In a year in which the familiar glow of many a beloved cultural event is missing, one beacon continues to shine.
As a virtual, and in many regards virtual, event the smow Song Contest is one that can be staged regardless of prevailing physical social distancing regulations and physical travel restrictions.
And while virtual closeness and virtual travel can never, and must never be allowed to, replace the physical, the 2020 smow Song Contest does allow us all an opportunity to cross great distances, to come together, to stay safe, to stay responsible, but for all to stay dancing…..
While we’d all much rather physically visit architecture and design museums, our current enforced virtual patronage does allow us all an excellent opportunity to begin to understand architecture and design museums as more than just an exhibition space with shop and café, and to begin to learn to interact with them, and for all their collections, in new, proactive, manners. To understand architecture and design museums as tools as much as institutions.
And while a virtual visit can never replace a physical one, it can help us extenuate and expand our understandings and thereby allow us to take even more from that physical visit. And those physical visits will return.
Until then, volume two of our online recommendations takes you from your sofa to Berlin, Hamburg, Bloomfield Hills, Mumbai, München, and hopefully and awful lot further…..
Off late, and certainly in a European context, January has become a month of forgoing, eschewing and general abstention, with campaigns such as Dry January and Veganuary extolling us to utilise our guilt at our dangerous, decadent, gluttony of late December as an impetus to radically alter our behaviour, as a catalyst for reduction.
And while less is unquestionably more, and thus worth striving for, fundamental change is invariably more sustainably and meaningfully achieved through better understandings rather than by sudden, extreme, knee-jerk, changes; that more information can lead to less harmful choices. More information and better understandings such as those an architecture or design exhibition can provide.
We can’t promise the following five will necessarily change your (unhealthy) relationship to alcohol or food, they should however allow for new perspectives on the world around us, new perspectives which should allow for new reflections on your relationship to that world, and, potentially, a healthier, happier you. And a healthier, happier world. Potentially.
For all the popular associations of the inter-War years with the reduced and the paired down, with objects whose value was deemed inherent rather than something one added, one must remember that the inter-War years were also a period that brought forth the colours and confusions of Surrealism and the glitz and glamour of Art Déco: The Roaring of the Twenties being as much about a self-confidence of expression as a joyous relief that the war years were, once and for all, over.
And thus that both the reserved and the ornate existed side by side in the inter-War years, if not necessarily comfortably; and this tension between decorative ornamentation and a more reserved understanding of design are explored in the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge’s exhibition Decoration as Trespass?
Having started this Bauhaus Weimar centenary year by exploring the path from Arts and Crafts to Bauhaus, the Bröhan Museum Berlin end this Bauhaus Weimar centenary year by exploring the path from Bauhaus to
Arts and Crafts Scandinavia.
Or more accurately put, by exploring Nordic Design. The Response to the Bauhaus.
More or less……
….. Back in May 2019 the sheer number of new architecture and design exhibitions opening globally allowed us to produce two recommendations lists: one featuring exhibitions with a strong Bauhaus/inter-War Modernism focus, and one more general, less focussed.
Spring forward five months and with the global museum community now fully awoken from their summer slumber we once again find ourselves with a cornucopia of new exhibitions that invites two lists. An invitation we would consider rude to decline.
In May we started with the more general exhibitions and so this time it seemed only fair to begin with new exhibitions in Berlin, Weimar, Cottbus, London W1 and London E17 that explore Bauhaus and inter-War modernism in a relatively wide sense, but then the wider the sense, the more detailed the understanding….
Whereas in the natural world spring ushers in new life but once a year, in the design museum world re-awakenings are biannual: a spring spring as curators awake from their winter hibernation and an autumn spring as they awake from their summer dormancy. Both bringing forth not only the promise of growth, energy, of a new esprit, of new experiences, new sensations, but confirming the eternal nature of existence, that we are but a moment on an endless spiralling continuum…….
