Design Lab #13: Material Legacies

Design Lab #13: Material Legacies

Matters of Activity, Cluster of Excellence at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

December 1, 2022
Design Lab #13: Material Legacies
November 3, 2022–February 26, 2023
“Tesselated Materials Systems” round table: December 8
The Kunstgewerbemuseum
10785 Berlin
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Anthropogenic climate change has made it clear that, among other things, we need new ways of dealing with materials, that is, a new material culture. How can we make better use of waste and leftover materials? What can we learn from biological processes when considering material processing? What do materials and artifacts teach us about our relationship to the environment and history?

Design Lab #13: Material Legacies at Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin explores these questions by relating experimental approaches to materials research, design, technology, and architecture with traditional crafts and objects from the museum’s collection. The exhibition results from a close collaboration between the museum and design researchers from the Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material” at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

The material past, present and future
Material Legacies is a programmatic perspective that asks by example about the historical, present, and future conditions under which materiality unfolds. By engaging with a range of different materials, artifacts, and techniques, the exhibition encompasses both the problematization of unsustainable pasts and presences and the imagining of speculative material futures. This occurs through the examination of shape-shifting surfaces and phase-shifting textiles and of the processes of calcification, mineralization and sedimentation.

Materials in context
Starting from materials such as sand, water, rubber, eggshells, or plant-fibers, each exhibit explores its sociocultural, economic, and political context to unravel the multiple interrelationships that arise from and with material potentials and legacies. For materials and materiality are not simply given by “nature”, but instead they are always in the process of defining, transforming, and becoming: Through various techniques of categorization, scaling, valorization, extraction, and design, materials might become either natural resources, raw materials, industrial commodities, cultural symbols, or useless waste.  However, it would be misleading to conceive of materials merely as passive entities that can be cultivated, shaped, exploited, and controlled at will. Instead, they possess vibrant qualities, that is, material activity, stubbornness, and resistance that make them uncontrollable agents of the scientific, economic, and sociopolitical structures and processes in which they are involved.

Moreover, as Anna Tsing has argued, materials create resistance and friction by both enabling and resisting mechanisms of their control and exploitation. In this sense, materials are never either natural or artificial. Rather, materiality emerges in the fusion of nature and culture dichotomies, past memories, and speculative futures. Accordingly, the material legacies that this exhibition attempts to tell are stories of inextricable entanglements and traces of potentiality and friction.

The exhibition is accompanied by a program consisting of round table talks with invited guests, hands-on workshops for kids and adults, and guided tours by the exhibiting researchers and designers. 

Upcoming Round Tables
December 8, 2022, Tesselated Material Systems« (DE)

December 15, 2022, On the Fabrication of Organs: Vascular Structures, Medical Needs and Critical Speculations«

January 26, 2023, Rinde: Gestaltung mit Resten (DE)

February 9, 2023, Politics and Poetics of Sand

February 23, 2023, On Fibres and Mixtures

Michaela Büsse, Emile De Visscher

Michaela Büsse, Mason Dean, Karola Dierichs, Michaela Eder, Lennart Eigen, Lorenzo Guiducci, Johanna Hehemeyer-Cürten, Heidi Jalkh, Agata Kycia, Claudia Mareis, John A. Nyakatura, Felix Rasehorn, Iva Rešetar, Patricia Ribault, Christiane Sauer, Igor Sauer, Maxie Schneider, Robert Stock, Josephine Shone, Emile de Visscher, Charlett Wenig.

Cluster of Excellence “Matters of Activity. Image Space Material”
“Matters of Activity. Image Space Material” is an interdisciplinary research group with the aim of laying the foundations for a new culture of materials. It is based at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and conducts research at the interface of biology and technology, mind and material, nature and culture. The Cluster of Excellence Matters of Activity is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal Government and the Länder.

About Design Lab
Since 2019, the Design Lab exhibition series has invited selected design studios, students and researchers to present current projects and to engage in discourse with the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts. The series is curated by Claudia Banz, curator for design at the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

RSVP for Design Lab #13: Material Legacies
Matters of Activity, Cluster of Excellence at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
December 1, 2022

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