Dienstag, 3. August 2010

WORKSHOP SIX - The final workshop - AUSSTRAHLUNG-RADIANCE - Ruairí O'Brien

Workshop Six

Report VI
Ausstrahlung or Radiance
The last workshop took place as planned on the 23rd of June.

If you look into an english/german Dictionary
for the translation of the word "Ausstrahlung"
you come across such beautiful words as;
vibes, emission, radiance, emanation, radiation,
presence, aura, charism, radiosity, emission of light

A the beginning of the series of workshops I emphasized the importance of growth and change and how “change” influences in turn “growth” which in turn causes further changes…this is an expression of lives secret dynamic path, more often then not adults believe that this can be planned…one can make rational decisions and take logical steps which seduce us to think that we have the control over our destiny this may mean that life can be planned but it is certainly not always “planable”……children have this wonderful ability to interact with the situation as they find it, to improvise, to develop intuitively new worlds out of hints, ….new directions appear that lead to further changes of plan that cause and ask for new interpretations……
This last workshop was with a group of children from a local school, 12 years of age on average….which were brought together with a small group of 3 young women who were members of the “Friends of the Museum” society. The School children were accompanied by two young teachers.
This last group of children were truely radiant, strong and confident. They had "Ausstrahlung"!

After a first chat with children about “who am I and who are you?” followed by “what is a castle?” and “what is a museum?” we talked about the project.
I explained that I had built the “museums laboratory” so that one could see in a small room how a big museum works and how they grow, we talked about collecting and what that means. They told me about their collections from stamps and football stars to stones and snail shells collected on holidays. Wonderful collections…I showed them what we had collected as part of the project and how we had documented the objects ranging from very valuable personal objects like my fathers book to cheap but beautiful plastic jewels. I told that today we were going to finish the project with their work.
To work...…!..I asked the children split into small teams with which I could develop smaller workshops simultaneously dealing with different themes. I needed a team for the Polaroid documentation, a team for the tone documentation, interviews, a cameraman for the general photographs of the day, a team to draw a picture for a beautiful heavily jewelled frame without a drawing, a technical team to help me rebuild the museums laboratory installation, (this was due to the fact that the last workshop had taken place in another room, see workshop 5) a team to build structures out of pencils, a team to draw shadows on the museum wall of Fame, a team to sort the exhibition objects into their right boxes and crosscheck them with the inventory list …every one found work that corresponded to their inclination and interests.
In between we visited the exhibition in the Museum outside our “Lab space”, were we discussed light and preciousness, windows and doors, fruit and decay.

After the intense work, interviews, photo sessions, drawings, discussions, laughter, excitement, struggling with electric cables and mirrors for the installation lighting. Documents, debates, we put all the work together and I closed the curtains and put the lights out.
Silence, expectation….
Then I switched the lights on from the Museums laboratory, the kids stared at their work…they walked around it, peering into it, from above from underneath, some started drawing shadows on the wall others sat and just enjoyed the silence.

It was very beautiful.

A wonderful end to a very rewarding project, seeing the kids eyes in the light of the museum laboratory sparkling was worth all the hard work….I thank all who took part….all the teachers and all the children and the SKD, Frau Schmidt, Frau Nietzold and Frau Stübing.

Dienstag, 22. Juni 2010

WORKSHOP FIVE - Museumslabor-Sport und Kunst - Sport and Art - Ruairí O'Brien


Report V

On the 21st of June I was asked to give an extra workshop for a group of young teenagers attending a special sport school. It just so happened that on this day a visit from a very important person to the room which we were using for the "Museumslabor" was also planned.
So we had to move to another location in the museum building for what was to be the fifth workshop in the series. This having to deal with quite a different atmosphere as the new space was actually a lecture hall. The room was neutral and cool, an architecture that did not speak to you. It expressed very little of the special “Castle” feeling but perhaps it is good for looking at slide show lectures.
I decided to work with this small “irritation” and see how I could use it to open up a possible path of communication between myself and the boys and girls about to arrive.
The Room was nearly a square with no windows; the white space had a black wooden bank in front of the area where the screen onto which a beamer could be played. In front of the lecture bank where 9 rows of black wooden seats with stainless steel frame’s which were interlocked.
It was quite a high ceiling. At the back were more chairs stacked upon each other.
I decide to wait outside and watch the arrival of the “Teens” from the staircase, thus I could access who’s who and what’s what.
Up they came, a long drawn out group with bags, rucksacks and coats, groups of 2 and 3, a couple of loners, larger groups of 6 and 7 and then a straggler or two, the teacher at the rear.
As I was standing offside I could let them enter the room without them noticing that I was watching their moves, already trying to analyse their style, their mood, their vibes, their character.
I waited.
I went into the space.
Yes as I had a imagined the group had settled in the chairs in the form with which they had climbed the staircase only the seating order was a little different. A large group of 7 sat at the front all boys, behind two empty rows then on the side a group of 3 behind them a pair followed by a loner followed by two empty rows and then a larger group of 6 all girls.
I decided to make the first move with this theme.
"Good morning !"….lets analyse the groups interaction with the space…a good subject….what could that have to do with the type of sport they have chosen to pursue? I asked them to one by one come up to the front and write their name and their sport on the laptop which was connected to the overhead beamer.
Very interesting, team sports and individual sports, we all know the “loneliness of the long distance runner”

