There is an argument to be made that the craft of the glassmaker is as anachronistic in the 21st century as that of the candlemaker: an argument that while the later has seen their craft superseded by the electric lightbulb, the function of the former has not only been increasingly marginalised by the rise of industrially produced glassware, but also by the development of new materials, materials more robust and more durable than the famously fragile and transient glass.
The candlemaker and the glassmaker, so one could further argue, having been reduced to little more than popular attractions at Ye Olde Worlde Village Fayre and similar commercial and pedagogic acts of romanticised nostalgia.
With the showcase Glass – Hand Formed Matter the Bröhan Museum, Berlin, present a convincing counter-argument…….
“The May of life blooms but once”, reflects Friedrich Schiller, continuing, “It has faded for me”.1
Cheer up Freddie!!!
And there’s nothing quite like a good architecture or design exhibition to revitalise all your faculties.
Our recommended fertilizers for the zest of life in May 2022 can be found in Berlin, Den Haag, Brussels, Pfäffikon SZ and Amsterdam…….
“Everything is sculpture” opined once Isamu Noguchi.1
But is it?
The exhibtion Isamu Noguchi in the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, allows one to engage with, reflect on, immerse yourself in Isamu Noguchi’s life and work, and thus to better approach your own opinion on Isamu Noguchi’s firmly held conviction…..
A Hella; A Lab; An Open-ended exploration
As here in the northern hemisphere winter cedes to spring, not only is nature once again reawakening from its long repose but so too is the international museum community; and that, one senses, with more vigour than in the most recent springs where the Covid pandemic induced upsetting of the established order of the museal ecosystem, through both enforced closures and fundamental disruptions of essential exhibition development processes, dimmed somewhat the promise of the annual spring blush.
In spring 2022, one sense from wandering through the global museum landscape, the vitality, and for all variety, has returned to that landscape.
Which is to be welcomed, for little is as effective in helping us all broaden our minds, expand our perspectives, appreciate unseen associations, free us from prejudices, develop as human beings and as members of a functioning society, than a good museum exhibition. For while a good TV programme or a good podcast can inform, they tend to do so in definitives and in an unyieldingly linear fashion: they tell, they know, just how things were, are, will be. And in their telling tend to leave you bereft of tools of your own. A good museum exhibition in contrast gives you information but primarily bequeaths you a framework in which to develop your own understandings and positions, to question, to challenge, to expand on that which is presented; ’tis but a invitation to let your mind wander as it sees fit. And that in an environment which is devoid of time and space, where you are free to jump about as you wish, go back, rush forward. Stop.
Start again somewhere else
noiɈɔɘɿib bɘɈɔɘqxɘnυ nɒ ni ɘvoM
Discover new, uncharted, paths.
Thus whereas you can leave a TV programme or a podcast with new information on the subject at hand; you can leave a well organised exhibition not only with new information on the subject at hand, but with your thoughts immersed in a completely different subject and with your mind stimulated, receptive, restless.
And broad, receptive, questioning, unihibited, objective minds freed of definitives are very, very, important at this moment in global (hi)story.
Thus, get thee to an exhibition!
Our five recommendations for exiting the space-time continuum in April 2022 can be found in Essen, Brussels, Stockholm, Linz and Helsinki…….
In 1997 Euro-popsters Aqua declared that “life in plastic, it’s fantastic”.
And in 1997 a greater part of humanity would have readily, and unquestioningly, concurred with Aqua that plastic was indeed fantastic. And that plastics offered us an endlessly fantastic, undimmably bright, future.1
But that was 1997.
An eternity ago.
And, as so oft, the passage of time has shaken once firmly held convictions and forced fundamental re-appraisals of all that which once seemed so eternal, so certain, so bright. So fantastic.
With the exhibition Plastic: Remaking Our World the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, explore the (hi)story of plastics of all ilks and in doing so not only chart the transformations in popular perceptions of plastics over the past 150 years, but also pose questions of our future use of, and our future relationships with, plastics…….
In December 1969 the Austrian TV station ORF broadcast a half-hour portrait of the architect Hans Hollein, including a presentation of Hollein’s Mobile Office project: essentially an inflatable plastic bubble in which one person could sit and work.
“Klingt vielleicht etwas verrückt”, mused the presenter, “sounds perhaps a bit crazy”.
And in 1969 a device, a construct, that allowed for the creation of a private domain in the midst of a public space, unquestionably did sound “etwas verrückt”.
And in 2022…….
“Dear Architect” wrote Maria Chinaglia Ponti in 1967 to the architect, but no relation, Gio Ponti, “why don’t you design us some modern furniture? Daddy Walter is worried because our traditional stuff is not selling as it used to”.1
An unsolicited request, from a company of whom he’d never heard, an architect of the status of a late 1960s Gio Ponti could have turned down, it wasn’t as if a late 1960s Gio Ponti needed the commission; however, something about the letter from Maria Chinaglia Ponti interested, intrigued, Gio Ponti. Beyond the shared surname. For as he continues, in his recounting of the tale, “Ci vado“.
“I went to see them”…….
