Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 November 2022
A term coined by the French writer and intellectual Georges Bataille to refer to a mode of thought that attempts to subvert all forms of ABSTRACTION and idealism by emphasising that which is low, denigrated or reviled. Other forms of materialism, Bataille argues, cannot help but elevate matter onto a rarefied metaphysical plane – even the ‘dialectical materialism’ of MARXISM had Hegelian idealism as its starting point. Insisting that ‘base matter’ resists such recuperation, Bataille at times associates the term with the most abject forms of matter: rotting flesh, excreta or the literally ‘low’ parts of the body – parts like the big toe, the ignominious basis of homo sapiens’ erect, dignified stance. Elsewhere, however, he rejects the idea that base matter is simply reducible to brute physical substance, ‘the thing-initself’ or the ‘dead matter’ of scientific investigation. Instead, he finds inspiration in the Gnostic conception of matter as an ‘active principle having its own eternal autonomous existence’ as ‘darkness’ and as ‘evil’ – the latter understood not as ‘the absence of good’ but as a ‘creative action’.
Bataille, Georges (1985) Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, ed. Allan Stoekl, trans. Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie Jr. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Noys, Benjamin (1998) ‘Georges Bataille's Base Materialism’, Cultural Values, 2 (4): 499–517.
The Bauhaus was an art school that spread the ideas of modern, CONSTRUCTIVIST design among the young generation of Western Europe. The school had three different directors: Walter Gropius (1919–28), Hannes Meyer (1928–30) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1930–3). It went through three different phases in three German cities: Weimar (1919–25), Dessau (1925–32) and Berlin (1932–3). In the fourteen years of its existence, the Bauhaus taught some 1,250 students, many of whom made major contributions to artistic developments in the twentieth century.
The school was founded in March 1919 by a group of like-minded artists and craftsmen, as a bold EXPERIMENT that united the former Grand-Ducal School of Arts and Craft in Weimar (which had been closed during World WAR I) with the Saxon Academy of Art. Their aim was to reform art education by bringing together different artistic disciplines and to overcome the divide that traditionally separated the arts from the crafts (see ARTS AND CRAFTS).
- The Edinburgh Dictionary of Modernism , pp. 39 - 53Publisher: Edinburgh University PressPrint publication year: 2018