Meghan Forbes, “ReD, Pásmo and Disk: The Interwar Czech Periodical as Platform for International Exchange”

Meghan Forbes (Doctoral candidate in Czech Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)

“ReD, Pásmo and Disk: The Interwar Czech Periodical as Platform for International Exchange”

            The Interwar Czech Periodical as Platform for International Exchange
In 1924, in his capacity as founder and director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius wrote
unsolicited to Karel Teige — arguably the most prominent member of the Czech artists’
association Devětsil — with an express desire to “make possible across borders a
functional working relationship” with Czech architects and artists. Teige wrote him back
almost immediately, and thus began an active, reciprocal relationship with the Bauhaus
that lasted at least through the directorship of Hannes Meyer. This letter is but one
important indicator of a fact that is widely overlooked: the Czech interwar avant-garde
was a major player in European artistic production and exchange of ideas, both sought
after by other centers and endeavoring to forge relationships themselves.
For the “Decoding the Periodical” Workshop, I will show how a group of Czech
artists — led by Teige — participated actively in the networks of exchange in the
interwar avant-garde via the creation and dissemination of a large number of periodicals.
It was, after all, through his exposure to Stavba — an architectural journal Teige edited
— that Gropius found Teige. The Czech magazines Disk (1923-1925), Pásmo (1924-
1926) and ReD (1927-1931), among others, often featured international work in a
multiple of languages, and Teige and his peers sent exemplars to important figures of the
avant-garde across Europe, thus drawing attention to their work, garnering praise, and
likewise receiving invitations to participate in publishing projects and lectures abroad.
Even when published content was in Czech, and thereby largely inaccessible to foreign
peers, the typographic aesthetic, adhering to the principles of “New Typography,” an
unadorned graphic style that employed text and image together to convey information visually for optimum impact, spoke the international language of Modernism that was
widely discernible.
For the workshop, I will move quickly from a general discussion of how the
magazines functioned as an open forum by which ideas were exchanged across a broad
international spectrum, to look more closely at how their typographic design worked
within this platform to showcase the artistic and political ideals of their creators.

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