In the lobby of the Ibis Center Ville hotel in Brussels, the tourist brochures invite you to visit art galleries, unique gardens or the original Museum of Erotica and Mythology, but there is no sign of the Festival of the New European Bauhaus, whose first edition was closing today. The festival has scheduled a high-profile forum but has struggled to find a place on the agenda of the complex and vibrant city of Brussels.
In fact, there is an explanation for the absence of popular celebrations: the European Commission has decided to downgrade the entertainment part of the event as it is considered inconvenient while there is a war in Europe. Even so, one of the venues, in the Mont des Arts, offers concerts and dance in the open air, in a small format.
Francesca Bria, former digital commissioner of Barcelona and counselor of the New Bauhaus, present in Brussels, warns that citizens are still waiting to know the scope of this interdisciplinary offensive. And this festival still has a long way to go to connect with the European society it is targeting.
The EU launches a creative festival in line with Barcelona’s commitment to art and science
When Ursula von der Leyen announced two years ago the commitment to recover the soul of the old Bauhaus, in the world of culture – always relegated in European politics – it was appreciated that a message with such positive resonances was launched from the institutions. It was about promoting the interrelationship between architecture, design, art, social policies, technology and industry, putting a lot of focus on educational systems.
It will not be easy for its effect to be felt in the short term, not least because funding is limited. The very heterogeneity of the proposal makes the message difficult. In fact, this New Bauhaus must necessarily be unstructured, because it places the different disciplines on an equal plane, without hierarchies. And that destructuring plays against the narrative of the process. It is an unavoidable toll.
Like all wide-ranging cultural movements, the one inspired by the Bauhaus develops at disparate levels. For example: in the Gare Maritime in Brussels, an imposing converted station, a debate is taking place in which big ideas are formulated about the future of Europe. At the same time, a few meters away, the young members of the TransMedia Catalonia project, from the UAB, present in a modest stand the initiatives in which they collaborate: among them the co-creation of the opera the cat lostprepared by the Liceu and the residents of the Raval, or an app that helps the migrant navigate through the bureaucracy of the host country.
But, beyond the difficulty of articulating a story and a certain feeling of elitism (inevitable, in any case, as in all revolutions), it is clear that the principles proposed by the new Bauhaus are very much in line with contemporary habits. . So to speak: culture should tend to be more multidisciplinary in the immediate future. More than a duty, it is an opportunity. Because from culture you can influence science, technology or industry with the aim of humanizing them. And, above all, you can help build a new green order that serves to alleviate the climate catastrophe.
Awards for Barcelona projects
Late yesterday, this year’s Bauhaus awards were announced. One of them, the one destined to recognize the reconnection with nature, has been achieved by a Barcelona Metropolitan Area project on the regeneration of the beach dune system. Another project, based on biophotovoltaic energy, by Alberto López Burzaco, has been the winner for popular vocation in the category of emerging stars.
Today’s young people have one-click access to endless sources of knowledge and more possibilities to travel than their fathers and mothers. More than ever, the watertight compartments are opening. It will make more and more sense for the artist to accept contagion from other disciplines in order to end up infiltrating them. That could be the spirit of the New Bauhaus.
One of the speakers at the Brussels festival is Gerfried Stocker, co-director of the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, an event born in 1979, when no one knew what a PC was. Stocker refers to that Bauhaus moment, in the middle of the Cold War, when a group of artists, engineers, journalists and municipal officials agreed to promote this event that will host a new edition next September. That shared creation already contained the germ of a revolution that, decades later, seems irreversible.
An example of this revolution, the Sónar festival, leads a very evident participation of Barcelona in the Brussels festival. Barring the Belgian capital itself, there may not be a better represented city at the event. Perhaps the Germans as a whole. In fact, the powerful Barcelona art, science and technology community is in full swing these days, with the celebration in the Catalan capital of the ISEA symposium and the pre-Sónar atmosphere.
An art producer commented yesterday: “What is happening these days in Barcelona is incredible. He looks like Linz. All the people I know from the world of art and science are here at parties and openings.” Only the displaced were missing from the Brussels festival.
One of them is José Luis de Vicente, curator of Sónar+D, who yesterday moderated one of the main debates and set the tone for the conversation by exhibiting a photograph of an old party with the revolutionary slogan “No parties, no Bauhaus” superimposed on it. (Without parties there is no Bauhaus). As anecdotal as it may seem, the concept of the festival as a social network and as a tool for disseminating cultural messages makes perfect sense in the new European context.
In addition to Sónar, the Loop fair is also present at the festival. In addition to Bria, the former Italian consul Gaia Danese, now at the head of European cultural diplomacy, has had a role, who moderated a debate on women and the New Bauhaus on Saturday in which Ada Colau, who was invited, could not intervene due to scheduling problems. The young architect Caterina Miralles Tagliabue attended, while one of the participants, the Indian architect Anupama Kundoo, is exhibiting today at Roca Barcelona Gallery.
It remains to be seen if the festival maintains its headquarters in Brussels or starts a rotation between cities
The chief architect of Barcelona, Xavier Matilla, was also at the festival, while a predecessor, Vicente Guallart, participated in a previous event held in Rome… And, of course, representatives of the two Catalan projects that aspired to one of the awards.
The coordinator of the program, Ruth Reichstein, clarifies that it is still necessary to decide if the festival will be biennial and if it will repeat its headquarters in Brussels or travel to another city. If this were the case, Barcelona, why not, should raise their hands. Arguments are not lacking.
In one of the debates, the management of Francesca Bria as digital commissioner of Barcelona (2015-2019) was addressed, which she herself explained as a process for the recovery of data sovereignty and the promotion, thanks to them, of dynamics of democracy participatory. At that time, the Decode and Decidim programs emerged.
Data recovery, Bria points out, is part of the policies that should prevent Europe from becoming a digital colony dependent on the US and Asia.
At the same conference, architect Rem Koolhas called for data to become part of everyday life, instead of remaining hidden in underground farms on large platforms. Very suggestive were the images that he projected during his intervention, in which the blocks that contain all our information occupied spaces such as the ancient Greek temples or the Pantheon in Rome. The urgent democratization and the demand for “the beauty of data” were some of his proposals.
Another point of consensus was to consider that Barcelona’s superblocks connect with the Bauhaus spirit due to their recovery of space for citizens and the creation of green environments.
But several of the festival’s speakers, such as the co-director of Ars Eletronica, Gerfried Stocker, warned against an exclusively European approach to the new Bauhaus, arguing that Europe is not a bubble cut off from the rest of the world.