The idea that artists have an easy relaxed life might be a cliché that pleases but the reality is truly completely different. Artists like sports men and women spend many lonely hours perfecting their art, without success and recognition their work is often badly paid. Often “artists” and I use the general term which could include writers, painters, musicians, just to mention a few “Classical forms of expression” among the traditional art forms, are “competing among their fellow contemporaries for their place in the world. Success and recognition comes with being discovered. Many a sportsman has had the talent but did not get the right breaks. Today managers or agents for sport and galleries for artist play a very important role in the networking of a young artist or sportsman or woman. Big money is involved and being in the right place at the right moment or knowing the right people can make the difference. From time to time talents like Maradona or Picasso appear and rise above all “unnecessary” man made political structures or schools of thought. For the rest who have been given the “Hand of God” the way is long and hard. The great advantage of many artists over sportsmen and women is that their development and their work can be spread over an entire lifetime free of the physical demise. Of course this is often also only partly true as “artists” require not just mental strength but also great physical strength to achieve their goals, this is not always obvious to the human untrained eye but it is always there. Some artist bundle this power and have short bursts of activity and production which comes and goes almost sprinter like others extend over their whole life a steady marathon like production. Some are so explosive that they burn out after a short time never again being able to reach the summit they once so easily conquered. Today there are also so many new forms of sport and art that are specialist areas for example graffiti, computer art or snowboarding, areas that have a small public interest, dancers, chess players, were does art stop and handcraft begin…..football as an art form, a dancing expression as spatial thinking, chess, installations in space. Where does sport and art meet? In architecture one has to understand space, feel space, and imagine space. A footballer must also be able to see space, think in triangles, feel geometry as a dancer does, take procession of the room between his opponent, create new rooms of attack, corridors shifting, velocity of ball, speed of man, a vision, instinct, courageous action and ….these words can interchange to describe art or sport. A team trainer or football manager like an art collector has to understand his “art form” the "artists" available to create the perfect team or round off the perfect collection. Every player he buys or artwork he acquires changes the collection or team and interacts with the other “pieces” to open up new possibilities of understanding or beauty or success. With these thoughts we played with the idea of what a museum does, how a collector thinks to build a bridge to their own personal experience and the world that they knew. I asked them in between discussions to test the space of the room. I asked them to take procession of the room in the form of a small experiment. “stand up and re order the seats so that we can talk to each other in a more effective way… in a ”beautiful” way, In Italy the call football “The beautiful game”. They rearranged as a team the seats in an oval form. We discussed this form…it was not quite symmetric; there is a lot of symmetry in Gymnastics I said lets try again and please look at the floor tiles this time……This time the form achieved was symmetric and fitted perfectly in the grid of the flooring. I then did a spatial experiment with their assistance, working with chairs and the pupils as communication installation, I set single chairs with a school boy or girl into the space reacting, improvising with the result I set the next chair and pupil into the space as a reaction to the last one, continuing with this “Method” I filled the space with little communication islands. I then asked them to talk about their individual sports to tell and ask each other across the islands about sport. This I recorded as I moved through the space. We went into the exhibition and looked at the work, talked about space and light, about the “worth” of the work exhibited. We looked at a painting “the rugby players”. Back in the “lecture” room I repeated the experiment asking the pupils to change chairs and partners and this time to talk about the exhibition….to talk about art! Two communication installations one titled “Sport in Space” and the other “Art in Space” were achieved. We said good bye and I promised to send the accompanying teacher the recordings to discuss further. Sport and art when looked at together are all about the expression of human existence.

Sonntag, 13. Juni 2010

WORKSHOP FOUR: Konfrontation / Confrontation - Ruairí O'Brien

Workshop 4:

Konfrontation / Confrontation.


Report IV

Children from the Kita "Fröbel"
and One Elderly Citizen.

Children drawing their shadows on the Museum wall !

