Exhibiting as going public, Displayer – 03, Foreword, Doreen Mende

Exhibiting as going public
The requirement to exhibit the final product is something we can view in the framework of the capitalist system, along the lines that an employer who has made an investment now needs to see a result. These relationships are reproduced in the collaboration among artists, curators, and directors who have invested in a work in an institutional framework. The exhibiting institution, being the last link in the chain of this market transaction, needs a visible, tangible result: a product.” (Milica Tomic, Politics of Memory, Displayer 03).

While an academy is an environment which does not request a ‘finished’ product, the space of exhibition depends on something to be shown to a public. The conversation will be based on the project Displayer, which is a publication series of the program Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice at the University of Arts and Design / ZKM Karlsruhe. Displayer is a magazine of original sound. The editorial team is the students of the seminars of the University’s program.

The points of departure for the most recent issue, Displayer 03 (2009) are the demands, the challenges, and the potentialities as well as the impossibilities of exhibiting space itself. Space is the fabric in which events occur, and events, in turn activate space culturally, socially, politically and geographically. Hence, the exhibition of space is strongly connected to performative acts in addition to questions about the requirements of constructions in space.

In which way can a publication be understood as a space for exhibiting? Under which demands as well as urgencies does a publication expand the conditions of an academy? And for Displayer 03: What are the means of recording space in order to perform it at different times, in different places and different institutional settings?

Contributions Displayer 03 by Eva Kraus, Tilo Schulz, Martin Beck, Charles Jencks, Pablo Bronstein, Katrin Mayer, Stefan Römer, Walter Benjamin, Alfred Barr, Ines Katenhusen, Milica Tomic, Omer Fast, Sina Najafi, Hans Hollein, Joseph Dabernig, Achim Lengerer, Paul Gangloff, Dominique Gonzalez- Foerster, Ines Weizman, Moritz Küng, Kersten Geers, Giorgio Grassi, Guillaume Paoli, Heiner Mühlmann, Stephan Trüby, Wilfried Kuehn. Filipa César realized Displayer 03 as a filmed book which is part of the discussion.


Displayer – 03


by Doreen Mende

The points of departure for Displayer 03 are the demands, the challenges, and the potentialities as well as the impossibilities of exhibiting space itself. Certainly in this context space is not considered a mere geometric entity but a conflictual field of relations, situations and events.

Starting the research with ‘spatial models’ like the agora, the garden, the desert, the castle, the film set, the urban grid, the magazine and the pavilion, the editorial process leading up to Displayer 03 quickly established that exhibiting space is closely related to strategies of re-enactment and performance, i.e. to the temporality of such appearances in space. Hence, the exhibition of space is strongly connected to performative acts in addition to questions about the requirements of constructions in space. Space is the fabric in which events occur, and events, in turn, activate space culturally, socially, politically and geographically. Moreover, exhibiting space means transferring space, which entails the careful consideration of overarching spatial configurations.
The particularities of the pathways, visual axes and surrounding environment of the exhibition as well as the inscriptions of history, temporary markings and contextual shifts provide a set to frame space. It then becomes possible to draw a distinction between the sites of ‘origin’ and ‘exhibition.’ It also becomes an arena
where the boundaries between the ‘real’ and the ‘fictitious’ ultimately dissolve.

The third issue of the publication series Displayer represents the work of both a one-year research project and the seminars of the Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice program at the University of Art and Design, Karlsruhe. More than 20 interviews, statements and essays were produced exclusively for this issue of
Displayer. For the most part, the contributions are based on intensive several-day workshops, but they also have been developed from panels, email and phone conversations, dialogic talks, public presentations, debates and seminar projects that were initiated through the program’s curriculum. The printed matter in hand
embodies a spatial transfer in and of itself: conversations are taken from the non-public seminar room into a presentation format with broad public distribution. Yet beyond merely functioning as an exhibition format, Displayer has involved a process of post-production; editing the program’s projects and research thus
becomes a most necessary part of both the printed publication itself and a course of teaching and study. This process also suspends the distinction between theory and practice and implements the constitutive tools of both.

While the last two Displayer issues respectively investigated the activation of space and presentation strategies, primarily of collections, Displayer 03 forgoes a separation between spatial analysis and curatorial concept. This issue allows us to think through the implications of the historic, thematic and political factors impacting the design of exhibiting (in) space: neither architecture, exhibition design nor curatorial practice can individually negotiate this complex interface of exhibition, building and history. For now, our projects and research conclude in an approach of ‘curatorial design,’ or, a form of design as temporary spatial models that not only configure the spectator’s selective gaze in space but also establish criteria for selecting content.

