Is the museum a collective reservoir of knowledge or a platform for experimentation? White cube or workshop? Architectural icon or forum for interactive communication?
There have long been a variety of notions, theories and utopias about the museum – an institution that has itself changed again and again over the course of its history. It is not least of all artists who continually investigate this public venue of imagery and the experience of the same, this space that oscillates between opposites such as history and future, boom and crisis. On the one hand, museums have traditionally served artists as means of training and sometimes as studios. On the other hand, – in their art and manifestos alike – artists have persistently attacked museums, critically addressed their supposed neutrality and objectivity and questioned their gestures of showing, for example from a feminist, anti-racist or anti-colonial perspective.
Entitled »Museum Matters«, the current Videobox series concentrates on works by emerging and established artists and filmmakers addressing the theme of the museum. Pursuing documentary, experimental, essayistic or narrative approaches, they explore museums, their policies, presentations and forms of mediation with the aim of exposing the conditions of collections and provoking alternative forms of archives.
»Museum Matters« is supported by:
The perception of art’s environment, but also doubts as to whether museums and their players are really merely “neutral” mediators of art are themes of central importance to Andrea Fraser’s œuvre. With her videos, performances and installations, the artist is a protagonist of “institutional critique”, that, since the 1960s, has concerned itself with the art world and its social, institutional and economic structures as well as its activities. »Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk« is one of the earliest “Gallery Talks” with whose aid Fraser has been investigating the presentation forms, hierarchies and exclusion mechanisms of art institutions since the mid-1980s.
The video shows a performance the artist carried out at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the role of “Jane Castleton”, a fictive member of the museum education staff, she gives a cryptic and humorous guided tour of the museum, which is home to one of the most prominent collections of arts and crafts in the U.S. In terms of content, Fraser’s comments are based on documents and texts from the museum archives, but also from the fields of psychoanalysis, economics and sociology. In the video she speaks passionately, and directly into the camera. As is customary in guided tours, she begins with an introduction to the museum’s history and collection. She digresses increasingly, going into details about peripheral aspects of the museum such as the cloakroom, restrooms or museum shop, and muses about social history and the museum’s responsibilities towards society in the U.S. With theatrical skill, she thus cleverly and critically analyses relationships between class and taste, philanthropy and politics and their consequences.
In “Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk”, however, Fraser’s focus is on more than just the museum institution and its power structures. Her charming role play also examines the role of the visitors – a role the museum “creates” – as well as artists like herself who work with the museum.
|1965||born in Billings, Montana, lives in New York and Los Angeles|
|1982 - 1984||School of Visual Arts, New York|
|1984 - 1985||Independent Study Program, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York|
|1985 - 1986||New York University, New York|
|2006||Visiting Professor, University of California, Los Angeles|
|2007 - 2009||Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles|
|seit 2009||Professor, New Genres, University of California, Los Angeles|
L1%, c`est moi, MACBA, Barcelona (2016)
Open Plan, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016)
Museum der Moderne, Salzburg (2015)
Andrea Fraser, Museum Ludwig, Köln (2013)
Wolfgang-Hahn-Preis 2013, Museum Ludwig, Köln (2013)
to expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer: Artistic Practices around 1990, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (2015)
Art Histories, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg (2014)
Take It Or Leave It, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014)
The Collection as a Character, M HKA, Antwerpen (2013), NYC 1993, New Museum, New York (2013)
Performing Histories (1), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012)
Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2012)
Making of Art, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2009)
The World As A Stage, Tate Modern, London (2007)
History doesn’t repeat itself. Historical situations and contexts are far too complex. And yet, in Marcel Odenbach’s view, we cannot leave history behind.
The Paris Louvre – the setting of Odenbach’s video “Unable to Swim in a Shipwreck”– is a reservoir of history and a place of memory. In the video, three African men of different ages visit the world-famous museum. They sit down in front of a monumental painting and contemplate it silently. Even though the camera shows only sections of the work in alternation with shots of the men, it is easily identifiable as Théodore Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa” (1819). It tells the story of a human disaster that took place on the high seas when the French frigate “Medusa” ran aground off the coast of Mauritania in July 1816. France had just reobtained its colony Senegal. Because there wasn’t enough space on the lifeboats for all the passengers, the crew used the masts to build a raft for 149 persons. Then, however, the connecting line was cut. For thirteen days, the castaways drifted helplessly in the sea, were washed overboard, and massacred one another. Only fifteen survived. The French public was scandalized by the news, and Géricault’s unsparing depiction deeply shocked its audience.