Our five new stimulations for September 2019 can be found in Berlin, Helsinki, Weil am Rhein, Stockholm and ‘s-Hertogenbosch…….
Partly for reasons of its size, and partly on account of the way the then nations of the contemporary Germany responded to the challenges and realities of late 19th/early 20th century industrialisation, Germany is home to a truly outrageous number of architecture and design schools, certainly more than it would be logical, prudent or congenial to pack into one post.
And so to save your nerves, and our fingers, we’ll present the German leg of our 2019 #campustour via a series of regional postings, starting in and around the German capital.
For all the controversy surrounding smow Tel Aviv’s victory in the 2018 smow Song Contest, not least the question if there even is a smow Tel Aviv, the staging of the 2019 Contest in Israel does allow for a very nice reinforcing of the central theme of the 2019 smow Song Contest….
“Low bowls with flowers, as well as flowers placed on the tablecloth and a platter of fruit, are the most beautiful table decorations. All table centrepieces with rocks, palm trees, ostriches, deer, and such are ludicrous, for these things have no business on a table, and all tall table decorations – even those made of flowers – are also unsuitable since they screen the dinner guests from one another”, opined Ellen Key of table culture in her 1899 essay Beauty in the Home.1
But that was then.
With the exhibition table talks — Tischgespräche the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden present positions by students from Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen on contemporary table culture.
While the shortlist of exhibitions for this column is regularly long, that for May 2019 was particularly so.
And particularly tricky. Perusing it we saw no realistic chance of getting it down to five, all made good claims for inclusion, none deserved to be ignored……
Then we noticed that, with a little bit tweaking, we could get two lists: one featuring those exhibitions directly connected with Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design, and one featuring those less directly connected.
The Bauhaus/Inter-War architecture and design list will follow, but for all keen to explore architecture and design in a wider context, five new exhibitions opening in May 2019 in Munich, New York, Berlin, Basel & Villingen-Schwenningen, you may like to consider visiting……..
Today industrially produced objects are so self-evident and ubiquitous it can be hard to believe there was a time when they weren’t.
With the exhibition Unique Piece or Mass Product? the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin explores the developments of industrial production in the early 20th century, the discussions and discourses which accompanied those developments and the connections between such developments and the evolution of both formal understandings and the role and function of designers.
Although Bauhaus did undeniably exist, sometimes we could all be forgiven for believing we had collectively imagined it. Not only on account of its ephemerality as an institution, but also because it existed in a period of history that is, generally, a little abstract, intangible, indecipherable for a majority of us. While today the popular image of Bauhaus is so ideal, represents such a utopia and eutopia, it has that tangible feeling of intangibility, of unreality, of something imaginary.
With the exhibition Bauhaus Imaginista the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin aim to allow for a more substantive understanding of Bauhaus.
Despite what some may have us believe, Bauhaus didn’t appear one morning from the slowly clearing mists of the Ilm valley; rather, and for all its lasting allure, Bauhaus ’twas but a moment on a longer, wider, international helix. One which began its twisting long before Walter Gropius and his merry band arrived in Weimar, and which continues, winding its way ever onwards, to this day.
With the exhibition From Arts and Crafts to the Bauhaus. Art and Design – A New Unity! the Bröhan Museum Berlin explore the helix as it approached and then, briefly, informed Bauhaus.
Although founded twelve years before Bauhaus Weimar, and despite overlaps in personnel and biographies, it would be incorrect to draw a direct line from the Deutsche Werkbund to the Gropius school, even if a line of sorts can, should, be traced between the two institutions.
A line which serves not only to connect the two but to underscore the role both played in the development of contemporary understandings of formal aesthetics in the first decades of the 20th century, and also the influence both retain over contemporary understandings of such a century or so later.
In context of such considerations, the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge Berlin are presenting throughout 2019 a series of four exhibitions under the title 111/99. Questioning the Modernist Design Vocabulary and which aim to explore various aspects of the development of, well, modernist design vocabulary.
The start being made with graphic arts and the showcase Commercial Design instead of Applied Art?