Not surprisingly, the Russian theoretician Mikhail M. Bakhtin has attracted the interest of contemporary architects, artists and curators. In The Dialogic Imagination he suggests the term ‘chronotope’—it provides a helpful concept ‘in which spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out concrete whole. Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise space becomes charged and responsive to movements of time, and history.’ It situates our understanding of space within a sphere of endless coexisting trajectories, which create a state of constant becoming: space is never finalized. Having said that, exhibiting space thus implies a constant actualization of this framed space—the exhibit—under certain conditions. ‘To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent. And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates it, a more profound, internal repetition within the singular. This is the apparent paradox of festivals: they repeat an “unrepeatable.”’ (Gilles Deleuze, ‘Introduction,’ Difference and Repetition).

Thinking through exhibiting space leads to questions like: what are the means of recording space in order to perform it at other times, in other places and other institutional settings? Which conceptual approaches are at our disposal in order to remember, repeat and re-access space? What are the limits of reconstructing the
built space of historic architecture? The unique written and visual contributions of Displayer 03 mirror the diversity of attitudes towards examining the exhibition of space, i.e. the performance of space. Rather than merely republishing the historic facts about exhibitions like Art of This Century (1942) and Salle
de Superstition (1947), the first contribution of Displayer 03 investigates the relevance of the visionary spatial practice of Friedrich Kiesler. Learning from Kiesler, historian Eva Kraus and artist Tilo Schulz pursue the question of what it means today to generate space as it emerges through ‘coordinated correlation’ and ‘realism.’ In contrast to the architect, artist and writer Friedrich Kiesler, the U.S. American industrial designer George Nelson invented Struc-Tube towards the end of the 1940s, a display system that offered a flexible solution for the growing industrialization of exhibition practice. For many years the artist Martin Beck has been analyzing design practices like Nelson’s Struc-Tube with a particular focus on labor relations, social conflicts and ideologies that still have currency today.

While Nelson and Kiesler in particular developed display systems for use in environments dictated by modernity, the architect Charles Jencks pursues the opposite in his Garden of Cosmic Speculation. He departs from normative disciplines (histories and theories of art, architecture and design) in favor of amateur science. The
composition of his garden follows a so-called ‘double-design’ that presents our world as a ‘pluriverse.’ The architectural language of post-modernism provides material for a younger generation of artists. For example, Pablo Bronstein’s interest in the representational codification of space through ornamental design extends beyond architecture into the field of ballet: the dance performance signifies the behavioral conditioning of bodies. His contribution has parallels with Katrin Mayer’s often gender-related investigations into the historical and contextual strata of the buildings in which she is invited to work. Her space-specific research results in an interwoven fabric of found images, displays and existing spatial configurations that exhibit the plurality of the particular space.

Artist and theoretician Stefan Römer elaborates on the question: how is it possible to talk about the ‘fake’ or ‘forgery’ in architecture? Based on his research in visual art, his critical inspection not only illustrates the set of problems accompanying the reconstruction of a building like the Berliner Stadtschloss but also reveals the general lack of differentiated argument in architectural debates in how they use historical references. While historian Ines Katenhusen reports about the bizarre voyage of a box of paintings by Kasimir Malevich, the project Kabinett der Abstrakten by the Museum of American Art for Displayer 03 applies the contemporary reconstruction of El Lissitzky’s famous cabinet of 1927 as a tool for unveiling the Western construction and meta-narration of art history. The contribution by the artist Milica Tomic´ about the politics of memory in ex-Yugoslavia is informed by the question, ‘how can the traumas of war be detected?’ The contribution points out that space and the violence of political events are inherently connected; the particular reconstruction of a space can provide analytical methods for the present.

The sign ‘This house is not a re-enactment’ could be said to summarize the blurring of the line between the ‘real’ and the ‘fictitious.’ Discovered by Omer Fast near his film set at the Living History Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, this homeowner’s statement could serve as a veritable subtitle to Fast’s interest in the con-
currence of fact and fiction, past and present. Cabinetlandia is a fictional state that was co-founded by Sina Najafi, Editor-in-Chief of the Brooklyn-based magazine Cabinet, which relocates the space of printed matter to the desert of New Mexico and also to Mars. Architect Hans Hollein’s designs for various exhibitions, such as
the Milan Triennale (1968), Death (1970, Mönchengladbach), and MAN transFORMS (1976, New York), are characterized by a curatorial stance that extends the exhibition space into everyday life. The Media Lines that he constructed for Munich’s Olympic Village in 1972 are the architectural articulation of his curatorial concerns.