The fourth workshop took place under the title "Confrontation". It was planned to work with two groups one group at the very beginning of their life journey, small children from a local kindergarten and the other group elder citizens who had begun their lifes during the 2nd world war or shortly afterwards. (unfortunately only one elderly citizen came, but nevertheless the circle of life was represented and fulfilled through her participation for which i am grateful). This was a confrontation of time and if you like destiny. Museums are confronted with the mapping of passing time, destruction, conservation, memories lost and found on an everyday basis. The beauty and sadness of coming and going is especially poignant in a city like Dresden that suffered so much destruction due to world war II. The beauty of Dresden lost, the treasures of Dresden lost confronts us in every small childs innocent smile. The children confront us with their innocence and ask us "why" with their every move. I asked them to draw their "shadows" on the museums white wall. I have included a small film fragment where I ask the children which painting is winter. The children do not know yet that they are the promise of "Spring" for us all, for mankind. It is both a warning and a hope.

Winter always comes...for us all...

I took a walk with the children through the exhibition and we talked about the exhibits, afterwards back in the "Museumslabor" I showed them the exhibits that were selected by the other children during the first workshop for the project. I asked them to create out of their memories of what they had seen some clay objects for the growing collection. Here are some examples. Small children are used to working with plastercine in kindergarten's, clay is more difficult, teachers say..however children work with what they have, this free and archaic unquestioning approach to life is often lost through too much emphasis on adult precieved results. The children see perfect in imperfect because they are somewhat free of the concept of failure, it is only through their interaction with adults that this "finished product" this surface "perfect" thinking becomes important. Of course children learn from us and we can not avoid this responsibility, however we can learn also from children to cherish what we have lost, the ability to be imperfect, unfinished and free.

"Simple things"


Generations working in the "Museumslabor" "Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter"

Collections also have their "Springtime" the process of growth and development can be observed in the "objects" collected and of course not collected. Decisions made to follow one or the other course can influence the spirit or the intention of a museum collection. Museum collections like the growth rings in a tree can tell us a larger story outside of the "object" about who collected what and why. In the trunk of a tree we can read when the tree grew, good and bad times, ugly times, hard times, water shortage, desease, parasitical attacks leave their marks in the rings produced. During certain periods of our history, our museum collections were manipulated to reflect the political "Zeitgeist", today in reflection we can see these manipulations, we are "confronted" with these "objects that were deemed to be of importance and we are "confronted" with the "gaps" the "objects" that were not "collected" and "preserved". Truth and memory is a universal "confrontation" for "man" in all his "eternal seasons".

Montag, 7. Juni 2010

WORKSHOP THREE - Wissbegierde - Thirst for Knowledge - Ruairí O'Brien

Workshop report III

In the third workshop called "Wissbegierde" which could be translated as meaning "Thirst for knowledge" I undertook to analyse the chosen items which were placed into the “White Box” by the children I worked with in the first workshop "Schöpfung" or "Creation". I had not seen the contents of the “White box” for a couple of weeks and had forgotten the significance of one or the other of the objects. This was an exciting aspect to this workshop, opening the closed box, which had not been opened since the children were last in the "Museumslabor", and peering in. The objects reflected a colourful light onto the white walls of the vessel, they appeared to be jewel like and of great worth, in fact they are indeed now of great worth. Despite their actual worth in terms of initial cost, many of the objects were bought in the penny markets of Dresden, they now had acquired many levels of value in my eyes. Firstly they were the “chosen” items, which were initially part of a larger buying action of cheap toys, items of kitch, kitchen utensils and other everyday objects for example, intermingled with objects of great personal worth, a book from my father for example or a small oil painting. The children had selected these objects from my large black box, each child chose one object, and had placed them in the white box for the start of the "museumslabor" collection. These objects were touched by all these children, laughter and curiosity filled the chosen items with new meaning. Secondly the objects had now been sitting in their new found home, the State Art Museum, the SKD, for the last 5 weeks among some of the finest and most valuable treasures in the known world and were being protected by a 24 hour high-tech security guard system as good as any in the world. These seemingly "worthless" objects had become "Priceless" a transformation had taken place!

