My weekend in Stuttgart is already three weeks away and I told you all about the perfect night there last week. So now it’s time to tell you something about the museums in Stuttgart. We visited four of them and they’re all worth a visit, but two exhibitions were really of my taste.
The first is also the first we visited at the weekend. The Kunstmuseum (art museum) Stuttgart is a rather young institution in Germany and just about ten years old. It’s located in the heart of town and easy to reach. They present their permanent collection and changing exhibitions on three floors. We visited the recent exhibition “[un]erwartet. Die Kunst des Zufalls” (=[un]expectedly. The art of chance). It’s all about chances and coincidences in life. Well and of course about how artists deal with it.
In the past hundred years, artists have developed methods and procedures to trigger random processes under defined conditions. On the basis of about 120 works, the special exhibition shows how experimental and systematic artists have evaded the coincidence.
Hans Arp and the Surrealists were the first to recognize the creative potential of the accident around 1920. Max Ernst provoked the unpredictable with his frottages. For this he put some leaves or wood under drawing paper and rubbed them with pencil. The resulting structures he added to fantastic pictures.
In the 1960s, coincidence came to the concrete art. Rune Mields and Vera Molnár were interested in the mathematical aspect of chance. In his collages, Herman de Vries ordered paper strips according to random table numbers as used in biological field experiments and Peter Lacroix dubbed compositions.
In contemporary art, coincidence is also an issue. Timm Ulrich’s “Casual: Causal” (1983) and Patrycja German’s performative installation “Kartenlegen / Reading Cards” (2010-2016) address the question of what coincidence means for man in decision-making situations.
I was actually very lucky because Patrycja German was present during our visit and you could be part of her performance which means that she will read the cards to you.
When Napoléon Bonaparte became aware of his defeat in Russia in 1812, he knew the situation was an aphorism: “From the sublime to the ridiculous is only a step.” Should he have listened to his fortune-teller Marie-Anne Lenormand? According to legend, she had prophesied that the Russian campaign would fail. From this episode is just a step to the performances of Patrycja German. In this, she takes up a tradition that seems to be firmly rooted in escapism, esotericism and all sorts of other atavistic embarrassments. Card storage is considered an obscure service for subjugated housewives. At the same time, from a historical point of view, it is clear that card reading experienced a boom during the Aufklärung. Cartomancy is the mythically occult correlate to materialism, to reason and to the over-expressed progress of modernity, as well as the Napoléon anecdote, outlined at the outset.
When German asks the visitors of her performance to read the future from a set of Lenormand cards for about 40 to 60 minutes, it explicitly refers to this double-boredom of modernity. And where could this be better shown than in the art system, the hoard of institutionalized, enlightened esotericism and “individual mythologies” (Harald Szeemann)? The artists raises a few interesting questions with her performance: Am I still a participant of an art performance or a victim of an esoteric background? Are Germans’ oracles pronouncements ultimately nonsensical, or at least serious, prophecies? Do I sit here, because I am interested in the limits of the concept of art, or am I secretly hoping for a hint of fate?
I have to admit I was skeptical what to think of it but too noisy to not do it. At the end of my 60 minutes session I was highly disturbed and I still don’t know what to make of it. It was an intense reading and I totally forgot that we were sitting in the middle of an exhibition while other visitors were starring at us. It made me think a lot afterwards and at the end of the day that’s something a great art work should do to you.
The performance was not the only interactive part though. The exhibition invites visitors not only to look at it, but also to try it out: visitors of all ages as well as school classes are invited to experiment and research on the subject of coincidence in the “Experimental Lab” specially developed for the exhibition.
You can visit the exhibition until February 19, 2017.
The second museum we visited was the Linden-Museum which I only knew from their social media activities before. Right now they’re showing the exhibition “Oiishi!” (=that’s tasty) about Japanese food culture which is not just informative but fun to see. The scenographic staging of the objects was just awesome. I really liked it and I can highly recommend it for families.
„Oishii!“ is one of the most common words in Japan to describe food. If you need an impression how common check out the hashtag on Instagram. It is an expression of culinary taste which goes hand in hand with the social and cultural identity of the one who eats. That is why food is much more than merely nutrition. It is connected to all spheres of human living and permits a glance at the different aspects of a culture. So if you know how a society eats you already know a great deal about their values and mentality.
Against this background, the Linden-Museum Stuttgart presents the Japanese food and drinking culture. The main questions they ask are: What complex technological achievements are necessary for the production and preparation of food? How have eating habits changed over the course of history? Who eats what when?
At the same time you can learn a lot about the material culture which accompanies the food in Japan. Originals from the museum’s collections, among them many which have never been shown before, as well as items on loan are presented. Based on the object situation, the following core themes are shown: rice cultivation and its importance for the Japanese society; sake, a “holy drink”; the role of fish, seafood and algae in the Japanese cuisine; vegetables and condiments; noodles; Bentô; food to go (picnic); the world of tea cultures (chanoyu and sencha).
To deepen and to add to the exhibited topics, a diverse program of talks, films, tea ceremonies, sake and whisky tastings and other events are offered. I have to say I am a bit sad that I can’t attend the sake tasting. That sounds like a lot of fun.
You can visit the exhibition until April 23, 2017.