your area of expertise, this is what you do—people don’t try new things as much, they don’t experiment. You sit in front of your computer and hit the keyboard and that’s what you do. Lately, I’ve been seeing a return to a more DIY, craft culture. It’s more about doing things for yourself.
Our collective came out of a zine project. It was started by friends of ours who are book designers. They started making zines a long time ago. After a while they got really good at it, and now they make these beautiful, elaborate books where it takes them a year to put something together. About a year ago, they started inviting a bunch of friends over to make one book in one day—a Hit Book. Not everyone is great at illustration or writing, but collectively, we make these incredible little books in a very short amount of time.
We tend to get wrapped up in perfection and professionalism, but when you make something quickly, you’re responding to the world around you. We don’t make objects anymore. They [Bauhaus students and instructors] were interested in so many different things and tried so many different things—we don’t do that anymore.
If you are interested in rolling up your sleeves for some art experimentation in the interactive Bauhaus Lab, which reimagines the classrooms of the historic Bauhaus school in Germany, see here for the schedule of events.
Sarah Sandman is an artist and graphic designer living in Brooklyn.
Jeff Hnilicka is a co-founder of FEAST – Funding Emerging Art with Sustainable Tactics.