RMIT Gallery’s special connection with Germany

A special meeting: (left to right) Mr Volkmar Klein, Chairman of the German-Australian-New Zealand Parliamentary Group, Member of German Parliament; Dr Frithjof Schmidt, Member of German Parliament and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ms Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator RMIT Gallery; Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag.

A special meeting: (left to right) Mr Volkmar Klein, Chairman of the German-Australian-New Zealand Parliamentary Group, Member of German Parliament; Dr Frithjof Schmidt, Member of German Parliament and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; Ms Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator RMIT Gallery; Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag.

RMIT Gallery Director and Chief Curator Suzanne Davies joined Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert, President of the German Parliament, and his delegation for dinner on Friday 31 October at Circa Restaurant in St Kilda.

Dr Lammert is President of the German Bundestag (Parliament) and has held this position for the past nine years. He ranks second only to the President of the Federal Republic. As President of the Bundestag Professor Lammert ensures that Parliament’s rules are upheld and represents Parliament in the public sphere.

Dr Arpad A. Sölter,  Director of the Goethe-Institut Australien, said the special get-together allowed an exchange of thoughts with the German MPs.

(left to right) Dr Arpad A. Sölter,  Director of the Goethe-Institut Australien and Ms Josephine Ridge, Artistic Director of the Melbourne Festival.

(left to right) Dr Arpad A. Sölter, Director of the Goethe-Institut Australien and Ms Josephine Ridge, Artistic Director of the Melbourne Festival.

RMIT and the Goethe-Institut have celebrated more than 35 years of successful collaboration. Ms Davies said that the beginnings of this partnership can even be traced to the early 1970’s, when most educational institutions in Australia were hungry for information and cultural exchanges with countries other than the UK. Since then RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut Melbourne, which was founded in 1972, have created an impressive visual presence of Germany in the heart of Melbourne.

“A key aspect of the early relationship between RMIT and the Goethe-Institut was
the combination of teaching design and fine arts with street front public access for exhibitions at Storey Hall, RMIT Gallery, particularly following its refurbishment in 1996,” she said.

Ms Davies said the partnership between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa was finely matched and mutually rewarding.

“RMIT Gallery has introduced many leading European artists to Melbourne and facilitated workshops and skill exchange with photographers, designers, architects, town planners, musicians and gold and silversmiths over the past 30 years.” 

Recent collaborations include the successful exhibitions Ulm School of Design (2014); New Olds: Design Between Tradition and Innovation (2012-2013) and Somewhat Different: Contemporary Design and the Power of Convention (2010).

Ms Davies said that next year RMIT Gallery would be the first venue for the new German touring exhibition Geniale Dilletanten (November 2015 – February 2016), which explores the short era of the West German artistic emergence from 1979 to 1989, an age of new ways and new expressions for all artists involved.

Characteristic for this was a broad approach to genres: musicians shot Super 8 mm films; painters played in bands or established clubs, which became incubators for the exploding Geniale Dilletanten [= Ingenious amateurs] scene – not only in Berlin, but also in Dusseldorf, Munich, Bonn, Rosenheim and Erlangen. The exhibition will include the work of Die Einstürzenden Neubauten featuring musician Blixa Bargeld, who produced unheard-of brute noise on their home-made instruments. 

Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag.

Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag.

On Friday 31 October Professor Lammert gave a talk at RMIT in the Kaleide Theatre about Europe, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, hosted by the EU Centre at RMIT in conjunction with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Australian Institute of International Affairs Victoria, the Goethe-Institut, Monash University and the University of Melbourne EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges.

Ms Davies said that Professor Lammert’s talk was really riveting and acutely insightful and praised the enlightened vision of the German government in relation to its support of the arts and culture as vital components of public diplomacy and the maintenance of a civil society.

Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo exhibition tour: (left to right) Ms Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator RMIT Gallery shows around Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag and Dr Frithjof Schmidt, Member of German Parliament and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo exhibition tour: (left to right) Ms Suzanne Davies, Director and Chief Curator RMIT Gallery shows around Professor Dr Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag and Dr Frithjof Schmidt, Member of German Parliament and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

After the talk, Ms Davies hosted the Professor Lammert and his delegation at RMIT Gallery and gave them a tour of the current exhibitions Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning and Warlayirti: The Art of Balgo and spoke to them about the vitality and contemporary resonance of Aboriginal art and culture.

 

 

Still Modern: Ulm Design Exhibition Opening Night

bretzel duel IMG_4645

Trays of fresh baked bretzels were carried into RMIT Gallery for the opening night of the Ulm School of Design Exhibition on Thursday 31 July…and by the end of the night, the crowds had snaffled up every last one. Not a bretzel crumb in sight.

