Yesterday Claire and I went to L’esprit de Bauhaus exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the Louvre’s west wing. It begins with William Morris and other influences from the 19th century, and concludes with the design influence of the Bauhaus itself on modern culture subsequently – hence the “spirit” part (one presumes it wasn’t named after the song ‘Spirit’ by the goth band Bauhaus).
The Bauhaus school was opened in 1919 with the objective of disseminating total art (Gesamtkunstwerk), and it’s no coincidence that it sprang up the year after the Great War. There was still a prevailing sense that art could change things, even after the technology of machinery that had given everyone so much hope had been used to massacre millions of young men all across Europe. The utopian socialist collective set about its task pragmatically against repressive forces, not least of all the Weimarian conservatism it was surrounded by. It moved to Dessau in 1925 and to Berlin in 1932, closing within the year due to pressure from the Nazis. Alumni from the school fled all over the globe, and the influence of the Bauhaus spread internationally, far outlasting the “Thousand-Year Reich”.
It’s certainly an inspiring tale at a point in time where everything seems so fucked. It’s easy to give up hope right now when there’s a shitehouse in the White House, but things can change. That’s why messages to organise and mobilise aren’t just woolly rhetoric. I’m not sure what to do next yet, but it’s time we had a moratorium on moping around on Facebook*. I’m trying to avoid reading analysis, as it comes from the same sources I followed who didn’t give Trump a chance. Polling is dead. Punditry is pointless. Godwin’s Law is obsolete.
I have just about come to terms with the idea that Marine Le Pen might become president of France in 2017. Put it this way, I’m not getting my hopes up anymore. I spent many hours on social media trying to convince friends that Trump wouldn’t win while not entirely convincing myself, and I always felt Brexit was going to happen, even when the consensus suggested it would be close but remain would prevail. There are clearly parts of the electorate telling pollsters one thing and the polling booth another thing entirely. I still can’t quite believe it’s happening, but politicians are telling extraordinary lies and profiting from pervading fears, and there’s a lot of fear in France right now. The more I think about it, the more I think a Le Pen victory will happen now. If the election of President Trump has taught me anything though, it’s the fact that worrying about it won’t make any difference. I wasted a lot of energy fearing the worst, and when it actually happened it felt like an anticlimax of sorts. The sky hasn’t fallen in yet.
People who keep going on about what a dark year 2016 has been, say so with the implication that 2017 will be better. I don’t really see how that’s going to happen. There’ll still be a demagogue in the White House (unless he falls down some stairs or has a “heart attack”), some of your favourite pop stars will undoubtedly die, more bad shit will happen, and the likelihood is there’ll be a lot of it. I was sorry to see David Bowie go and I’m horrified by the fact our political classes have emboldened the very stupid to act upon their prejudices, but in 2015 I had cancer sliced out of my liver and had terrorists on my doorstep, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
Today of course is the anniversary of the terror attacks in Paris that claimed 130 lives. Sting’s been in town, Boulevard Voltaire and Boulevard Richard Lenoir are closed and the TV trucks are back to feed off the misery one year on. Claire was ambushed by an Italian TV crew as we walked past the Bataclan the other day, and I could hear a news journalist from an Irish TV network cajoling someone into going on air. It’ll be emotional down there today, and possibly hectic with way more international news crews cajoling, so we’ll give it a miss. It’s Remembrance Sunday too, which they don’t really do in France, as everybody gets a day off on Friday to remember the dead. I’ll be remembering the fallen past and (almost) present, and reminding myself that in the future we shall overcome, even if that day looks a long way off at the moment.
There’s still lots to be hopeful about, though with the obvious caveat that it’s a long game we’re now playing. If it was just millennials voting for instance, then Trump would have only turned five states red, though one has to remember that young people grow up to be reactionary old farts too. Also, there is every chance the Donald won’t be ringing the changes those that voted for him are expecting, and that the status quo will be maintained more frustratingly than ever. The next four years look destined to be a disappointment for all concerned. Yes, the future’s shite, the future’s orange, but only the immediate future with a bit of luck. Mendacity has been 2016’s watchword, but as the Bauhaus proved, great ideas endure and the truth will out eventually.Follow @jeres
*Ironically I’ll end up posting this blog on Facebook and we’ll probably end up having a chat about it.