P011ResearchUntraining the Bauhaus

Discussing the artistic-research project Jakob K./The New Man, we propose a set of contemporary techno-speculative training practices that challenge historic discourses on body optimization. Created by a collective of performance artists and architectural researchers, the project reconstructs the work of fictional Bauhaus choreographer and gymnastics teacher Jakob Klenke, thus proposing an alternative method of performance historiography. Involving field work, site-specific re-enactment, 3D-scanning, animation and digital fabrication, it culminated in a series of live performances at Kampnagel (Hamburg) and during the 2019 ‘Bauhaus100’ centennial.

The text takes the form of an experimental flow-chart manifesto that combines images and descriptions of various elements of the research and performance, such as the speculative training equipment cross-contaminating Breuer's bent-tube furniture with open-ended fitness apparatuses; Klenke's eco-feminist gymnastics classes; or the interpolated reconstruction of Jakob's trans-identity through photogrammetric scanning, scripting and projection.

Throughout the text, our methodological proposition unfolds: whilst acknowledging the normalizing effects of training cultures, the reconstruction of Klenke's practice regards training equipment, exercises and the methodologies of their reconstruction as generative and indeterminate. With and against modernist fantasies of formalizing and aligning bodies via training and technology, it imagines a retro-futurist training utopia that allows for the formulation of heterogeneous techno-social practices shaping disobedient (post-)human bodies. Training here carries the potential to create a post-anthropocentric, expanded perceptual sympathy within more-than-human assemblages, enriched with technological agents that can unsettle our habituated perceptions.

To train is to repeat and hence is a historiographical practice: by inserting ourselves into a history of fabricated bodies we have the potential to fabricate them differently, untraining dominant historiographical narratives and dominant techniques of power simultaneously. This is what the fictional choreographer Klenke can do: He is a subversion of historical and contemporary modes of entraining subjectivity, a subversion from within-an affordance to repeat differently.

Written by: Moritz Frischkorn / Thomas Pearce

Published in Performance Research in August 2021, Vol. 25, Issue 8: Training Utopias, pp. 18–21.