In 1930 the Danish designer and educator Kaare Klint opined that in terms of furniture and furnishings, “Problemerne er ikke saa nye, de er i mange Tilfælde løst før“, “the problems are not so new, they have in many cases been solved before”.1
With the exhibition Home Sweet Home. The Archaeology of Domestic Life, SMAC – Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz, test that theory to extreme levels, and also expand it beyond furniture and furnishings to all aspects of domestic arrangements and domesticity over the past 30,000 years…….
In 1981 Irish stadium rockers U2 noted of October:
“And the trees are stripped bare,
Of all they wear”
That of course was 1981, before the, then approaching but much less tangible, irreversible consequences of climate change meant that the trees in Ireland, and across Europe, still proudly wear their leaves throughout October. A new reality that, we’d argue, may soon see U2 forced to rename the song ‘November’.
A reality, and a coming renaming, that sets the final line of the opening verse:
“What do I care?”
in a new, a troubling, and an important light.
One we all need to think about.
And little stimulates thoughts on contemporary and future society, contemporary and future relationships with the world around us, both the natural and humanmade, and forces a questioning of what we want, why we want it, and if we care, quite like an architecture and/or design exhibition.
Our five recommended new exhibition openings in October 2023 can be found in Chemnitz, Hornu, London, Brussels and Milan…….
The return of an old favourite, and no not (smow) introducing, although Welcome Back!!!, but the Rowac-Schemel, the Rowac stool, a work initially launched in 1909 as one of the world’s first sheet steel furniture objects, a work that once graced not only innumerable industrial workshops, craft ateliers and educational institutes, but the workshops and ateliers at Bauhauses Weimar and Dessau, a work that became lost in the confusions of post-War eastern Germany.
A work returning in 2023, some 80 years after production ended: and that from and in its native Chemnitz.
And via a Kickstarter crowdfunding project.
To find out more we caught up with Alide and Dieter Amick from Rowac…….
Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.
A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….
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…….
Globally some 2 billion of us live in a city of more than 500,000 inhabitants.1
A number that is progressively growing.
But what does “city” mean?
Not lexicographically, but physically, culturally, socially, politically, economically, morally, etc, etc, etc?
With the exhibition Die Stadt. Between Skyline and Latrine the smac – Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz attempt to approach possible answers……
“In his work the designer seeks to find the constancy of the good”, wrote Karl Clauss Dietel in 1973, a lightly articulated yet not so straightforward task for, as he continues, not only is the assessment of such dependent on a myriad varying factors, but “the search for what defines design, what it grows from, where it comes from and where it wants to go, takes on new dimensions against the background of our cultural upheaval”.1
With the exhibition Simson, Diamant, Erika. Formgestaltung von Karl Clauss Dietel the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz allow insights into not only how Karl Clauss Dietel understood “what defines design, what it grows from, where it comes from and where it wants to go” but how those understandings aided and abetted him in his own search for, understanding of, “the constancy of the good”…….
“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it is always June”, ponders Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1915 novel Anne of the Island.
“You’d get tired of it”, sighs her adoptive mother Marilla Cuthbert by way of reply.
“I daresay”, responds Anne, “but just now I feel that it would take me a long time to get tired of it…”
Thoughts we very much concur with as we survey and contemplate the varied profusion of new architecture and design exhibitions sprouting forth in June 2021. Who could ever tire of such a joyous abundance? Who?
Our five recommendations from that early summer crop can be found in Leipzig, Hornu, Berlin, Bloomfield Hills and Chemnitz…….
After a long, challenging, year the smow Song Contest finds itself exactly where it was: Rotterdam.
Not just the location, but the stage, the decoration, the costumes, even the bier en frieten exactly as they were twelve months ago.
The decisive, defining, difference between the 2020 smow Song Contest and the 2021 smow Song Contest being the new understandings, the new perceptions, the new perspectives, the new vitality, the new passions, the new desires, the new old new, articulated by the contest’s motto: Open Up!
As the 19th century English poet Robert Browning so very, very, nearly phrased it:
Oh, to be in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in Berlin, Vienna, Chemnitz, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, or Berlin (again),
Sees, some morning a most interesting, entertaining and instructive sounding architecture and/or design exhibition,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough……
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…..
László Moholy-Nagy may have given Marianne Brandt “mettle for metal”, and metal may be the material with which she is most readily and popularly associated; however, as she wrote in 1922, “Ich bin ganz von Glas”….. I am entirely glass.
Fragile? Transparent? Opaque? Metamorphic? Refractive? Sparkling?
For its 7th edition the triennial International Marianne Brandt Contest sought projects exploring glass in all its interpretations, properties and essences; the 60 nominated projects being presented alongside a cabinet showcase devoted to Marianne Brandt in the exhibtion Ich bin ganz von Glas. Marianne Brandt and the Art of Glass Today at the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz.
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….
That joining the
Women’s Department weaving workshop was for many a female Bauhäusler not so much an active wish as the response to a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, shouldn’t be confused with the workshop producing work of an involuntary, unloving, uncaring nature, of it playing second fiddle to the rest of the institution. Far from it. The quality and relevance of the work created in the Bauhaus weaving workshop being in many regards attested by the fact it was one of the more productive and commercially successful Bauhaus workshops.
