Concept MM-U at KW 2020

The Metabolic Museum-University (MM-U) is a circle of colleagues – one might call it an Arbeitsgemeinschaft – a workers’ cooperative – or a Bureau d’esprit, an office built around conceptual intimacy and conversational wit. The one suggests collective support and infrastructure; the other deploys verbal, visual, and sensual choreographies to discuss art and its relations. These models offer an alternative form of dialoguing and studying together that nevertheless combine the expositional of the museum with the classical erudition of the university.

Berlin-based artists, curators, collectors, historians, lawyers, ecologists, economists, and therapists constitute the working circle of the MM-U. The project asks how to engage with artefacts and artworks in an increasingly virtual world, thereby restoring the validity of a study collection to the development of new intersectional meanings and emancipatory forms of art and knowledge production. By bringing together minds from different fields of expertise – from law to therapy, art to composition and iconology – the MM-U hopes to generate an analytical, dialogical model based on the trans-disciplinary observation of selected objects and artworks in various media. The metabolic qualifies the agency of these numerous collections housed in Berlin and their potential to address the diversity of today’s thematic imagination.

Central to the MM-U’s activities is the inclusion of Berlin’s diverse public and private collections, which act as reflectors of the city’s complex and rich history. For example, the Naomi Wilzig collection of erotica recently donated to the Humboldt University, the Hahne Niehoff archive of photography, the Archive for Alternative Culture that focuses on social movements, various study collections containing, for example, 500 walking canes, archives of luxury wallpaper, 350 mineralogical polyhedron models, an early Commodore 64 computer and more, which are dotted all over the city. Private collectors are invited to participate directly in the development and workings of the MM-U by providing special access to their reservoirs and archives, hosting events, and supporting the consortium through a common pool of financial and structural resources. In return, these remarkable artworks are opened up to new interpretations and art critical theses. In a complimentary manner, artists with significant collections are approached to lend works to the MM-U and take part in energising conversations. Continuing where “Hello World. Revising a Collection” (National Galerie am Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 2018) and the “Global Museum” left off, the MM-U takes forward current thinking around restitution and provenance, and the reassessment of collections and archives.

Beginning in December 2020, a series of Debating Chambers will take place. These shall be held literally within the current exhibitions at KW or otherwise hosted at collectors’ spaces, artists’ studios, and private homes. Consisting of a metaphoric and real group of ‘chairs’ from various disciplines, homes, and walks of life, the Debating Chamber will grow from a semi-private presence in its initial phase to a series of public discussions. This will allow the conversations of the MM-U to be nurtured within an intimate setting before opening the doors to a wider audience. Each Debating Chamber will propose unexpected, temporary assemblages made up from disparate material and immaterial items. No artworks from one collection will be seen in isolation but instead shall be brought into dialogue with other objects, equipment, and forms. The MM-U working group will be open to outside voices, enabling guests and invited students to attend the Debating Chambers as they progress. The MM-U style of inquiry is neither theory-driven nor illustrative. Instead it looks with fresh eyes at the role and politics of collecting today and the potential for developing non-normative research on art and an alternative educational format. Through its regular meetings, the MM-U hopes to highlight the ability of collections to stimulate contemporary cultural and societal awareness.This process aims to suspend inherited disciplinary classifications, pushing boundaries and nurturing a flourishing of the imagination.

A publishing arm that mediates the experiments of the MM-U will compliment the cross- fertilisation of opinions, voiced and performed during the Debating Chambers. Pamphlets will communicate the proceedings and be made available in print and online. A film shot by a member of the MM-U during the enactments of the Debating Chambers will provide a personal and artistic interpretation of the dynamics of the project. The Metabolic Museum-University runs for 3 years at KW with a call to students to be sent out during 2021, thereby extending the cooperative infrastructure and its perspective. In this way, the MM-U evolves organically over time, resulting in a comprehensive public exhibition and final publication in 2023.

Dr. Clémentine Deliss June 2020