“It was one of those March days” reflects Philip “Pip” Pirrip in Great Expectations, “when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade”.1
And thus exactly the sort of dithering, indecisive, capricious, March day when rather than surreptitiously rowing down the Thames towards Gravesend, one should seek refuge in the consistent climate and warming intellectual atmosphere of an architecture or design exhibition.
Our five Great exhibition Expectations for March 2022 can be found in Weil am Rhein, Brussels, Wolfsburg, Vienna and Ulm…….
Each and everyone of us sits innumerable times each and every day in a wide variety of contexts, yet we rarely, if ever, consider the act of sitting.
The exhibition Sitting reconsidered. Design, Observe, Stage at the Burg Galerie, Halle challenges us all to do just that…….
A Peninsula; A Commonwealth; A Context
“…one only finds warmth of life and sincerity where human nature is allowed to flourish”, opined the German designer Erich Dieckmann in 1931, “one shouldn’t forget that in our apartments. Let’s treat our contemporary homes to something humane. Something unelaborate, something provisional, with some leeway and space for things to grow as they wish over time.”1
With the exhibition Chairs: Dieckmann! The Forgotten Bauhäusler Erich Dieckmann, the Kunststiftung des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt and Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin extend an invitation to explore how Erich Dieckmann understood an unelaborate, humane, contemporary apartment full of leeway and space to grow…….
We were obviously off ill on the day of the great global public debate about whether, given the myriad problems of contemporary societies, our resource emergencies, and the effortless manner in which we’ve managed to turn the Internet, the greatest tool ever placed at the disposal of a member of the Animalia, into a platform for hate and vanity and greed and crime; if given all that, if we all wanted to, if we all should, move to the Metaverse.
But that debate must have occurred, for the decision has been made; and ever since global society decided of its own free will that we should all move to the Metaverse those Californians who hope to reap billions of dollars from our presence there, can’t stop extolling just how utterly brilliant it’s all going to be.
Which means that slowly we do all need to start reflecting on our furniture for the Metaverse, start considering how we’re going to furnish the Metaverse once we get there……
“Exhibiting means selecting, emphasising, demonstrating as a model or an example”, wrote Klaus Wille in his 1960 Diploma thesis at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm, continuing that, “the object is information. This information can be used for didactic, commercial or representative purposes. Aimed at individuals as consumers of products and ideas, the exhibition is used to educate, canvass and represent, to influence people, to get them to react in certain ways.”1
The exhibition HfG Ulm: Exhibition Fever at the Bauhaus Building, Dessau, explores how the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm not only educated, canvassed and represented through the media of exhibition design, but how they thereby contributed to the development of the practice and theory of exhibition design……
According to the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro February 7th marks the first day of spring.
Which strikes us, as we’re sure it does you, as a little early; however, there was reason in Varro’s bold claim, for Varro further sets February 7th as the start of the year, and for all links February 7th with the rising of the west wind, a favourable, warming wind, whose arrival indicates the need to start cultivating your land and crops, specifically Varro advises, “these are things which should be done in the first period, from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox: All kinds of nurseries should be set out, orchards pruned, meadows manured, vines trenched and outcropping roots removed, meadows cleared, willow beds planted, grain-land weeded.”1
But not just the cultivation of your land and crops is important from the rising of the west wind to the vernal equinox, the cultivation of mind and spirit and character is of equal importance.
Our five non-agrarian cultivation tips for February 2022 can be found in Halle, Garðabær, Paris, Stockholm and Zürich…….
Familiar as our objects and rituals of daily life are to us, to someone from the 16th century they would appear most, most, odd, just as their familiar 16th century objects and rituals would appear most, most, odd to someone from the 11th century: yet as Simon & Garfunkel teach us “that’s not unusual, No, it isn’t strange”, for as societies develop they acquire new objects and rituals, daily life continually evolves anew alongside, and in conjunction with, new objects and new rituals. And if we were to be acquainted today with objects and rituals from future societies we would consider them most, most, odd.
With the exhibition New Normals at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, Konstantin Grcic presents some exceedingly odd things and in doing so invites us all to reflect on the fact that that which is not yet, will one day be…….
The popular (hi)story of furniture design is, no-one could argue, a very male (hi)story.1
Which doesn’t mean that furniture design is a profession at which males excel more than females, a profession for which males have a natural affinity above and beyond that of females, that females’ natural domains are textiles and colours; much more is because that popular (hi)story of furniture design contains flaws, biases, inaccuracies and under-illuminated corners.
A great many of which can be traced back to those institutions charged with recording, documenting and mediating the (hi)story of furniture design, who are responsible for nurturing and validating the popular narrative of the (hi)story of furniture design.
With the project Spot On: Women Designers in the Collection the Vitra Design Museum Schaudepot shine a critical spotlight into some of the under-illuminated corners of their own collection…….
The contemporary systematics of the family Cactaceae recognises four subfamilies, Cactoideae, Maihuenioideae, Opuntioideae and Pereskioideae; is however a classification very much in motion, one very much in an ongoing process of re-evaluation, re-definition, re-assessment, one which undergoes regular revisions.
