Annual theme of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation in 2022

Hygiene is one of the central dispositifs of modernism. The Bauhaus buildings' environments, reduced to functionalism, exemplify how cleanliness was a fundamental value for design influenced by the Bauhaus school. A new material culture coated the buildings, rooms and furnishings with smooth and clean surfaces made of industrially produced materials. However, due to electric lighting everything hidden and dusty became only more visible. "Cleanliness" was thereby considered materially but also socially and morally a quality to strive for. In this respect, the Bauhaus was one of the culturally influential institutions that promoted and enforced a certain kind of Western understanding of cleaning, dirt avoidance and order linked to design.

Another perspective of modernity linked to purity becomes apparent in, for example, anthropologist Mary Douglas' phrase "dirt is a matter out of place" (1966) summarizing cultural constructions and thought patterns inherent in modern narratives that, supported by knowledge regimes and power structures, produce and perpetuate notions of order, including "right" and "wrong" places for things and people. In racism and xenophobia, these structures of thought and action continue into the present. Yet the implicit purifying and homogenizing patterns at work here have long been subject to criticism. Bruno Latour speaks of the modern epistemology of "purification" that has created two completely separate "ontological zones, that of humans on the one hand, that of nonhuman beings on the other" (2008, 19). The destruction of indigenous knowledge and cultural systems, which are based on hybrid interweavings between nature and culture, that was promoted in the course of colonialism, was part of the paradigm of purification.

In the context of the annual theme "Hygiene" of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, the Bauhaus Study Rooms 2022 discuss different positions addressing knowledges of hybridizations between “dirt“, “cleanliness“ and "purity". In doing so, they critically question a unifying idea of order and give plurality and polyphony a platform. Bauhaus Study Rooms 2022 is a mini-festival in cooperation with Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, the Open Design Program of Humboldt University and the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Platform History Theory Criticism of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

The event will be conducted as a Zoom webinar. To register, click here.

Douglas, Mary: Purity and Danger. An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Routledge 2002 [1966].
Latour, Bruno: Wir sind nie modern gewesen. Versuch einer symmetrischen Anthropologie. Suhrkamp 2008.


The two-day mini-festival approaches the topic from different disciplines and perspectives. On 16 June, the international students of the two degree programmes (Coop Design and Open Design) will take their diverse cultural and disciplinary approaches as the starting point for multidisciplinary explorations of current modes of knowledge, practices and discourses of cleaning and filtering: topics such as the science of dirt, filtering in and out humans, antiseptic scepticism etc. will be the subject of experimental exercises and expert discussions at the Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity in Berlin. The result of which are going to be presented in the Bauhaus building on June 17th. The focus of the open to the public day in Dessau is on research perspectives that address the materialization of hygiene evoking a paradigm shift in the perception of design. The participating partners as well as invited moderators, contributors and visitors discuss changing attitudes towards and in design in relation to pluriversal and transitional narratives that distance themselves from the notion of a "clean" design for a structuring order. The materiality of the Bauhaus building as an embodiment of the modernist design paradigm of purification forms the framework of a critical exploration.