The Enquiring Eye (2024)

The Enquiring Eye is a teaching program aimed at students in fine art, curating, fashion, design, architecture, and visual communication. It responds to the archival and decolonial turn in the arts and related disciplines and focuses on the re-evaluation and re-activation of research collections held at museums and universities. The Enquiring Eye has been successfully taught and performed at the Städelschule (Hochschule für Bildende-Künste, Frankfurt, 2022/3), and at the Kunsthochschule Kassel (University of the Arts, Kassel, 2023/24).

Research collections are often abandoned or overlooked. This may be because their original scientific purpose is outdated, or because teaching has become less dependent on physical objects. They are preserved as part of the history of science, but their significance is largely seen as retrospective. Although they may appear anachronistic at first glance, these collections contain prototypical traces of innovation, experimentation and breakthrough. As such, they retain their impact as “epistemic objects” for future interpretation. For students, their iconographic and ideational diversity provides enigmatic, intellectual, and visual material, which in turn raises critical questions about the consequences of artistic appropriation. Interestingly, research collections do not enter the art market and therefore occupy an unusual position in relation to the determination of value. In certain cases, they may contain controversial iconography or references that prevent them from being shown in public. For students, this triggers the question of how artistic practice can help to defuse sensitive materials in collections through dialogue-based approaches to research.

The interdisciplinary program “The Enquiring Eye” asks the following questions: How can we work with historical collections in a self-critical, decolonial and intersectional manner? Is it possible to develop metaphorical and discursive alternatives to earlier taxonomies? How are research and disciplinary empiricism intertwined with colonialism? How have artists worked with collections and what ethical traps or ambiguities have they encountered?

The Enquiring Eye introduces students to methods of visual thinking, archival research, and different decolonial models of exegesis and remediation. The website of the Metabolic Museum-University ( provides students with an archive of past projects, a library, a „reservoir” of collections, as well as individual virtual studios. The website offers an online venue for students to engage with transversal artistic research on collections. Each student has their own online Bureau d’Esprit where they can create assemblages, develop new interpretations, and learn to choreograph an argument in dialogue with co-students and guest faculty.