¿An ongoing re-evaluation and re-definition and re-assessment and revision which could see the addition of a fifth subfamily, the Craftoideae?
With the exhibition Craft is Cactus. The Collection from 1945 to Today the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, explore contemporary craft in its myriad expressions, positions and relationships, and in doing so also undertake an appraisal of the contemporary taxonomy of our objects of daily use…….
“Boxing is not an exclusively athletic term in these practical and utilitarian days”, noted John Crocker in 1913, rather, “the making of useful and ornamental things for the home, from the boxes, that in other days adorned the rear of stores, is the nucleus of armament that has made “boxing” a pursuit that contains both amusement and substantial results.”1
And nobody contributed more to promoting and advancing the amusement and substantial results of the practical and utilitarian craft of domestic boxing than Louise Brigham.
A contribution that for all it may have been little recognised in recent decades remains as informative and instructive in the early 21st century as it was in the early 20th century…….
According to Germanic folklore, “If January is frosty and cold, a green woodland will soon entice us”.
The implication being that a severe January is the necessary pre-requisite not only for a timeous spring bursting forth with new life, but also for a warm, (meteorologically) settled, summer.
But in the frost and cold and dark and endlessness of January that green (deciduous) woodland is still a long way off, is unimaginable, is unreachable, is almost mythical; however, protection, and distraction, from January can always be found in the warmth and stimulation and light of a good architecture or art or design exhibition.
Our five enticing shelters from the climatic vagaries of January 2022 can be found in Berlin, Humlebæk, Bloomfield Hills, Moscow and New York…….
1 x rounded piece of beech, 2 x quadratic pieces of beech, 3 x quadratic pieces of spruce…
1, 2, 3… An Ulmer Hocker1
With the exhibition The Ulmer Hocker: Idea ─ Icon ─ Idol the HfG-Archiv, Ulm, help elucidate that while an Ulmer Hocker is that simple, it is a deceptive, and highly informative, simplicity…….
In 1922 the Scottish novelist J.M. Barrie told the undergraduates at St. Andrews University “you remember someone said that God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December”, an allusion to the summer of your life filling your darkening winter days with colour and aroma, and an analogy he neatly reinforces a little later with a, “you have June coming”.1
But that was 1922. Roses were seasonal. Today roses are available all year round, which is not only symbolic of the short-sighted idiocy with which we’re intent on destroying our planet, but also means the rose has been reduced from a metaphor that can be so poignantly and joyously employed as Barrie did, to a cheap, stereotypical, derivative trope devoid of real meaning.
Not that a century later we can’t all do things to ensure that as we progress down life’s highway, as we all approach our own, personal, December, we do so with our emotional and mental capacities fully stimulated and finely honed. Amongst the most rewarding method of which is the regular visit to architecture or design exhibitions: spaces, experiences, whose intellectual and cultural stimulation and nourishment mean that it can be forever June.
Our five new Junes blooming forth in the non-metaphoric December 2021, can be found in Vienna, New York, Düsseldorf, Kanazawa and Paris.
And as ever in these times, if you are planning visiting any exhibition please familiarise yourself in advance with the current ticketing, entry, safety, hygiene, cloakroom, etc rules and systems. And during your visit please stay safe, stay responsible, and above all, stay curious……
It is perhaps indicative of the differing receptions to and estimations of design in the former West Germany and the former East Germany that while Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of good design are revered as if cast in stone, Karl Clauss Dietel’s Five Big Ls of good design have barely seen the light of day since November 1989.
A popular focus on the former West which tends to popular understandings of design from West Germany as being valid and authentic and laudable, while design from East Germany is reduced, denigrated, to cartoon Ostalgie.
With karl clauss dietel. die offene form Walter Scheiffele and Steffen Schuhmann allow one to approach more probable understandings both of the (hi)story of design in the former East Germany and of Karl Clauss Dietel’s position in the (hi)story of design, and in doing so stimulate a re-evaluation of the receptions to and estimations of design in and from East Germany…….
Whereas politics, economics or sport in West Germany and East Germany are well and widely studied, and the similarities and differences regularly and publicly analysed and contextualised, thereby allowing for more refined, nuanced, popular understandings; design in and from the two Germanys remains, largely, a niche subject for a small band of specialists, and on a popular level something not only repeatedly reduced to a few works, institutions and protagonists, but also defined by understandings that, popularly, have barely changed since 1989.
With the exhibition German Design 1949–1989. Two Countries, One History the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden challenge those ingrained understandings and thereby allow for the development of more differentiated and detached perspectives……
In his 1961 short film Danish Design, Jørgen Roos tells how in the late 18th century the Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard travelled to Greece and Italy in search of inspiration from classical art, and came back not only with artistic impetuses, but with classical furniture concepts he began to reproduce: “Abildgaard had become Denmark’s first furniture designer”.1
And while we’d argue about the validity of that claim, there is an undeniability in an understanding of not just furniture design, but design, as both a profession and a cultural expression, in Denmark and further afield, as having its origins in artistic practice.
And since then?
With the exhibition The Magic of Form – Design and Art, Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg seek formal parallels and inter-twinnings in the (hi)stories of art and design…….