With the exhibition Bauhaus. Textiles and Graphics the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz explore the work undertaken in the Bauhaus weaving workshops, some of the institutions’ principle protagonists and their place in wider considerations of inter-War weaving. While also neatly, if indirectly, highlighting Bauhaus’s gender differences, inequalities, prejudices……
One of the principle motors of the development of new products is new materials: stone famously ceding its primacy to bronze, which in turn ceded to iron… to …. to …. to …. plastics; new materials not only allowing for new forms of objects, but for objects with new functionalities, new properties, new purposes, and thus objects both reflective of the new needs of a continually evolving society and also allowing those needs to be not only met but, ideally, exceeded, thus contributing to our social and cultural evolution.
With the exhibition New textile worlds in a creative context – Potential technical, intelligent textiles + smart materials the Wasserschloß Klaffenbach explores such relationships between materials and objects in context of both commercial products employing new materials technology and/or understandings and also academic research indicating possible future realities.
“Beware the Ides of March” Julius Caesar was, allegedly, advised by the soothsayer Spurinna. And he probably wished he had. March 15th seeing his death at the hands of some 60 Senators, a death which led to civil war as opposing forces sought to control Rome’s destiny.
“Beware the 5th of the Calends of April” a modern day Spurinna would no doubt warn the good folks of the United Kingdom. March 29th looking as it is like being an equally fateful day.
But while Caesar could have taken steps to prevent his demise, the fate of the good folks of the United Kingdom is out of their hands, they must wait and see what an ideologically driven group of some 60 Conservative
Senators MPs have in store…….
And while we all wait, what could be more enriching than that which helps set the temporality of politicians’ decisions against the irrepressible force of social and cultural evolution; a force parliamentarian laws can delay but never stop, and a truth one finds elegantly mirrored in architecture and design.
Our five recommendations for new exhibitions opening in March 2019 can be found in Frankfurt, Brussels, Chemnitz, London and Magdeburg.
Odd as it may be to consider today, in the course of the 19th century and throughout the first decades of the 20th century, the German town of Chemnitz was one of the most important locations in central Europe for heavy and mechanical engineering, and thereby an important motor on the highway from craft to industrial production, supplying as it did the machines, infrastructure and ideas to enable that transfer. The importance of Chemnitz in the 19th century can perhaps be best gauged by the fact that the city, for all in the person of then Oberbürgermeister Dr. Wilhelm André, was one of the leading protagonists in the campaign which ultimately led in 1877 to the passing of the first Patent Law in the freshly established German Reich. The wealth those patents brought Chemnitz, its engineers and industrialists can still be seen today, for example, in the Kaßberg district, one of the most expansive Jugendstil suburbs in Germany, and also in the number of villas from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries to be found lining the broad boulevards, including the one built in 1902/03 by Henry van de Velde for the textile manufacturer Herbert Esche.
While the names of many/most of those engineers and industrialists may not be popularly known today that of Chemnitz’s most famous 20th century designer certainly is: Marianne Brandt, a trained artist who learned her metalwork trade in the workshops at Bauhaus Weimar, followed the school to Dessau and became, for all through her many designs for Leipzig based manufacturer Kandem, one of the genuine pioneers of lighting design. Even if most associate her today with teapots.
As the centenary of Bauhaus Weimar approaches, and thus memories are awakened of that period in history when eastern Germany was at the forefront of attempts to unify craft and art for the benefit of industry and society, what can Chemnitz offer? What can Chemnitz creatives contribute to the development of craft, industry, design? The exhibition Unikate 7 presenting graduation projects from the Handwerkskammer Chemnitz’ Gestalter im Handwerk programme seemed like an appropriate place to approach an answer…….
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….
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.
Gestures belong to the oldest of human actions and interactions. Have accompanied mankind through good times and bad, through its innumerate technical, cultural and social revolutions.
And are so intuitive, we are often barely aware of them.
With the exhibition Gestures – Past, Present and Future, the Sächsische Industriemuseum Chemnitz explores not only the (hi)story and importance of gestures, but for all their role in our smart, digital, autonomous futures.
The old adage that the only certainties in life are death and taxes has become (more than) a little passé of late.
However even the accountants and investment bankers cannot, yet, avoid death.
With the exhibition Tod & Ritual – Kulturen von Abschied und Erinnerung the Staatliches Museum für Archäologie Chemnitz, smac, explore the historical and cultural traditions and rituals of that last remaining timeless, universal, and utterly inescapable phenomenon.
Like gardens mottled with the vibrant leaves of autumn, so too is November 2017 bestrewn with a multicoloured carpet of new design and architecture exhibitions. We could have published three such lists, seriously considered it …. have however instead taken the opportunity to bring our monthly recommendations average up to where it should be. Five.
Back in August we only had four new recommendations, and so to compensate summer’s shortfall, here we present six, technically seven. Although it could have been 15.
Which all of course means you, dear reader, have no excuse for not visiting a new design or architecture exhibition, for wherever you may be, there is one opening near you. So get out there and start raking up those leaves exhibitions!!!
It’s early May and once again the party ship we call the smow song contest is ready to set sail……
The winners and nominated projects from the 2016 International Marianne Brandt Contest can be viewed in an exhibition in Chemnitz.