Scenographic Field Studies

Brief: Find the most auratic object in the museum and make a sketch of the way it is presented.

Indeed – there seems to be a consensus among students in choosing the Nofretete as the most auratic object in the New Museum Berlin, which I count as proof that something of that kind of phenomena exists. Although I personally still have my doubts…maybe the testgroup was still too small?

The seventeen students of the Technical University’s Master in Stage design and spatial composition produced these drawings as part of the data collected in three scenographic excursions. Franziska Ritter, the course coordinator, and myself devised these field trips in order to raise awareness for the different levels scenography is acting on and also because we were curious if this combination of research and education would work.

For the first trip we set out to compare two very different exhibitons about the Berlin Wall. One being the newly opened Berlin Wall Memorial along Bernauer Straße and the other the Mauermuseum Checkpoint Charlie. Each researcher had a different task on hand: counting and categorizing exhibits, following people and timing them looking at exhibits, measuring text lengths, testing orientation and navigation, listening with their eyes closed, collecting soundbites, smelling and touching the exhibition, observing their emotional reactions to the exhibits, sketching floorplans and mapping the curatorial structure. In the following round up these findings were presented and combined to a comparative study, obviously with no real scientific credibility, but packed with surprising observations that made the ensuing discussion very lively.

Would you have guessed that people spend less than one minute in front of an exhibit and maximum three minutes in a whole section? That original audio recordings score very high on the emotional scale? That a hard floor covering creates an aggressive noise and that small stuffy rooms produce smelly people? Another astonishing miscellany being that the Mauermuseum has the highest number of visitors in Berlin, although it scored very badly in the study. One student called it “a giant newspaper”, a tabloid rather, and everybody was very confused about the curatorial structure.  Still, if you´ve never been there I can highly recommend it as a memorable experience – it has an endearing naiveté about it, you could say a museum brut. 

On the second trip we focused on the object, comparing the display of and the attitude towards the objects displayed in the New Museum Berlin and the Museum of Things respectively. The former houses the Nofrete and yes, there is an auratic object in the latter as well. Go and visit or buy the new Lou Reed CD and you‘ll see. Again, it was so productive to work with a whole research team. Fourteens brains observing simultaenously produce indeed more data, more complexity, more controversy and more insights for everybody.

All drawings by MA students of the TU Stage Design and Spatial Composition course