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> icamprint 07 (5 MB – complete file)
Since the 1990s there has been a shift in cultural studies towards objects and towards materials. Theorists of this “material turn” emphasise the “self-will” of the material, and promote the lifting of the usual separation between subject and object, between person and thing. People do something with things and vice-versa, things do something with people. The question is increasingly being asked, how knowledge works in objects or things created out of a cultural context. The notion of ‘multiperspectivity’ plays a key role in this context, i.e. the significance, function and view of objects are variables. The objects amassed in collections and archives alter their identity depending on the issues being engaged with. For architecture museums and archives this poses the question of what the consequences of this turn are for the approach to the objects and the process of exhibiting them.
The historian Sebastian Schmidt takes a comparative view based on his own research practise with three archives, in Berlin, Tokyo and New York. Not differences in approach, but policy regarding access to material and research infrastructure determine what topics are addressed. Schmidt sees an interdependency between research findings and the object repositories, where each has a basis rooted in its own organisation, structure and history. With the upswing in transnational and interdisciplinary research applications that architecture archives — and collections — are obtaining comes enormous potential for new strategic considerations in collection policy. The 2014–2016 series of New Archive Interpretations programmed by the Het Nieuwe Instituut can be seen in this context. Artists, designers and researchers were asked to examine the influence and impact of the digital archives in relation to their analogue predecessor, the paper archives.
The dilemma of the size of architects’ estates is increasingly pushing architectural research facilities to the limits of their capacity. Conservation, storage and inventory make significant inroads into budgets, although the general public is largely unaware of this. On the other hand, when they come into public collections these estates have immense potential for scientific reappraisal, as is shown by the MoMA exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, curated by Barry Bergdoll with Jennifer Gray. Exemplary here is that the focus of the exhibition display is on dialogues around the objects by guest experts, almost all of whom are not themselves Wright specialists. Visitors were able to participate in the process of the discovery and selection of the projects shown in the exhibition, while facets of Wright's oeuvre were rendered visible that turn attention to the material.
A completely different kind of engagement with historical design material was developed in the university setting of a design studio at the Institute for Art and Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. The topic for investigation is neither the historiographic narrative, nor the embedding in stylistic and aesthetic history. Angelika Schnell’s Design Paradigm research project places the performative design process in the foreground. Students were confronted with iconic designs of the 20th century, and were challenged to study these designs using the same media as their authors. The focus is on an active engagement with the objects in a collection that is inseparably linked to the practise of creating architecture. As ever, reviews and previews of icam activities are to be found in the Members section of this journal, whereby the programme for icam19 in Copenhagen is full of promise for icam members.
I am delighted to have the current and future support of Jolanta Gromadzka, whose help in practical matters, including the production and mailing of icamprint, is indispensable. Finally, I should like to express my thanks to all of the authors who have contributed to this issue.
Monika Platzer, editor