However we create our work, artists can now use digital methods to exchange and collaborate on ideas. Following the methodology of the ‘Glass Chain’ of German architects and artists, fifteen leading international artists, architects and film makers are sharing digital expressions of their own ideals, challenging correspondents in other disciplines to give these form using both traditional and digital fabrication processes.

In 1919, the Gläserne Kette - or 'Glass Chain' - exchanged radical, visionary ideas of formal extravagance and technologically advanced societies through letters and drawings. The central figure in this circle was Berlin-based architect Bruno Taut; others involved included Hans Scharoun, Wenzel Hablik, Hermann Finsterlin and Walter Gropius. Adopting pseudonyms in their letters allowed the Chain to propose increasingly speculative schemes and fantastic forms for an alternative utopian society. Whilst the original correspondents were limited to monochrome prints sent by post, this project aims to reinvigorate their Expressionist creativity using the creative technologies available to us a century on.

Taking digital communication as a contemporary analogue of the Glass Chain’s epistolary collaboration, the research will expand the interstice between sculptural and architectural theory and design to develop new modes of collaborative practice in visual art, employing both traditional and digital fabrication technologies to do so. The impacts of these approaches on the creativity of collaborators in different arts disciplines will be assessed through qualitative analysis.

Work and ideas arising from this interdisciplinary collaboration will be exhibited in the UK and Germany, and a conference and publication will celebrate the forthcoming centenary of the Gläserne Kette.

To date, archival research undertaken in Stuttgart  and Itzehoe has fed into the visual art component of an interdisciplinary improvisation research project Clouds and Stones. For a performance by musicians, dancers and visual artists at the Concurrent research network event in January event 2016, sculptural interpretations of Wenzel Hablik’s drawings represented a recent psychological model, constituting a 3D score for improvisation.

Extending the Glass Chain - 100 years on is led by Dr Cath Keay funded by the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowship at ECA. The project's collaborators include Professor Iain Boyd Whyte and Dr Miguel Paredes Maldonado from ESALA.

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Image courtesy of Cath Keay
Image courtesy of Cath Keay

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