The international touring exhibition was opened by Michael R Pearce SC, Honorary Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Melbourne (pictured below left, with Ulm exhibition curator Dr Martin Mäntele, Director of the HfG Archive), who merrily tucked into a fresh bretzel as soon as he arrived. 

Michael and Martin IMG_4649

A large crowd braved the stormy weather to view the exhibition of the renowned Ulm School of Design. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design reflected the spirit of change in Germany in the post-war years, and revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production.

foyer crowd IMG_4654

The audience loved the iconic Ulm designs – from the revolutionary Braun SK4 ‘Snow White’s Coffin’ radio and record player to Lufthansa’s corporate branding and the ubiquitous stackable white tableware.

snow white crowd IMG_4657

RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said in her opening remarks that the relationship between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa, was finely matched and mutually rewarding.

“RMIT Gallery has introduced many leading European artists to Melbourne and facilitated workshops and skill exchange with photographers, designers, architects, town planners, musicians and gold and silversmiths over the past 30 years,” Ms Davies said.

timeline crowd 2 IMG_4659

Among the audience at the opening were designers and design students who had come to see products and rigorous design exercises produced by the famed ‘Ulm Method’. As Dr. Martin Mäntele explained in his opening speech, in rejecting design as an artistic activity, and focusing instead on inter-disciplinary work, social responsibility and objective design analysis, designers trained at the Ulm School of Design produced work that resulted in iconic mid-twentieth century designs that remain utterly modern and practical.

malte IMG_4643

Dr Malte Wagenfeld, Head of Industrial Design at RMIT (pictured above, left), will explore the social focus, thinking and impact of the Ulm School and German design in the 60 – to early 80s in a public program talk at RMIT Gallery on 12 August from 12.30 – 1.30 pm.

ulm stool IMG_4674

The audience were invited to try out the Ulm Model designs themselves by sitting on the Ulm Stool as they watched films from the Ulm Archive and documentaries about the School. Designed in 1955 (and still in production), the Ulm Stool’s construction is simple and inexpensive, with three spruce boards connected by mechanical dovetailing; a strip of beech completes the edging. With postwar austerity and a lack of funds, the stool worked hard as a multi-purpose piece of equipment – it was a chair that could be carried to classes; upside down it could be used to transport books and equipment. One stool placed on a table formed a lectern. it also served as an occasional table or a shelf unit. Bonus!

ulm war poster IMG_4672

After an international tour that has taken the Ulm Model to many countries across the globe, Melbourne is the finale for the exhibition. Melbourne, which did not suffer bombing during the second world war, is a long way from the large photograph of postwar Ulm in ruins (above). But the design philosophy that emerged from the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung or HfG) from 1953 until it closed in 1968, resonated around the world. And on July 31, on a cold and wet Melbourne night, a large crowd gathered to gain a deeper insight into one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies.

The Ulm School of Design Exhibition is at RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne, from 1 to 30 August 2014. 

 

 

 

Still modern: The Ulm School of Design at RMIT Gallery

Aerial view of the Ulm School of Design

From 1953 until it closed in 1968 the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung or HfG – pictured above in 1955) was one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design reflected the spirit of change in Germany in the postwar years, and revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production.

The influence of Germany’s Ulm School of Design will be explored in an international touring exhibition at RMIT Gallery from 1-30 August 2014. RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the exhibition reflected the designer’s role in helping to build a democratic society in a technologically driven age of mass production.

white rose IMG_4627

One of the displays in the exhibition pays tribute to one of the founders, Inge Scholl, whose commitment for the foundation of the Ulm School of Design cannot be separated from her experience during the Third Reich. Her siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl were given death sentences and executed in 1943 for their ‘White Rose’ resistance campaign. Inge Scholl documented the movement in her book The White Rose (pictured above) in 1952. It went on to be published in many editions and to be translated into numerous languages.

As documented in the substantial catalogue (available to purchase at RMIT Gallery), the anti-Facist, humanistic efforts of co-founders Inge Scholl and her future husband, designer Otl Aicher toward the construction of a democratic society formed the essential impulse behind the founding of the Ulm School.

Otl Aicher in class

The legacy is evident in Ulm School co-founder Otl Aicher’s (pictured above, with students) designs such as the system of pictograms for the 1972 Munich Olympics; the Rotis type font and the design for German airline Lufthansa’s corporate branding which involved graphic design, logos, typography and packaging.

Lufthansa corporate identity

The Ulm School of Design exhibition at RMIT Gallery was assembled by the Hochschule für Gestaltung Archive, a department of the Ulm Museum, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ulm School of Design, and ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) the German institute for international cultural relations. Ms Davies the relationship between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa, is finely matched and mutually rewarding.