We took the objects out of the white box and placed them carefully on the white laboratory work top. We inspected each object and discussed its origin. The objects were photographed from all sides in good light. Characteristics were noted and a description was agreed upon which was then transcribed to paper and placed in a folder for future generations. We discussed which type of protection each object needed and classified the objects into 3 categories, 1. High risk: 2. Middle risk: 3. Low risk: Each object received a number which was then attached to the object. The objects were then placed into protective boxes, sealable plastic envelopes or open baskets. All the objects were then placed into the “Museumlabor” installation. The "Erd-Mensch" recieved his box.
We discussed the collection and asked questions about the previous owners of each object. Curiosity was awakened about the history of the objects and their “travels”, where they came from? What kind of journey did they undergo? Who was the last owner? Who made the objects? Why were they made? What purpose? Were the objects loved or appreciated, misused, forgotten, lost or found? Was the object “Unique”? Was there a second one in the world similar? If so should we obtain it, add it to our collection? Would a second matching object increase the value of the first? Etc
To finish we walked through the “Zukunft seit 1560. The Exhibition” and looked for similar objects which we could match with our collection. Boxes, utensils, instruments, paintings, jewels, books, maps Etc. A last question was asked; Were these objects of more value than our "New objects" collected in the "Museumslabor"? If the answer is yes then why? What is if the answer is no?
Lets think about it

The world in a box!
This is a book I recieved from my father as a child in Dublin.
The museumslabor is now exhibiting its "collection"
The next workshop will take place on Wednesday the 9th of June 2010.
The subject is "Konfrontation" which could be translated as meaning "Confrontation".
Ruairí O'Brien

Mittwoch, 19. Mai 2010

WORKSHOP-TWO - SKD-Museumslabor - "Verlangen" - Ruairí O'Brien

Sadly the Museum was unable to find a school group to take part in the workshop today so I worked in the "Museumslabor" alone. Although somewhat "lonely" this was also a possibility to contemplate the loneliness of a collector working in solitude. Not being able to share the treasures one process's must be one of the initial motivations for a collector in deciding to exhibit his or her most cherished objects to the public. Perhaps first among a small circle of family and trusted friends but then the circle grows as confidence in the collection reaches new dimensions. This need, hunger, desire to communicate with the outside world is indeed an interesting aspect of this second workshop "Verlangen". Brooding over the collection one has started, no matter how small the collection one is a ware of an increasing sense of responsibility for the objects, fragments, “things” one has put together. Perhaps they appear at first not to have a relationship to each other, perhaps one begins to imagine stories that could bring the elements together to form a bigger picture, and this is the creative and visionary work of the collector. One sees shadows, hears voices, faces, names, time gone by no longer retrievable, ghosts….they begin to speak to you. Perhaps at first all the known data is written down, careful notes are made as to the condition of the object, of the materiality, scratches, tears, blemishes are recorded. Or is that the second step? Does the admiration overlap with the curiosity? This is subjectivity and objectivity blending to form one, focusing in and out, holding and letting go, science and art. The immateriality, the unmeasureable is always present.
One is also aware of a growing desire to protect and foster its development. Stories begin to unfold, who has seen this before me, who has touched this before me? Who has processed this before me? Who has made this, who has created this, why did they create this, for whom or what did they create this, how has it survived, is there an other object similar to this one to be found somewhere, has someone else one in his possession, is it more beautiful, is it different, is it more perfect….can I have it…what do I have to do to possess it! A second and more dangerous desire is born.

I decided to extend the collection with a "Clay Man". There is abeautiful photo of the finished "Erd-Mensch" where one can see the drawings I did on the white wall of the children who attended the last workshop. Their line shadows are present in the space, also their words and thoughts that they left for all of us written on the wall. In the photo one can also see the caterpillar I drew and wings of the butterfly. Process....process....begin and end........yesterday, today....tomorrow.....I am looking foward to the next workshop which will take place next week. Its called "Wissbegierde" which might be understood to mean "Thirst for Knowledge"...... The "Erd- Mensch" is now floating in the Collection in time and space....in a black framed mirror placed carefully on the large white horizontal worksurface of the "Museumslabor" installation......waiting....patiently....... Ur-Mensch and Astronaut in glass

Mittwoch, 28. April 2010

WORKSHOP ONE - "Museumslabor" -"Schöpfung" - Ruairí O'Brien


Report I

Yesterday we had the first "Museumslabor" workshop under the title "Schöpfung" which means "Creation" in English. It is the first part of the exhibition presently being shown in the State art collection of Saxony, "Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden".
We began with 7 young students who are studying to become teachers and a group of 15 school children. We talked about Creation, the beginning of a museum collection, the idea of museums,
I drew “outline shadows” of Max, Akram, Theresa, Max E, Til, Robert, Falk on the white wall, the last two with my eyes shut…..“are you allowed to do that?” came the prompt question.
We visited the exhibition and stopped by an old book in the first room, "How old is it?, Is that a real Bird? Is it dead?"
we began to talk about...........
.......the protection and presentation of works of art, rare and old objects, the danger of too much light and warm and cold spaces, Adam and Eve, the beginning of the world, the apple, the fruit man, the fast-food man, protection and security, light and shadow, grandmothers and grandfathers, family names, language, preciousness and worthlessness, the past, the present and the future, time, generations, old and new, the art of drawing, Internet, the world, they drew each others faces, wonderful drawings full of power and beauty, every individual was captured on paper for ever….until the end of time, Max, Akram, Theresa, Max E, Til, Robert, Falk wrote their brillant thoughts on the wall, "Big is made up from smaller parts", "Putting different things together in one exhibition", "old technical objects to be looked at and used", "it was dark", "Light", "learning about what has been and has not been",....
This is such a great thought from Falk I have to repeat it!

