Reinterpreting the museum as a transcultural scene adds special significance to the question of mediation. Even now, the claim to speak from the center continues to be part of the “museum” as an institution and its self-understanding. The current manifestation happens not in a didactic tone but via the invitation to participate—an invitation preferably extended to so-called “people from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The question for us is who exactly participates on whose terms: Is it only visitors that can learn from the museum, or doesn’t the museum in fact have a lot to learn from its visitors, especially in terms of cross-cultural experience? Bearing this in mind, the mediation program focuses on active participation by young people at all levels: As experts of transcultural everyday life, young people from Hamburg not only question museum exhibits but also explore the transcultural order of things in their own life-world. The goal of this multi-faceted collaboration is to challenge the order of the museum in one or the other instances to make way for new perspectives.
Collaborative research on the “migration of things” began with the fundamental question as to what is organized, classified or or sorted how and why. The “Thing Researchers”—a group of twelve fifth-grade students at the Erich Kästner School—have proven particularly competent in this regard. After all, assigning any logical category to the hodgepodge of objects Esther and Uli brought in the “sack of things” was no easy task. The question is, on what basis we name, describe and label things, and which associations and memories are awakened in the process. And one thing has yet to be entirely clarified: What does an old mobile phone have to do with a silver napkin ring? And why should one keep such a thing at all? Or to put it another way: what exactly distinguishes the museum object from all the everyday stuff that accumulates around us, sometimes unintentionally?
The Thing Researchers tested various analytical methods, which they presented in a first laboratory exhibition at the MKG in July 2016. Discoveries included not only the sentimental content of ordinary objects—including a box full of loom bands, a flute and an ominous “pot from the moor”—it also analyzed the principle of tidying up: Where do the objects belong? Do they all have a permanent place? And what distinguishes “unconventional order” from “conventional disorder” (Roman Ondàk)?
The “Best Friends” method proved particularly fruitful: individual exhibits in the museum were supplemented with suitable exhibits brought from home. Thus a Nerf gun was placed next to a samurai sword, a small porcelain cat was paired with a Jeff Koons vase shaped like a dog, and an old advertising poster by the traditional Hamburg-based company Hercules Hercules Sägemann was coupled with a raw materials listing from the video game Minecraft. These “friendships” not only illuminated the arbitrariness of classification, they also showed what an exhibition can do: evoke new meanings and modes of perception.
To conclude their collective work the Thing Researchers focused on the exhibition “Mobile Worlds” itself. In their audioguide they report of the Bibby Challenge, endless worlds, the sea trade between West Africa and Hamburg, tsuba with spider motives and some very difficult communication… Listen here:
A journey into the past, present and future of Farmsen
Many young people want one thing above all after finishing school: to get out of Farmsen! But what’s so bad about Farmsen? We took a closer look at the Hamburg district together with participants in the senior-level student project “ArtHistory”: Which places and corners have a lot to offer? Where are you bored to death? What memories and hopes lie dormant here? Who comes, who goes, who stays and what traces do they leave? What can be left as it is, and what urgently needs to change?
Students went on a joint road trip through their district to find answers to these questions. On a performance bus tour, they told stories from their childhood, served cake, drove past all five Greek snack stands, discussed whether “Hannibal” (Farmsen’s tallest high-rise building) is really as dreary as everyone says, and drew up blueprints to re-design the shopping center. Many of them grew up here, some came later. Some students don’t think it’s so bad here, while others are happy that they’ll soon be leaving all of it behind. Everyone is sure that they will come back someday.
“Welcome aboard Farewell Farmsen. Our shared journey through Farmsen-Berne begins now. We are on the way. We are on the road…”
The bus tour was held three times per day under the title Farewell Farmsen (February 8 and 9, 2017).
The Erich Kästner School has been a source of fresh Hamburg fashion talent for years. Around 100 pupils present their own creations every year at the school’s own “Farmsen Fashion Week.” Everything from the garment’s neckline to hem was designed and tailored by the students themselves. Reason enough to take a closer look: What does “design” actually mean anyway? Where do the forms come from? Does everything always have to fit together to be beautiful? Headed by Maren Wächter, the EKS Fashion Department is cooperating with the “Mobile Worlds” project to answer these and similar questions.
Collaborative workshops explore materials and their mutability, what has been found and reinterpreted, taking things apart and putting them together. These radical improvisation techniques are by no means limited to fashion—they are also always required when people and things migrate. Design, one can already conclude, is about a productive attitude towards the world.
The workshops were conceived and led by designers Anne Schwätzler (hui-hui), Tamari Nikoleishvili (penelope’s sphere), Katharina Trudzinski (katharinatrudzinski), Bisrat Negassi (Negassi und M.bassy) und Sarah Amah Dua (o-ama-o). They form the basis for developing a new EKS collection shown at both the MKG and the EKS in 2017.
Performer Katharina Oberlik also worked with students to develop a choreography that had less to do with the “perfect catwalk” than with questions as to how to position yourself in relation to spaces—especially if you are wearing something kind of funny-looking.
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