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Paper Engineering from the Bauhaus: Josef Albers to the Modern Day

Eric Gjerde, Bauhaus paper engineering

I am teaching a week-long intensive paper engineering course this summer (July 23-28) at the International Summer School, taking place in the UNESCO World Heritage site Bauhaus Denkmal Bundesschule Bernau (DE). This is my second year at the Summer School, and my first time teaching a standalone paper course there. I’m super excited to be returning and I’ll have suitcases full of crazy paper art to share with my students. You should come be a part of it!

Eric Gjerde, Bauhaus paper engineering

My course, titled “Paper Engineering from the Bauhaus: Josef Albers to the Modern Day“, will draw upon my research into the preliminary course of Josef Albers as well as my own practice as a paper artist. Students will spend 5 days exploring a number of different forms of paper engineering, culminating with a presentation to the school of their collective works.

Here’s the course descriptive text, with more info:

One of the mainstays of the Bauhaus preliminary course for first-year students was working with paper – to make something more with it that still spoke to the essential qualities of the paper itself. These exercises led them on a path of self-discovery and observational “learning through doing.”

Paper artist Eric Gjerde leads a course of experimentation and discovery in the spirit of Josef Alber’s preliminary course, using historical paper art exercises and creations from the Bauhaus School as well as modern designs and ideas that build on the original concepts. Paper architecture, pop-up structures, origami tessellations, kirigami, and complex crumpling are some of the techniques students on this course will explore.

In this course we will follow a Bauhaus / Black Mountain College style form of discussion, open exercises and experimentation, and constructive group critique. Students will take techniques and create their own works within various design constraints, in line with Bauhaus methodology. Our intent is to open minds and expand horizons (while also having a lot of fun playing with paper!)

Eine der Hauptsäulen des Bauhaus-Vorkurses in den ersten Semestern war die Arbeit mit Papier – eine Auseinandersetzung mit den wesentlichen Qualitäten des Materials und allem, was sich darüber hinaus aus dem „flachen“ Papier ergeben kann. Die Übungen sollten den Studierenden einen Weg der Selbstfindung aufzeigen und waren ein wichtiger Impuls für das „Lernen durch Tun“.

Der Papierkünstler Eric Gjerde führt – ganz im Geiste des Vorkurses von Josef Albers – einen Experimentier- und Forschungskurs durch, bei dem historische Papierkunstübungen und -kreationen des Bauhauses sowie moderne Entwürfe und Ideen, die auf den ursprünglichen Konzepten aufbauen, zum Einsatz kommen. Papierarchitektur, Pop-Up-Strukturen, Origami Tessellations, Kirigami und komplexes Crumpling sind einige der Techniken, die die Teilnehmer/-innen dieses Kurses erforschen werden.

In diesem Kurs werden wir – wie am Bauhaus oder Black Mountain College – diskutieren, offene Übungen und Experimente durchführen und uns einer konstruktiven Gruppenkritik stellen. Die Teilnehmer/-innen werden neue Techniken erlernen und anwenden und ihre eigenen Arbeiten im Geist der Bauhaus-Methodik erstellen. Unsere Absicht ist es, den Horizont zu erweitern und eine neue Sicht auf das Material Papier zu ermöglichen.

I’ve been going pretty deep into researching paper artworks at the Bauhaus – from my time working at the American Craft Council, with their wonderful reference library containing many books on the subject, to an upcoming visit I’m making at the end of April to the Albers Foundation in Connecticut. I now have a dedicated bookshelf to my Bauhaus reference material in my office, which is groaning a bit under the weight of all these thick tomes. But all of this has been a fantastic journey, discovering pieces of the pedagogical puzzle of Josef Albers, and working to re-create many of the artistic tasks he set his students to explore.

I look forward to sharing these with my own students this summer and seeing what interesting results they discover.

Eric Gjerde, Bauhaus paper engineering


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