Accepted Paper:

Turning the Table: Exploring Affordances in German Expressionism  


Dorthe Aagesen (Statens Museum for Kunst)
Mette Rung (National Gallery of Denmark)
Beatrice von Bormann (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on the practice of German artists Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and their reception of non-Western cultures in the early 20th century, this presentation will, through the concept of affordance, explore the possibilities of 'returning the gaze' within contemporary exhibition display.

Paper long abstract:

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 'discovery' of the ethnographic museum in Dresden around 1910 and Emil Nolde's expedition to the South Pacific in 1913-14 are significant moments in the history of how non-Western cultures came to occupy German Expressionist artists associated with Die Bruecke. For Kirchner and Nolde non-Western cultures became a stimulating source of both conceptual and formal significance to their artistic projects and a cornerstone for their subsequent developments. However, what 'hidden affordances' and new 'action possibilities' do Nolde and Kirchner's artworks invite? How do these works afford the possibility of interrogating the colonial relations implicit in the encounter between the artist and non-Western cultures. While we know a lot about the two European artists, we know almost nothing about the artists or artisans who made the ethnographic objects they studied. When it comes to indigenous performative practices that the European artists may have met - at colonial exhibitions or 'Volkerschauen' in Europe or during travels to colonial regions - we know even less. How can we work with, expose and explore these affordances in today's museum practice? Is it possible to implement them in an exhibition display, when dealing with historical periods and poorly documented situations? And how can we do that while retaining precision and depth in the historical analysis? This presentation will outline considerations and possible curatorial solutions that are currently being explored by the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark) in Copenhagen and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam ahead of an exhibition at both venues in 2020-21.

Panel P032
Museum Affordances: Collections, Interventions, Exhibitions