The reason most of us fail to keep most of our New Year resolutions is, mostly, because we either resolve to give up things we enjoy or to do things we don’t.
Which is foolhardy in the extreme.
If you wanted to do more sport, you would.
If you wanted to eat less crisps, you would.
But don’t. And don’t. So don’t.
The wiser choice is to resolve to do more of that which you enjoy, and thereby not only setting yourself an achievable goal but one which through the genuine fulfilment it brings benefits you spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically; therefore, let us all, collectively, promise to visit more architecture and design exhibitions in 2019 than we did in 2018.
Our five starters for January 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Malmö, New York, Berlin and Stuttgart……………..
It is seldom that the largest, most centrally placed and intricately staged object in an exhibition isn’t the central focus of that exhibition, but a conduit which introduces and guides the exhibition.
Something you could ignore, but really shouldn’t.
However such is the case with the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin’s new exhibition Inside Out. Understanding the art of furniture making
In our post from the state of DESIGN Berlin curated exhibition VICIS. Always Change a Running System during Munich Creative Business Week 2018 we opined that there was something biographical in the title. Similarly Expertimental Design has overtones of self-reflection. And for all of an unyielding belief in the value, logic, necessity of experimentation in design.
Something also reflected in the 2018 state of DESIGN Berlin showcase.
Approaching the 2018 Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang one was obliged to navigate the weekly antique and flea market that overwhelms the Straße des 17. Juni, and thereby walk, hurry, past untold objects whose ill consideration, self-celebration, kitschiness or plain ugliness confuse, insult, anger and otherwise offend the senses and sensibilities.
An inconvenience, or an omen for that which awaited us……….?
The Dog Days of summer are with us and, as is traditional, the international curatorial community have removed themselves to the cooler climes of their storerooms, archives and libraries to sit out the heat until autumn’s bracing breeze tempts them back out.
Which, logically, means a great sparsity of new architecture and design exhibitions opening in July 2018.
Following smow Lisboa’s surprise victory in the 2017 smow Song Contest, the Portuguese capital is preparing to host the 2018 song contest: a contest being staged very much in context of the contemporary relevance of smow’s historic connections….
According to the German philologist, mythologist, folklorist and definer of the Germanic Umlaut, Jacob Grimm, an old belief states that the Cuckoo never sings before the 3rd of April; and, “should you have money in your pouch when you hear him sing the first time, you will be well off all that year, if not, you will be short the whole year” 1
Much like the cuckoo, our five new architecture & design exhibitions recommendations for April 2018 begin with their songs after April 3rd; and should you have money in your pouch when in their vicinity, and use it to visit one, we can’t guarantee a year of financial wealth, but they all sound like providing not only a couple of hours entertainment, but a lifetime of joy through helping you develop your understanding of architecture and design, and thereby the world that surrounds you….
The only FAQ not answered by the smow FAQs is the one that begins, “What is smow……..?”
And as smow grows and grows so too does the F with which the Q is A’d.
The answer in one sense is very simple, smow trade in furniture, lighting and home/office accessories through a series of showrooms and online shops. But that only partly explains “smow”. Doesn’t explain the how, who, why and wherefore. Nor the richness. Explaining the true smow is in many respects best achieved by exploring another trading institution whose superficial simplicity hides its true depth of character ….. The Hanseatic League.
By way of an addendum to our 5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2018 post, and arguably also to save us mentioning it every month, February 2018 sees the inauguration of a new design exhibition cycle in Berlin: Design Views, a cooperation between the Internationale Design Zentrum Berlin and the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin initiated with the aim of highlighting contemporary developments, thinking and directions in design.
While Georges-Eugène Haussmann is associated with the radical and unrestrained, Atelier Haußmann prefer the understated and reserved. Yet applied with the same level of conviction, self-confidence and appreciation of a well considered line.
Following a couple of years absence 2018 saw Atelier Haußmann return to IMM Cologne….