Spinning triangles:
Ignition of a School of Design

On the occassion of the 100th anniversary of the bauhaus, SAVVY Contemporary seeks to challenge and act against the inherent, neocolonial power structures in design practices, theory and teaching with its project Spinning Triangles. It takes up the founding moment of the Bauhaus one hundred years ago and starts from its reality as a school of design to reverse and reshape it. We recognize the Bauhaus not only as a solution, but also as a problem, and will propose a school of design that may well become an “un-school,” and will emerge through a process between Dessau, Kinshasa, Berlin and Hong Kong.

First and foremost, the Bauhaus was a school of design. It aimed to educate a new generation of designers, makers and thinkers that would face the challenges of their “now”. Spinning Triangles takes up this founding moment of 1919. Not in order to repeat it but to twist it: we will create a school of design that has what it takes to tackle the challenges of our “now”, and might, precisely by this, turn into an “Un-school”. This school will not be developed by the geopolitical west, but through the accelerated movement between deeply interwoven places – Dessau, Kinshasa, Berlin and Hong Kong.– and will confuse their prescribed roles as idea provider, raw material supplier and champion of production.

The ignition of this school will take place in Kinshasa – in the capital of a country without which our smartphone-modernity, creative economy and data collecting mania is unthinkable but which also bears the highest costs: the past twenty years alone have amassed six million corpses caused by the ruthless mining of minerals and its associated conflicts – official numbers that can be deemed as cautious estimations.

The longterm project starts in Dessau, where Van Bo Le-Mentzel will open a new Tinyhouse, the “Wohnmaschine”: a miniature clone of the workshop wing of the Dessau Bauhaus building. Behind the iconic facade hides a fifteen square meter apartment with an elaborate interior design and exhibition possibilities. We will not only inhabit these four walls, but also invite guests in order to negotiate space and property and question the complex heritage of modernity. Interventions by various protagonists will activate this mobile “world heritage site” and thus open it up to the public as an “academy of the fireside”. We will face the relations of coloniality and design as well as its various visibilities and invisibilities. Shortly after, results and experiences will move to Berlin on the occasion of the “100 years of bauhaus” opening festival, before the project is developed further in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Kinshasa, the thinking and design process will accelerate through a symposium and workshops. Various actors of former colonies will meet to raise the question how we can, in a world where all too many, still active modernist masterplans have failed, conceive our everyday environments in order to make a collective future possible – and through which philosophies. From this and through discussion rounds, a viable concept for a school of design will be debated and questioned for a furthering in other geographies, leading to the third spinning.

This third reversal takes place in Berlin where the “school” that might as well be called an “un-school,” will activate itself in Berlin at SAVVY Contemporary–The Laboratory of Form-Ideas. With fourty participants and five guests from Kinshasa, we will make the deep entanglements between modernity and coloniality explicit and question their repercussions for “world-making”, presuming nonchalantly that it may not be the “South” that needs development but the “North.” During processes of thinking and making forms of co-living and co-creating will be negotiated with the hope that new conceptions of global reality can take shape. Regular open school days and a continuous program with invited guest lecturers allow the participation of the public. Thus, words and actions aim to challenge and transform Bauhaus traditions and narratives of modernity and modernism and become palpable to the public.

The fourth and last reversal will take place in Hong Kong, in collaboration with the art space Para Site. Rather than pretending to reach any conclusions, we recognize that this reversal is another opening to the topics at stake in Spinning Triangles.

Design has power. It creates our environments, our interactions, our being in the world. For too long, practices and narratives from the “Global South” have been kept at the periphery of the design discourse, been ignored altogether, or appropriated. This needs to change. And it can only do so if we start with new forms of learning and unlearning, that may perhaps actually be very old, but have certainly been overheard for far to long.