Past Exhibition

Art Sonje Space Project #3: Nikolaus Hirsch / Michel Müller – Architecture as/and Exhibition, The New Art Sonje Center in Seoul

December, 2015

Art Sonje Space Project #3: Nikolaus Hirsch / Michel Müller – Architecture as/and Exhibition, The New Art Sonje Center in Seoul

Exhibitions often seem like the opposite of architecture: fast, experimental, ephemeral. In contrast, architecture seems inert, a slow medium that has difficulties synchronizing with an increasingly volatile cultural field and its accelerating rhythm of exhibitions. Unlike the exhibition, the classic art institution can only but contain an exhibition. No matter how spectacularly new the architectural design, years often go by until the moment of its construction and completion, with results that sometimes look anachronistic. Architecture is like a character that arrives too late on the stage.

At this point, it’s important to ask: How can we re-imagine the relation between architecture and exhibition? The conflict between them creates a tug and pull in any good museum. But one also must ask: Is museum architecture a mere container for exhibitions? Is it more than the stable frame for a constantly changing artistic and curatorial practice? Surprisingly, more detailed research proves that museum architecture—despite its stabilizing agenda—follows the logic of permanent change. In other words: a logic of internal reconstruction and recalibration of exhibition spaces to accommodate the increasingly diverse mix of programming, be it film screenings, performances, symposia, art education, cafés, bookshops and archives.

The proposal for the Art Sonje Center in Seoul elaborates on a strategy that interprets the conflict between stability and instability phenomena as a productive force. Instead of adhering to the cycles of dismantling and (re)construction, the principle of the sequential exhibition rhythm is employed here to create a sustainable, ever-growing art institution. The rhythm of construction follows the time structure of the exhibition and vice versa. And with the accumulation of ever more programmatic units, the institution grows organically over time. Architecture becomes exhibition. Exhibition becomes architecture.

This time-based, growing art institution is the result of a collective putting-together of individual segments. This approach breaks with the assumption that an art institution’s blueprint forms a coherent entity that is designed by a single author, traditionally an architect. Instead it divides the space into autonomous yet related components that are developed by artists, designers and engineers.  The art institution thus becomes a dynamic form of spatial management that turns the Art Sonje Center into a veritable time machine.

Nikolaus Hirsch is a Frankfurt-based architect and curator. He was the director of the Städelschule Academy of Fine Arts and of the Portikus Kunsthalle in Frankfurt (2010-2013) and has taught at the Architectural Association in London (2000-2005), the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (2006).His architectural work includes the award-winning Dresden Synagogue (2001), the Hinzert Document Center (2006), a mixed-use tower in Tbilisi (2007), the Bockenheimer Depot theater (with William Forsythe, 2002-2003), unitednationsplaza (with Anton Vidokle, 2006/07), the European Kunsthalle, and the Cybermohalla Hub in Delhi (2008-2012). He also designed numerous exhibition structures, such as the “Making Things Public”co-curated by Bruno Latour at ZKM (2005), the “Indian Highway”at Serpentine Gallery (2008), and “Do We Dream Under The Same Sky” at Art Basel 2015. Current projects include amuseum in Cologne’s Archaeological Zone and a studio residency at Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “The Land”in Thailand.In addition to numerous exhibitions at the Portikus museum, Hirsch’s curatorial work includesthe “ErsatzStadt: Representations of the Urban” at Volksbühne Berlin (2005), the “Cultural Agencies”in Istanbul (2009-2010), the “REAL DMZ PROJECT” in South Korea (2014), and the “Wohnungsfrage” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin (2015). He was the director of the Gwangju Folly 2012. His architectural work has been exhibited at Manifesta 7(2008), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (2011), the Architecture Museum in Munich (2010), the Istanbul Design Biennale (2012), the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel (2013), and the Chicago Architecture Biennale (2015). Hirsch is also the author of the books On Boundaries (2007), Institution Building (2009), and co-editor of the Wohnungsfrage series at Spector Books and of the Critical Spatial Practice series at Sternberg Press.

Michel Müller is an architect based in Darmstadt, Germany. From 2001 to 2004 he conducted research for the ZIT research project Experimental Fields for Sustainable Architecture in Darmstadt, and in 2004 he taught as a guest professor in the Department for Experimental Space Concepts at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design. From 2005 until 2010, he was full professor and director of the Studio for Sustainable Architecture at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. Since 2010, he is full professor and director of the Laboratory for Experimental Architecture, Art, and Research at the University of Technology, Arts, and Sciences in Cologne.He has designed the power station for the Technical University in Darmstadt, two stations for the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, the Bockenheimer Depot in Frankfurt in collaboration with William Forsythe, and the multifunctional hall 603qm in Darmstadt. His exhibition architecture includes the “Making Things Public” exhibition at the ZKM Karlsruhe,the “Frequenzen-Hz” at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, music pavilion for the Museu Serralves in Porto, the installation Turm mit Autobahn in collaboration with Thomas Bayrle for the Frankfurt Museum für Moderne Kunst, Klangkörper in collaboration with Tamara Grcic in Berlin, and the installation Node Housein collaboration with Raqs Media Collective. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions,including the “Can Buildings Curate” (AA London / Storefront Gallery, New York, 2005), The Rest of Nowat Manifesta 7 (Bolzano, Italy, 2008), Do We Dream Under the Same Sky at Art Basel (Switzerland, 2015), and the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015.

Art Sonje Space Project

In 2014, Art Sonje Center initiated its Space Project with an agenda to transform various corners of the museum through artistic interventions. The project seeks to explore architecture’s potentials to grant new identities to the museum’s public spaces, as well as the interrelationships between art and architecture. The first Space Project invited architect Choon Choi to redesign the museum’s lounge space on the ground floor, under the title of Exit Strategy. For the second Space Project, the German architect Markus Miessen presented Discursive Sauna, a temporary site-specific structure installed in front of the museum entrance. In 2015, Art Sonje Center, in anticipation of the renovation of the building in 2016, invited Nikolaus Hirsch, whose proposal for ‘the new Art Sonje Center’ contemplates the role of museum and the use of museum space.

December, 2015
Organized by
Art Sonje Center
Curated by
Supported by
Arts Council Korea
Nikolaus Hirsch, Michel Müller