THE ZKM OR COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY AND ART CENTRE IN KARLSRUHE, GERMANY.
by Véronique Brom
It is difficult to
explain what the ZKM is really about, because it is part of a rather complex venture. To
start with, the curator of the Communications Media Museum, Gerhard Blechinger, gives us
an idea by putting forward a kind of counter-definition : the ZKM is not a new
technologies and art museum. On the other hand, it is a museum that aims at exploring the
possibilities of those new media of expression which arouse debate, and at times
controversy, and which lead people to "argue", i.e. to think and reason. In his
opinion, the absence of technologies creates a principle of fiction, intimate and
personal, which is born of feelings within the self. Consequently, a museum such as the
ZKM appears as an extension of man's interior universe, or rather as a vehicle for uniting
that universe with all its potential forms of expression. So that is the spirit in which
the ZKM is meant to function : it is a thought-impelling machine, but with a fundamental
predisposition to harmonize thoughts and actual productions.
With a view to illustrating his comments, the curator decides to show us one of the
showpieces he considers as an essential element of the museum's collection, "Camera
silens", a work designed in 1994 by Olai Arndt and Rob Moonen, who used a
neurophysiological experience as a basis for creation. It is a cushioned room, with
heavily padded walls, which provokes a feeling of respiratory, visual and therefore
psychological saturation. We feel asphyxiated because we are overcome by an intensely
oppressive sensation and, in order to create such an atmosphere, the artists have had no
need to make use of the so-called new technologies. In that sense, their work is a perfect
illustration of the view just expressed by Gerhard Blechinger : the Communications Media
Museum is not merely centred on technology, it is also concerned with direct, basic
experimentation. Experience can be induced and lived through without having to use a
machine or a computer, simply by immersing oneself in a certain universe, naturally
letting philosophical concepts mingle with playful, immediate experiences. (...)
AN ADVANCED CONCEPT
by Gerhard Blechiger,
curator of the Communications Media Museum.
The concept underlying the inner structure of the ZKM is the combination of a museum -
and therefore of the principles that rule museums - and a creation and research institute.
In a word, it is an advanced concept of what a museum should be.
Such a combination can be summarized in two key words : presentation and production. This
makes a rather special place of the ZKM. We have lately noted how centres similar to ours
are being set up all over Europe, which is all right, as long as we continue to be the
point of reference !
One of the strong points of the ZKM lies in its capacity to harmonize its public and
private partners' interests. We are a public centre insofar as the ZKM is a museum and we
have therefore the obligation to inform people about matters which belong to our
particular sphere of activity : art and modern communications. But we are also have links
with the economic world through research programmes for which we are granted specific
budgets and, of course, we generate equally specific interests thanks to these research
NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND CONTEMPORARY CULTURE
by Enric Franch
(...) Time seems to have corroborated his assessment of the situation and, today, we
have to acknowledge that our culture and our perception of reality are actually highly
mediatized as a result of the influence exerted by the new electronic and computerized
processes that play a part in the creation, production and reproduction of images and
In our opinion, the ZKM ought to be understood within such a frame of reference. We would
like to underline two particular aspects of the ZKM. First of all, the fact that it aims
at harmonizing thought and production and at establishing a real debate between art and
technology, although holding on to the conviction that the logic of the former will
eventually prevail over that of the latter.
(...) In a German environment, nevertheless, there is nothing odd about such a proposal
because it is quite in keeping with the tradition of a long-standing movement, orientated
towards the remodelling of architecture and applied arts, which started in the late
nineteenth century, gathered momentum in the early twentieth century and still has
supporters today. (...) The second aspect we consider worthy of special mention is the
museum's attempt at re-defining the contemporary artistic object not only in terms of
enjoyment, critique and experimentation, but also with regard to the role the museum plays
in relation to the artistic products.
(...) El Lissitzky's proposal appears as the culmination of the potential for synthesis to
be found in art's historic sequence, the concrete representation of theory, as well as the
introduction of a new concept of modern space. With this gallery, Dorner proves that a
museum cannot be a mausoleum. On the one hand, he shows us how, depending on the hand that
makes the materials come to life, it will be possible to educate visitors and somehow
prepare them to live within modern society and, in the process, he also succeeds in
fulfilling his aspirations to reintegrate artistic practice into everyday life. On the
other hand, through the Russian artist's works, he demostrates that, with the overthrowing
of the "natural" object barrier, the dissolution of perspective and the
incorporation of a novel concept of space, new art becomes a sort of "design"
understood as a continuous process of transformation. (...)