Jennifer Rissler, Cohort ’14
Howard Caygill’s visit to Topological Studies II caused reverberations in our thinking about issues of truth with Berlin as a backdrop. This brief recap highlights many of Caygill’s salient points. Initially he set out on a course to reconsider the “mind” as “mood” as a closer translation in the English language, suggesting a whole, bodily being, or an elevated gamut which enhances the feeling of life (as evidenced in Kant’s Critique of Judgement). Moving on to Heidegger’s Being and Time, which, according to Caygill, is a revolutionary text after metaphysics, we delved into a philosophy of deconstruction of the metaphysical condition. The lineage of Plato-Aristotle-Descartes-Kant was subsequently discussed in relation to the overarching question: “What is the thing?” and discovering, through our conversation, that we must seek truths beyond the actors.
Heidegger, as Caygill reminds us, criticizes Hegel’s geist as a metaphysical subject, removing subject and presence, the two great actors of metaphysics. Ending with Nietzsche, Caygill threw out a provocation for us to consider the loss of subjectivity and the metaphor of landscape (in this instance, the urbanity of Berlin) as arbiter of political judgment and a response to political terror.
During our Berlin residency we had the opportunity to view the exhibition Black Mountain: An Interdisciplinary Experiment at Berlin’s Hamburger Banhof museum. The first comprehensive exhibition in Germany to consider Black Mountain College (BMC), its curatorial strategy provided direct access to the BMC archives, performing them over the duration of the exhibition through live readings, concerts, and performances “in order to investigate the contemporary relevance of Black Mountain’s pedagogical approach.”
The exhibition highlights the considerable influence of the Bauhaus on Black Mountain College. Both schools serve as short-lived testimonies to re-imagining the art academy. In Walter Gropius’s “The Theory and Organization of the Bauhaus” he suggests that man’s consciousness emerges practically and theoretically. One could argue that Gropius sought to eradicate the longstanding Kantian reliance on genius (which to a certain extent is still part of the Hegelian Aesthetics) and its implications for Black Mountain College. Marx’s ideas of alienation of worker from his product, denial of a social function of labor and the rise of the art proletariat equally influenced Gropius’s pedagogical model and was extended to Black Mountain College. Black Mountain College founder John Andrew Rice’s transformation of the Academy expanded academic training along European modernist lines through the uniquely pragmatic American philosophy of John Dewey. Dewey’s educational philosophy imbues the democratic, experiential, interdisciplinary ethos of Black Mountain College, whose pedagogy encouraged individual initiative and social practice.