Some of the work of the artist Josef Dabernig could be interpreted as the performance of a score. His contribution to the Brussels Biennale (2008), titled Once is Nothing, resulted from an extremely precise study of the exhibition Individual Systems (2003, Venice Biennale), the spatial structure of which he transposes
into the space of a former postal building. Two New Models for Rehearsing the Script takes as a starting point a single gesture in the film Wild Child by François Truffaut: a workshop with the artist Achim Lengerer and the graphic designer Paul Gangloff yielded the script for the performance of gesture which could
be considered as ‘the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as such.’ (Giorgio Agamben, Means without Ends).

Ever since the birth of the English Garden, the park has served as an exhibition model par excellence. However, instead of creating sites of illusion, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s sculptural work in parks generates places of imagination. Drawing on the idea of the chronotope, her work is close to storytelling, novel writing and even an itinerary in which the wandering viewer is an actor performing his or her own travel story. Both the construction of the hitherto unbuilt Baker-House by Adolf Loos in the Inner Mongolian area of China and the Belgian Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008 present different ways of updating a historic building. While the architect and critic Ines Weizman includes critical archival material in her plans for the former, the architects Kersten Geers and David van Severen work with the tangible context of the building in situ for the latter. A workshop with the architects and the curator of the Belgian pavilion, Moritz Küng, also activated a fundamental debate about the architect’s authorship in the reconstruction of buildings.

‘Precisely because of the project’s questionable nature, the competition to rebuild the facades of the “Schloss” in Berlin has had a highly clarifying effect. It allows us to see the central nature of the historical, thematic and political factors surrounding the design of a museum which is simultaneously a display, an exhibit, a discourse and a kind of souvenir.’ So reads the announcement for our seminar in the Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice program. Since an essential part of Displayer entails posing seminar questions to protagonists of the researched projects, the architect Giorgio Grassi, a member of the jury of the Berlin Schloss competition, responds to criteria, demands and limits of the reconstruction of a castle. The philosopher Guillaume Paoli refers to other sites of reconstruction, such as the Goethehaus in Frankfurt, the caves of Lascaux, Walter Gropius’ Direktorenhaus and the Frauenkirche of Dresden.

From the perspective of mnemonics, cultural theorist Heiner Mühlmann and architecture theorist Stephan Trüby see reconstructions as a dual-channel evolutionary process. One channel is concerned with technical categories and the other with the attempt to preserve a certain degree of cultural rootedness. As a laureate of the Berlin Schloss competition, architect Wilfried Kuehn traces the antagonism between the contemporary needs of architecture and the competition mandate. As one of the clearest examples of the topics pertinent to Displayer 03, the Berlin Schloss reveals that space as an exhibit is a double bind: a cultural artifact can evidence a range of interest lobbies. It becomes clear: the performance of space is an act of politicizing it.


_exhibiting as going public
_4 Dez _ Dec 09 : 15 / 17 pm [friday] _Oporto

petit CABANON proposes a two hour conversation revolving around notions of public, exhibiting and publishing. The send-off is the contribution of Doreen Mende, the editor of Displayer 03 [a magazine with contributors as Charles Jencks, Walter Benjamin, Alfred Barr, Ines Katenhusen, Omer Fast, Hans Hollein, Dominique Gonzalez- Foerster, Ines Weizman, Moritz Küng, Giorgio Grassi and edited with the students of Program Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice / Hochschule für Gestaltung / ZKM Karlsruhe]. We invited Susana Caló, a philosopher and editor of Detritos Magazine, to respond and to expand on the interceptions of going public: the politics of space and the public domain.  The conversation will proceed with Gabriela V. Pinheiro, an artist whose work is devoted to notions of public and exhibiting and hopefully engage in an intimate conversation with the audience. A filmed book realized by Filipa César – Displayer 03 – is to be screened as part of the conversation.

Doreen Mende, curator and editor based in Berlin
[Academy Expanded and Expanded Exhibition]

Susana Caló, philosopher and editor based in Oporto

Gabriela V. Pinheiro, artist based in Oporto
[The Public]

[the conversation will be held in English and is kindly hosted by REFLEXUS arte contemporânea]
rua de miguel bombarda 531, 4050-383 Oporto, Portugal
[Displayer is the magazine of the “Program Exhibition Design and Curatorial Practice” Hochschule für Gestaltung / ZKM Karlsruhe]


organization _

petit THINK TANKs are part of petit CABANON
a project by Inês Moreira since 2007

this petit THINK TANK has the support of Reflexus, JUP and FBAUP