Odenbach’s sequences in the Louvre are interspersed with shots of the surf off the coast of Ghana with superimposed texts. The latter are based on interviews he conducted with the three Africans about their flight: the sea, their lives and feelings of foreignness. At the same time, already in its title, “Unable to Swim in a Shipwreck” points unequivocally to the fact that, in the present refugee crisis, many people do not survive crossings of this kind in the Mediterranean. In this video, as in many of his works, Odenbach thus links history and the present, Europe and Africa. And by renewing the political explosiveness of Géricault’s “Raft of the Medusa”, he once again shows that, then and now, human disasters and the consequences of colonial politics defy repression.
|1953||born in Cologne, lives in Berlin, Cologne and Cape Coast, Ghana|
|1990 – 1993|
Professor, Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam
1992 – 1997
Professor, Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung University of Arts and Design, Karlsruhe
|Professor, Kunsthochschule für Medien Academy of Media Arts, Köln|
|since 2010||Professor, Art Academy Düsseldorf|
Inside-Out, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (2016)
Stille Bewegungen. Tranquil Motions, touring exhibition by Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (seit | since 2013)
In stillen Teichen lauern Krokodile, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, Berlin (2006)
Recent Video Installations, New Museum, New York (1998)
Political Populism, Kunsthalle Wien (2015)
In Spite of it All, Sharja Art Foundation, Sharja, Vereinigte Arabische Emirate (2012)
Remote Control, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2012)
Die Tropen. Ansichten von der Mitte der Weltkugel, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2008)
Vertrautes Terrain – Aktuelle Kunst in und über Deutschland, ZKM Karlsruhe (2008)
40 Jahre Videokunst.de, ZKM Karlsruhe (2006)
To document and preserve nature is a need of human culture – a need that is institutionalized in natural history museums and zoological collections. Karsten Krause visited such “archives of life” in Stuttgart: at the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart and the Wilhelma, he pointed his camera at the human appropriation of nature for the purpose of gaining insights. Within this framework, he focussed especially on taxidermally stuffed animals and their reconstruction and animation in museum presentations.
It sometimes looks as if the camera had replaced the animal’s extinguished gaze at the human being. Krause directs this gaze towards the work of taxidermists and the post-mortem craft they carry out in the museum workshops, where they counter decay with preservation techniques. The filmmaker studies their actions, and the skill and familiarity with which they handle the dead creatures. Often the focus is entirely on their facial expressions, which speak of concentration, experience, accuracy and dedication as they cut, skin, flay, stuff and mount – with, for example, the obituary page of a newspaper spread out underneath. The animals are to look as natural, alive and aesthetically appealing as possible for their exhibition in spectacular dioramas. It is there that they make their final appearance alongside other stuffed animals against backgrounds imitating idealized biotopes – and there that they encounter the species that arranged them.
The visitors’ curiosity is mirrored in the panes of the display cases. Amazed off-screen whispers are heard. The wild is viewed and marvelled at as an art product that, although based on human phantasms, nevertheless continues to resist its object status. The video thus revolves primarily around the contradiction between scientific neutrality and creative interpretation, but also around the pleasure researchers, museums and visitors derive from the imagination.
Supported by Akademie Schloss Solitude and MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg.
|1980||born in Freiburg, lives in Hamburg|
|2003 - 2004||Studying Cultural Anthropology, Universität Hamburg|
|2004 - 2010||Studying Visual Communication, Hochschule für bildende Künste|
|1985 - 1986||New York University, New York|
|2007||Universidade de Lisboa / Faculdade de Belas Artes, Universidade de Lisboa|
|2014 - 2015||Fellowship, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart|
Vom Bildermachen I, 21er Haus, Wien (2016);
Punto de Vista International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra. Pamplona (2016);
62. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2016); Rencontres Internationales Du Documentaire de Montréal (2015);
64. Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin (2014); Filmfest München (2014);
CPH:DOX, Kopenhagen (2014);
Curtas Vila do Conde, Festival International de Cinema, Vila do Conde (2013);
19. Yasujiro Ozu International Shortfilm Festival (2011);
Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (2011);
Krakow Film Festival (2011);
Warsaw Film Festival (2010);
Trento Film Festival (2009).
Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa’s “A Short Video about Tate Modern” masks out what immediately comes to mind when we think of the world’s most frequently visited museum of contemporary art on the bank of the Thames in London: it takes not a single look at the converted power plant or its Turbine Hall, and shows not a single exhibition gallery or presentation of works from the collection, or the slightest interest in its cafés, museum shops, or crowds of visitors.
Made more than a decade before the recent opening of the museum’s new extension, “A Short Video about Tate Modern” is confined to two shots, both showing the artist. At first Wolukau-Wanambwa stands, dressed in black and silent, before a white wall and, in a close-up frontal view, looks directly into the camera. With the aid of subtitles, we follow her inner monologue in which she tells about her experiences of her participation in an art workshop on the top floor of the museum. There she realizes that she is the only “non-white” person and feels unpleasantly exposed, while behind the scenes she encounters above all black museum personnel – e.g. attendants, guards and kitchen employees. As an artist with access to the museum’s contents, she catches their attention. The second scene shows the work Wolukau-Wanambwa has made in the workshop: here she again stands wordlessly in front of a white wall. This time she could be seen in full if she didn’t have a large piece of white cardboard in front of her that makes her disappear into her surroundings. Only her black legs remain visible.
Employing minimal means, “A Short Video about Tate Modern” demonstrates how even a museum “open to all” mirrors society’s distribution of privileges. The fact that it also reflects on the artist’s own role within the charged field of contrastingly experienced majority ratios and hierarchies as something ambivalent makes the video all the more powerful.
|1976 geboren in Glasgow, lebt in London und Berlin|
|1998 BA, Clare College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge|
|2004 – 2010 MA, Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London|
Uganda in Black and White, Contemporary Image Collective, Cairo (2017).
Group Exhibitions (selection)
Kabbo ka Muwala (The Girl’s Basket), National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare, Makerere Art Gallery, Kampala, Städtische Galerie, Bremen (2016);
Artificial Facts, Kunsthaus Dresden (2015);
Odyssée Africaine, Éspace Culturel Louis Vuitton at Le Brass, Brüssel (2015); Tricky Assignments: Representing the Colonial Prison, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2013);
Serpentine Gallery Map Marathon, Serpentine Gallery, London (2010);
Kinomuseum, 53. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen (2007);
For One Night Only, Camden Arts Centre, London (2006).
For Johann, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is his workplace. For Anne it is a place of refuge. There the museum attendant and the visitor from Montreal meet. She is in Vienna because of her cousin, who is in a coma. Without money or any familiarity with the city, Anne seeks respite in the museum, drifts through galleries featuring works by Bruegel and Cranach, immerses herself in stories of the Crucifixion or the Fall of Man. After an initial tentative conversation, they get to know each other, and are soon exploring the art together, and then also unknown aspects of their own lives and unknown parts of Vienna.
Yet this plot is merely a loose pretext for Jem Cohen's non-love film "Museum Hours", which is actually about the museum. It is from there that the protagonists set out for their explorations of the city - to the Naschmarkt or to bars you only know of if you're a local -, always returning to the museum after every adventure. For an entire ten oppressive minutes, for example, the film insists in taking us along on a guided tour of the museum. For Cohen, art is less an agent than a prism for Johann's and Anne's conversation topics such as death, sex, history, theology and materialism and how these matters manifest themselves in their lives. Within this context, Cohen is particularly fascinated with Bruegel's world landscapes, which bear a resemblance to his own documentary-style shots of the city streets.
The constantly progressing flow of calm scenes merges fiction, documentation and essay in the manner typical of Cohen's works. Again and again, reality makes its way into his film, for example in the form of circumstances adopted from the career biographies of his lay actors. Chance also participates in the film's making. The walls of the museum separating it from the street and life outside are thick. With "Museum Hours", however, Cohen succeeds in making them more porous.
1962 born in Kabul, Afghanistan, lives in New York.
His films are screened at international festivals, are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and are broadcast on BBC, PBS, ZDF/Arte and Sundance Channel.
Whitechapel Gallery, Barbican, Hackney Picturehouse, London; NFT London; Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival (BAFICI); Gijon Film Festival; Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen.
Counting (2015); Gravity Hill Newsreels (2011/2012); Crossing Paths With Luce Vigo (2010); Night Scene New York (2009); NYC Weights and Measures (2005); Chain (2004); Chain V Three (2002); Little Flags (2000); Amber City (1999); Blood Orange Sky (1999); Lost Book Found (1997); Nightswimming (1994); Just Hold Still (1989), Witness (1986); A Road in Florida (1984); Buried in Light (1993).