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At 2:00 pm on November 22, 2016, “Thinking Space” series of academic lectures II “The Materiality of the Exhibition: The Relationship between the Perception of Practice and the Concept of Theory” was held at the Auditorium of CAFA Art Museum, and the lecture was jointly hosted by CAFA Art Museum and Beijing German Cultural Center • Goethe-Institute, and the speakers were Dr. Brigitte Franzen, Chairman of the Ludwig Foundation in Germany and Dr. phil. Martin Schmidl, Vice-President of the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. President of CAFA Fan Di’an and Dr. Clemens Treter, Director of the Goethe-Institute in Beijing respectively delivered a speech.

One of the speakers Dr. Franzen has been focusing on the art and architecture studies in the 20th and 21st centuries since 1993, and she described her curatorial approach as a “research-oriented curating”, and she shared the case of the “Skulptur Projekte Münster 2007” that she served as the chief curator with the audience. Another speaker Dr. Schmidl’s work focuses on the field of the artistic design research, and he is committed to opening up new perspectives for complex issues, emphasizing the contemporary form of rhetoric and worship, promoting the memorial mechanism of historical perception, and served as the design director of the “Skulptur Projekte Münster 2007”.

The two speakers explored the origins and generating of curatorial concepts, the interrelationships between exhibition design and its corresponding realization, as well as the analysis of the history of the 40-year “Skulptur Projekte Münster”, in order to illustrate the researches on the mechanism of historical perception in the contemporary art exhibition.

The Art Events  Closely Linked to Life       

Münster is an old cultural city in the north-west of Germany, and the public art sculpture exhibition held every ten years has made it become the forerunner leading the art world. Dr. Franzen first introduced the location of the exhibition, “The exhibition is held every ten years, so that it is not just a public entertainment, and the more important task is to carry out research”, when the first sculpture exhibition was held in 1977, it aroused extensive social discussion, the relationship between art events and people was the most important topic, “how was art connected with life, the public was very interested in the presentation of art with different ways but if one didn’t want to go to experience it in the museum, but hope to experience it in the daily life when the idea was produced, the Münster sculpture exhibition was a response.”

As an artist, Dr. Schmidl was a designer participating in the planning of the exhibition in 2007, which revealed his interest and the working form of making design by the means of artistic expression, “The first question of the exhibition was how to design a logo, I didn’t recommend the use of logo, which was closely related with the company, industry, business”, Dr. Schmidl denied the use of “cultural complex of the brand marketing practice” to showcase the features of the sculpture exhibition, instead it used the simple golden fonts which were similar to many brand promotion methods in the old town, he explained that, “The second one was to solve the problem of how the public better learned the exhibition information of a free public sculpture exhibition that neither have a front desk nor a fixed workplace for staffs”, so the curatorial team and the construction team Modulorbeat had a cooperation to build a temporary “golden building”, which did not only offer the stop and information consultation to the audience, but also played the central role condensing the scattered exhibition lines.

Negotiating Space and Social Sculpture    

Münster’s map layout is similar to the shape of the starry sky, so how to integrate the work of art with an open space and environment has become the idea that is worthy of discussion, the specificity of the exhibition is that each work is specially created by an artist for the exhibition, so that the team has a field measurement and discussion on the exhibition line and stronghold, as well as the public participation mode and limitations when they are planning. Then the speaker shared with the audience a case that was specially worth mentioning – the “Square Depression” by artist Burce Nauman, which was conceived at the first sculpture exhibition in 1977, and after 30 years, it was finished to be a scientific research center with the form of an inverted pyramid square, made of white concrete materials, with high sides and a low central point. “It is interesting that the square has become a ‘negotiating space’, the use of minimalist form to offer a public space to the public, increasing the public participation”, Dr. Franzen said, “The building has become a lively place, and a public gathering stage, the artist used a reasonable, negotiable spatial form to create a social sculpture.”

Subsequently, the two speakers interpreted the specific expression of the “relationship between the practice concept and the concept of idea” by the performance art of “An Artist Plays the Role of Beggar”, “Pet Zoo”, “Münster Sculpture Archives Exhibition”, etc., for the audience. The exhibition is the work that is together negotiated by the curator and artists, and also the tool of conception, so that, it is especially important to present the structural process of the work, rather than directly storing unrelated finishes, which doesn’t only require the exhibition to be based on the specific characteristics of the exhibition area (such as “Münster”), but also fully consider the historical dimension of art projects and cultural connotations.

Continuation of Connotation and Reconstruction of Pattern

Dr. Franzen shared with the audience the reorganization of “Live in Your Head. When Attitudes Become Form” that was originally held in Bern Kunsthalle in 1969, in the Venice Biennale in 2013, which highlighted the development of art dynamic, and the public was free to visit it without any restriction. The construction of the exhibition was like the interwoven dialogue between the artist and curator, exhibition and building. “They try to find a way to connect the two, redefining the exhibition, continuing to discuss the structure, and then show the meaning. Dr. Schmidl also shared with the audience the experience of participating into the exhibition planning of the Nazi Archives Museum in Germany, and showed us how to turn an old exhibition site into an international venue for contemporary art exchange, rationally using the language of art and design to activate space, designing different exhibition forms for different exhibits, through space to tell a story, while promoting the spontaneous participation of the public.

The next “Skulptur Projekte Münster” is arriving in 2017, and the two curators also invite the artists and curators from China, hoping to discover new artistic ideas in the thinking integrated different cultural backgrounds, striving to constantly change and innovate. At the end of the lecture, Prof. Yu Ding gave a brief summary on the “Reconstruction of the exhibition is also the reconstruction of the thinking”, and the lecture was successfully held.

Text by Zhang Yizhi, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO

Photo by Yang Yanyuan/CAFA ART INFO

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