Exhibition «On Materials and Artworks»

Exhibition to mark the opening of the Material Archive

March 23, 2009 to September 06, 2009

The exhibition is accompanied by a film cycle «Stone, Steel, Styrofoam», an excursion and a presentation by Dr. Prof. Monika Wagner.

The exhibition «On Materials and Artworks» focuses on the various connections between materials and objects in art. The traditions of different ways of using materials and processing techniques create a great potential for expression, which can be used artistically. The question of materiality thus impacts artistic ideas and designs and can also shape their realization. The exhibition focuses attention on the material and, as a result, opens up new approaches to and inspirations for art.

Based on individual, illustrative examples, the multi-layered classification structure is outlined in how it will shape the Material Archive. A network of overlapping structures will make it possible for artists, architects and monument conservationists not only to search materials, substances and processing techniques systematically but also to find them associatively.

One of the classification structures consists of the eight pragmatically determined categories of materials, as they also shape the online database, which has been developed by the Sitterwerk along with its partner organizations, the Gewerbemuseum Winterthur (Museum of Applied Arts and Design), the department of «Engineering & Architecture» of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, and the Zurich University of the Arts. In the wall of drawers, each of these eight groups of materials forms a horizontal layer that continues across all of the walls of cabinets. The individual groups thus lie over one another like tectonic layers: above the groups stone and metal follow the groups ceramic, glass, artificial material, wood and paper, and uppermost, the group fibers.


Perpendicular to this organization in groups, the collection in the Material Archive is structured according to the degree to which the individual materials are processed. To this end, the standardized material samples, as they are also available in the partner organizations, form the zero point in the system of coordinates to a certain extent. These are materials, in the true sense of the word, that consist for the most part from different components - e.g. copper alloys, which due to their enhanced material properties, are much more often used than pure copper. To the right of these basic materials lie the raw materials, which are often much simpler from a chemical perspective - e.g. the individual elements as we are familiar with them from the Periodic Table.

On the other, left side of these basic materials follow, corresponding to the further processing, actual materials as they are often employed in the production of artworks - either in further processing into work pieces, or also as auxiliary materials. A good example of this is plaster, which as a modeling compound, can be utilized by artists as a design material, but can also be employed for the production of supports for a silicon negative in the workshop of an art foundry. Such materials and substances form the emphasis of the collection of the Material Archive. Within the framework of the exhibition, they are contrasted with artworks resulting from further processing.

Here, however, it is not actual artworks that are presented as in a museum or gallery exhibition. The focus is rather on work pieces that, as such, cannot yet be given the status of an artwork in a true sense. The pieces in the exhibition are, for the most part, objects abstracted from the process of production, whether as defective work or as cast-off artistic attempts. In part, the pieces have, however, also simply been borrowed from the production process in the Kunstgiesserei for the duration of the exhibition.

On the book tables between the areas of materials and substances and artworks that are placed opposite one another, four ranges of topics that shed light on the processes used in the creation of art are addressed on the basis of selected literature. One table is dedicated to each of the topics: reference, design, production and restoration. The selection of literature in the exhibition on the topic of materials and artworks also represents the interweaving of the newly opened Material Archive with the Art Library, which reaches far beyond the shared use of the location. (um)