Company Post

Why the Bauhaus Would Have Loved TouchDesigner

While working on the soon to be published article BauHaus 100 Opening Celebration, an event that took place this April in Weimar that included 2 massive TouchDesigner-driven installations by Daniel Dalfovo, Stefan Kraus, Stephan von Tresckow and Gregor Sauer as well as the live visual work of Stanislav Glassov and David Leroy (also TouchDesigner-based) for raster media artists, I was reminded of Stefan Kraus' workshop intriguingly titled Why the Bauhaus Would Have Loved TouchDesigner and decided to put that question to Stefan. Always quick to respond and prolific as ever Stefan got back right away...

Derivative: Stefan, what lead you to think that the Bauhaus would have loved TouchDesigner and to base a workshop on this concept? Explain please how this came about and what your thoughts are regarding Bauhaus <3 TouchDesigner?


Stefan Kraus: I am glad you asked that question : )
Once upon a time I was studying and then teaching at Bauhaus-University in Weimar, which is still using the same buildings as the early Bauhaus and the spirit is still strong there. The Bauhaus was founded in a period of uncertainty and profound technological and cultural change. The old way of decorating and beautifying the elites' toys were no longer solving the problems of a mass society. Industrialization was still without an appropriate formal language. A situation quite similar to what we experience through Globalization and Digitalization. Sometimes I feel we are heading for an re-enactment of the first third of the 20th century.  

However, when Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus, the aim was to unite all arts in one wholistic experience - the "Bau" - an idea inspired by the medieval cathedrals. Also there was a strong notion that artists should be craftspeople again.

That is somehow how I feel about TouchDesigner. One tool that will help you to get all the arts to interact with each other to create an immersive environment.
While being an artistic tool, you nevertheless need to be crafty about it. Digital art has to have some knowledge of code and visual programming is the perfect middle ground between arts and crafts.

In the later, more well known phase of the Bauhaus, the focus shifted from artistic exploration to industrial production. "Art and Technology, a new unity" was the main claim of that period. This taps right into what I mentioned above. With TouchDesigner it is simply not enough to be an "Art Director" - it is not about creating shiny surfaces. You have to act appropriately with the material you are working with (Hardware, Software) - just like you have in Architecture and Design - two disciplines that carry the Bauhaus' DNA deep inside them. 

The last point that makes me think, that the Bauhaus would have loved TouchDesigner are the endless possibilities to experiment with light, music and the moving image.
When we read today about the visions of early media pioneers like Hirschfeld-Mack and Moholy-Nagy we are struck by the futurism of their ideas. Yet they were limited dramatically by the technological means of their time.
Experimental film was very expensive and abstract animations were drawn frame-by-frame. Yet their ideas were the original ones and so much ahead of their time, that we lack comparison today. I feel like we almost have a responsibility to drive this experimental exploration of Light, Space and Dynamic media forward to honor their legacy.
Stefan Kraus studied Architecture at the Bauhaus-University Weimar where he also had his first job as assistant professor for the Interaction Design Department. Already as a student he developed a deep interest in realtime video performance which he later combined with his background in spacial design to create immersive VJ installations with the VJ crews 'genericPreset' and later 'MXZEHN'. Stefan has worked with TouchDesigner since 2014 and designs with his studio interactive stages and audiovisual performances for theatre, exhibition and stage. Together with David Brüll he founded the The Node Institute in Berlin, to foster research and education in node-based programming.