Black Mountain. An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933 - 1957

05.06.2015 to 27.09.2015
Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart

The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin presents the first comprehensive exhibition in Germany devoted to the legendary Black Mountain College. Founded in 1933 in North Carolina, USA, Black Mountain rapidly rose to fame on account of its progressive teaching methods and the many prominent figures who taught and studied there. Its influence upon the development of the arts in the second half of the 20th century was enormous; the performatisation of the arts, in particular, that emerged as from the 1950s derived vital impetus from the experimental practice at Black Mountain.

The founders wanted to establish a democratic, experiential, interdisciplinary educational facility in line with the forward-thinking pedagogical ideas of philosopher John Dewey. The exhibition traces the history of this university experiment in its main outlines. In the first few years of its existence, the college was strongly shaped by German and European émigrés – among them several former Bauhaus members such as Josef and Anni Albers, Alexander “Xanti" Schawinsky and Walter Gropius. After the Second World War, the creative impulses issued increasingly from young American artists and academics, who commuted between rural Black Mountain and the urban centres on the East and West Coast. Right up to its closure in 1957, the college remained imbued with the ideas of European modernism, the philosophy of American pragmatism and teaching methods that aimed to encourage personal initiative as well as the social competence of the individual.

Within an architectural environment designed by the architects' collective raumlabor_berlin, the exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof is showing works both by teachers at the college, such as Josef and Anni Albers, Richard Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Shoji Hamada, Franz Kline, Xanti Schawinsky and Jack Tworkov, and by a number of Black Mountain students, including Ruth Asawa, Ray Johnson, Ursula Mamlok, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne and Cy Twombly. A wealth of photographs and documentary film footage, as well as publications produced by the college, offer an insight into the way in which the institute worked and into life on campus.

The interdisciplinary and experimental methods and community-based forms of living adopted at Black Mountain had a profound influence upon the artistic and social transformations of the 1960s and are still relevant today. In order to investigate the contemporary relevance of Black Mountain's pedagogical approach, students from various colleges are presenting archival materials in the form of readings, concerts and performances within the exhibition itself over the entire duration of the show. Specifically for these performances, artist and composer Arnold Dreyblatt has developed a concept under the title “Performing the Black Mountain Archive". Within the framework of a score drawn up by Dreyblatt, short performances will take place at various locations within the exhibition every morning between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and every afternoon between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The project “Performing the Black Mountain Archive" will be implemented by students from the following colleges and universities: Universität der Künste Berlin (Sound Studies), Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz, Berlin (Dance, Context, Choreography), Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn (North American Studies Program / German Studies), Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (Fine Art), Muthesius Kunsthochschule, Kiel (Media Art / Typography and Design), Hochschule der Künste Bern (Performance Art / Media Art CAP), Kunstakademiet i Oslo (Fine Art), Norwegian Theater Academy – Høgskolen i Østfold, Fredrikstad (Theatre), Konstfack – University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm (Fine Art).

In collaboration with the Freie Universität Berlin (Institute of Theatre Studies, Prof. Annette Jael Lehmann) and the Dahlem Humanities Center, it has been possible to prepare two public symposia (in May 2014 and on September 25 + 26, 2015) and maintain a blog directly related to the exhibition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published by Spector Books, Leipzig

Exhibition curators: Eugen Blume, Gabriele Knapstein
Curatorial assistance and project management: Matilda Felix

An exhibition by the Nationalgalerie  in the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, in cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin and the Dahlem Humanities Center

With the support of the German Federal Cultural Foundation

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Program for the conference "Black Mountain - Educational Turn and the Avantgarde"

Programm zu der Tagung „Black Mountain - Educational Turn and the Avantgarde"