In its seventh edition, the Design Lab is focusing for the first time on the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s (Museum of Decorative Arts) own collections. Under the slogan “Talk to Me! Consulting the Collections”, viewers are invited to embark on a journey through an interactive poster exhibition (with accompanying e-reader) offering a multiperspectival view of museum objects. In the sense of an “entangled history of objects”, twelve inquiry questions plumb the depths of the complex interconnections between object, material, religion, politics, environment, consumption, taste, museum and design throughout the centuries.
The research topics in the interactive online exhibition can be explored with a simple click of your mouse. With a view to the future reopening of the museums, QR codes on the posters are intended to make multilayered access to the objects possible in the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s permanent exhibition.
The Reader brings together research on the collection in twelve interlinked case studies. It contains texts by Claudia Banz, Yulia Fisch, Christian Imhof, Brooke Jackson, Angeli Sachs, Hannah Spillmann and guest contributions by Wibke Bornkessel. The excerpt Sprich mit mir! Die Sammlung befragen (PDF, 384 KB, German only) can be downloaded here. It offers initial insight into an attempt to let the Kunstgewerbemuseum collection speak for itself. The Reader is now available online through the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin webshop.
Beginning with the question “What stories do the objects on display in the permanent exhibition actually tell outside their hegemonic museum interpretations?”, the six-member team selected twelve objects from the abundant collection and queried them from different perspectives.
Was the pocket atlas the precursor to Google Earth? What did it have to do with power structures of faith and knowledge? What connections can be drawn from the use of chess during the Renaissance to train the human mind and the development of artificial intelligence? How did an Egyptian stool, likely around 2000 years old, end up in the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s collection, and what does this say about collection strategies? Why were electrotype (galvanoplasty) copies of important objects officially made in the 19th century and, unlike today, even exhibited? Where should Prunkpokale (showpiece and ceremonial goblets) be situated within the network of propaganda and fake news? Which stories of exploitation and colonial power – as well as of technical innovation and progress – are inscribed in a cotton paisley dress? Why are damaged objects kept in storage? Which materials are difficult to restore? How does the importance of materials such as iron and plastic change over time?
The central idea of Design Lab #7 was to network selected objects in a specially developed exhibition scenography, much like a subway map. The imaginary underground lines bear names such as Form, Society, Faith, Consumption, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Material, Environment and World View. In the case of the keyword “Kunstgewerbemuseum”, the aim specifically includes questioning one’s own institution: What significance do decorative arts museums have as cultural archives? And to what extent can they act as a source of inspiration for positive change in society?
Design Lab #7 is the result of joint research work carried out with four students that was originally intended to culminate in an exhibition. Due to the closure of the Kunstgewerbemuseum because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition was transformed into an e-reader format and an interactive online poster exhibition. The title Talk to Me refers to the focus of Design Lab #7. Its emphasis is on the Kunstgewerbemuseum collections and on all sorts of questions having to do with hegemonic powers of interpretation and discourses of knowledge:
How are museum collections established? Who decides what is collected? What criteria are applied for collecting? Who decides what is exhibited and how? Which objects are exhibited and which ones remain in storage? On which classification criteria are collections and their forms of presentation based? To this day, decorative and applied arts museums predominately reflect 19th-century collection strategies, systematisations and epistemologies.
The exhibition was curated by Claudia Banz, curator of design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum and Angeli Sachs, head of the Master’s programme in Art Education Curatorial Studies at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK), together with students Yulia Fisch, Christian Imhof, Brooke Jackson and Hannah Spillmann.
The Design Lab series is curated by Claudia Banz, curator of design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum. It is supported by the Kuratorium Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Board of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation).
A special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
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