International Group Exhibition
Artists: Verena Kyselka (Germany) – ‘The Women’s Class’ (animation movie, 3:32 min., color, sound, 2010)
Narine Zolyan (Armenia) – ‘Amor Fati?’ (photo installation, objects, performance, 2004-2011)
Curator: Susanna Gyulamiryan (Armenia)
Naregatsi Art Institute, Yerevan
The animated movie ‘Women’s Class’ is a reflection on the historical role and place of women artists at the Bauhaus. When Walter Gropius founded in 1919 the Bauhaus institute he proclaimed a program of artists’ works. The statute corresponded to a new type of progressive policy, which expressed an interest in the involvement of women at universities and art academies. This idea was explained in one specific article as follows: ‘Each honest person will be accepted in the Bauhaus regardless of age and sex. Women’s educational background needs to be considered as appropriate from the Bauhaus Board of Masters’. The Bauhaus concept contained the idea of connecting craftsmanship with art and filled a lot of young women with such an enthusiasm that they applied in masses for a registration, whereas men get registered gradually, because they came back only slowly from the 1st World War. The high women proportion alarmed the council of masters; they had difficulty breaking down the prejudice, that art creating women keep themselves busy with handicraft for time filling. Furthermore the insistence on male-defined notion of craftwork also reduced the number of female students, who were regarded by Gropius as contributing an amateurish atmosphere to the school. The Bauhaus institution struggled in his aims against dilettantism in craftsmanship.
Very soon Walter Gropius suggested that the number of female students should be limited to about one-third of the student body and that they should not be allowed to outnumber men, as they had done in the beginning. Therefore the female Bauhaus students weren’t accepted for many courses. Women were given preference in weaving, whereas the male students could choose all workshops in the Bauhaus institution.
In 1920 the ‘Women’s Class’ was founded and interconnected with the weaving workshop. Behind the set-up of this course was the hidden idea to keep all female students in distance from all other work subjects. Many female students were forced to the weaving workshop from the council of masters. To withstand this intention and join even other Bauhaus work areas a lot of female self-confidence and the fact that they had to be better in their work than men were needed.
The weaving workshop with its ‘Women’s Class’ offered as only female defined work area the respective justification for the leadership by the female master Gunta Stölzl, the only woman between the male Bauhaus masters. This sphere soon became one of the most productive workshops and had even commercial success. But the most Bauhaus women in comparison to their male colleagues kept unknown. Some of the “Women’s Course” female artists extended other handcraft areas and made their marks at a later date. In the theory of the Bauhaus artist Jonannes Itten the circle and the color blue are corresponding to the female whereas the square and the color red are relating to the male.
The body of works by Narine Zolyan consists of a multimedia implementation of various projects carried out by the artist from 2004 to 2011. She has mostly focused on reflections on gender and feminism in post-Soviet situation, as well as Russian hegemony and the mirroring effects that the distortions of the ‘Imperialistic center’ had on its periphery Armenia, affecting the latter negatively in social, cultural, and political terms. The geopolitical counterparts of ‘east/west’ are in the scope of Zolyan’s examination of the migration from the East and Orientalism (Western concepts and strategies of ‘accepting’ the East), when the West makes tactical and strategic actions toward Esatern integration.
Verena Kyselka is a multimedia artist and curator of several cross-cultural projects. Kyselka was an active member of the feminist performance group Exterra XX (1986 – 1994) and the co-founder of the Kunsthaus Erfurt (Women Artists House in Erfurt). Kyselka currently lives and works in Berlin.
Narine Zolyan has graduated from the Fine Art Academy after Surikov in Moscow and has afterwards been actively involved in the contemporary art stream with numerous personal and group exhibitions in Moscow, Armenia, Austria, Germany, and other countries. The curatorial activities of Zolyan hold the vector of interest towards the activities of women artists from the viewpoint of gender and feminism. In 2007, Zolyan collaboratively founded the ‘Art Laboratory’ Collective in Armenia, combining her activities at the Art laboratory with teaching ‘Contemporary Aesthetics’ at the Yerevan State Linguistic University. Narine Zolyan currently lives and works in Quedlinburg (Germany).