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as anachronistic in the 21st century as that of the candlemaker: an argument that while the later has seen their craft superseded by the electric lightbulb, the function of the former has not only been increasingly marginalised by the rise of industrially produced glassware, but also by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…….
“Green is beautiful” proclaims an anonymous youth, an anonymous youth blind since birth, from Sophie Calle’s 1986 photography project The Blind, “because every time I like something, I’m told it’s green. Grass is green, trees, leaves, nature too… I like to dress in green”.
An indication, a confirmation, that even for those who have never seen colour, colour can awaken associations, stir emotions, have agency on the human being.
With the exhibition Color as Program. Part One the Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, explore colour beyond its physical reality, and in doing so allow for differentiated insights and perspectives into and on our relationships with colour, with colours.
“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…..
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…….
“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…….
“…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…….
“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…….
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…….
There are a great many and varied mediums via which to track the (hi)story of a region, the 2021 Bauhaus Lab chose plants; or more accurately, the 2021 Bauhaus Lab chose the (hi)stories of the flora in the region around Dessau as a medium for explorations of the human, social, industrial, political, economic, ecological, et al (hi)stories of the region.
A telling of a local (hi)stories which enables access to both global considerations on, and questions concerning, our relationships with the planet we require for our existence, and also to differentiated considerations on, and questions concerning, Bauhaus and International Modernism.
Considerations and questions presented in the showcase Vegetation Under Power – Heat, Breath, Growth in the Bauhaus Building, Dessau.
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……
Our relationships with colour are invariably shaped and informed by the culture and society in which we were raised. A state of affairs that, equally invariably, leads to us all possessing relatively strictly defined understandings of colour, understandings of the psychology of colours or of the agency of colours or of the use of colours.
With the exhibition Green Sky, Blue Grass. Colour Coding Worlds, the Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt discuss the cultural relevance and social functions of colour in various and varied contexts and in doing so extend an invitation to expand our relationships with colour, and the world(s) they code…….
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…….
“November’s night is dark and drear, The dullest month of all the year”, opined Letitia Elizabeth Landon in 1836, however, ’twas not all doom and gloom, for, as she continues, “the November evening now closing in round Mrs. Cameron’s house was of a very cheerful nature.”*
A cheerfulness in Mrs. Cameron’s house/school occasioned by the gaiety associated with the rapidly approaching annual school prize-giving and ball; and a cheerfulness to banish the dreary darkness of a November evening that can also be achieved through the intellectual stimulation of an architecture and/or design exhibition.
Our five recommended distractions from November 2021 can be found in Frankfurt, Basel, Dresden, Miami Beach and Munich…..
One could be forgiven for thinking that little would be as pointless as a Le Corbusier colouring-in book.
So singularly achromatic is the popular understanding of Le Corbusier, a lack of colour reinforced by the dour, austere, round bespectacled, persona which so universally defines Le Corbusier: what, one asks oneself, could there possibly be to colour in a Le Corbusier colouring-in book?
Yet in contrast to the popular Le Corbusier image, Le Corbusier’s career was one undertaken in colour. A career accompanied by, informed by, arguably driven by, considerations on and the study of colour.
An (oft overlooked) aspect of his work, of his understandings and approaches, and persona, explored in the exhibition Le Corbusier and Color at the, appropriately kaleidoscopic, Pavillon Le Corbusier, Zürich.
“Space and form are important elements in the creation of the [interior] environment”, opined the Danish architect, artist and designer Verner Panton in 1969, however, he continues, “colours are even more important”.
And no-one, even those with but the briefest familiarity with Verner Panton, can oversee the colour in Verner Panton’s work.
Yet important as colour and space and form were for Panton, “in the creation of the [interior] environment”, “l’homme reste l’élément central“, man remains the central element.1
With the exhibition Verner Panton – Colouring a New World, Trapholt, Kolding, undertake a search for the human in the colourful new world of Verner Panton.
In days of yore October was known in Germanic lands as Weinmonat, Wine Month, Month of Wine, whereby thoughts were, unquestionably, less with the drink as with the grape and the harvest, and thus the promise of the new wine.
And in many regards our exhibition recommendations can be considered a monthly harvest of the new crop of architecture and design exhibitions; specifically, and staying in Germanic registers, an Auslese, a considered selection of those well ripened concepts and premises it is hoped will most excite an invigorate the palate both experienced and novice. Or the viewer, experienced or novice.
Our quintet of, possible, new, memorable vintages from Weinmonat 2021 can be found in Ulm, Stockholm, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Paris and Tokyo…….