Falk. Dresden 28.04.2010

After all of that we sent a group photograph to our webblog.....the children gave a spontaneous contdown..10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ...nothing...black,.....10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3,....there was a great shout of joy as the photo appeared on the wall, they were all in internet…..with their drawings and their faces and their huge open spirit!
Then we had lunch.!

After lunch I drew a butterfly and a caterpillar on the wall, we talked about what the children collected, football cards, toy cars, things that no one else wants, rubbish, things that might be beautiful.....but not for everyone....."but I find them beautiful!".......we talked about process, how old is the exhibition, how long did it take to collect all the pieces we looked at?...5 years said one boy yes 5 years is long in the life of a small boy...but not long enough for the collection...10...20....30... a very long time in the mind of a child....100....300....try again... 500...ok closer 450 years old....we turned down the lights in the room and opened a black case, the case was full of precious and worthless objects, we talked about magic and art, art is a kind of magic......in the black case was....a book that my father had as a child and which he had passed onto me as a boy, the title of the book was "The World", a reproduction of the famous "angel" children from the gallery in Dresden, an original oil painting of a mans face, we talked about memories and values, plates, cups, glasses, balls, coloured fabric, plastic diamonds and crystals, rubber balls, a potato smasher, a German football jersey, a sealed packet of cakes, diverse packets of playing cards, a tape recorder, colourful trinkets, spoons, knives, forks, a pair of golden slippers, a mask, a pair of glasses, a clock, kitsch and rubbish, paper and stones, water, containers, a broken rusty children’s locomotive, in all 100 objects!
There was talking, shouting and laughing, glasses and masks were put on faces, books and magazines were turned over, bubbles were blown, names were spoken into the tape recorder.
Each person was allowed to choose one item, discussions, choices, decisions...
A white box was placed in the in the sunlight at the other side of the room, each object was placed with a brief explanation as to why it was chosen into the box.....the packet of cakes were opened and eaten !
The white box was closed and placed into the "Museumslabor" sculpture and awaits the next workshop which is called "Verlangen".
In English that could be understood to mean "craving"

Ruairí O'Brien. Dresden. 29.04.2010


I thank the Children for being so open, clever and inspiring. The teachers and the teacher students for their interest and support and of course Frau Stübing from the SKD.

Dienstag, 27. April 2010

"Museumslabor" - Museum sculpture from Ruairí O'Brien installed


Fünf Workshops bieten eine Labor- und Experimentiersituation, in der die Teilnehmer 450 Jahre Museumsgeschichte spielerisch nachvollziehen. Ausgangspunkt ist die von Ruairí O'Brien konstruierte Werkstattinstallation „Museumslabor“. Sie gibt in ihrer Form und Funktion prozessartig den Weg einer Sammlung von ihrem Beginn bis hin zu ihrer Präsentation für Besucher in komprimierter Form wider. Sie ist Depot und Ausstellungsraum – ein Wissens- und Kunstspeicher in "mikroglobaler" Form. Analog zur über 450 jährigen Museumsgeschichte wird die Installation während der Workshops diese Wachstumsphasen spielerisch nachvollziehbar machen. Sie ist denkbar als ein mediales Spiegelbild der Herausforderung, über mehrere „Generationen“ hinweg ein „Gesamtwerk“ zu schaffen. Die Teilnehmer der Workshops können somit spielerisch verantwortliches Handeln im Umgang mit dem kulturellen Erbe üben. Die Installation wächst mit den Workshops und schafft eine Brücke. Jede Gruppe findet Arbeitsergebnisse der vor, setzt sich damit auseinander und bearbeitet sie weiter. Die unterschiedlichen Teilnehmergruppen setzen sich mit grundlegenden Museumsfragen auseinander. Sie finden dadurch einen leichten Einstieg in die Institution Museum und gewinnen Verständnis für die Rolle und Bedeutung, die Museen für sie selbst und für die Gesellschaft spielen können.
Ruairí O'Brien