I stumbled across an article about the Bauhaus, and how its founder Walter Gropius and members defied the Nazi regime for more than a decade. As a graduate of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Bauhaus was core to our curriculum. I recall vividly images of profound shapes, stark contrasts, and bold lines that defined the artists of that era.
The one line of this article that stood out for me was this, “Gropius’s aim was to introduce soul into the age of the machine. The Nazis’ was to introduce the machine into the soul.” I was immediately moved to ask, are we not now in the age of the machine, far more than the second decade of the last century? And what has become of our soul now?”
Those international designers, musicians, potters, painters, and architects risked not only their standing in the local communities, which often rejected them for their expressions, but their lives under the increasing intolerance of the Nazi regime.
According to the Wikipedia article, “… —the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit—were already partly developed in Germany before the Bauhaus was founded.”
I look at where we stand now, the machines we have designed, built, and integrated at every level of our lives—between us, communicating for us, in our hands, our back pockets, even embedded in our ears. We hear voices and see faces and receive written communications—digital representation of what was once a face-to-face norm. Each of us is now endowed with the capacity for personal expression, every message moved across a medium in which the entire world can view, reject or enjoy.
Is this what Gropius has in mind? Are we the very souls entered into the machines? Or have we become so intertwined, so dependent, so anxiety ridden when we are no longer connected by means of our digital companions that in fact the totalitarian machines have entered into our souls?