Looking back at #ManRayReloaded, a cooperation of Museum Fünf Kontinente and Theresien-Gymnasium München

 

Getting museum objects to talk was the brief for an art class of 18-years-olds of Theresien-Gymnasium München (grammar school). In early February, the pupils had selected six objects from the Africa exhibit of Museum Fünf Kontinente, following a guided tour by the head curator Dr. Stefan Eisenhofer. Back at school, teams of three continued to research about the philosophy behind Ibedji figures from Yoruba land, about the story of a Ghanaian coffin in the form of a Nike sneaker, about a Portuguese-African horn made from ivory, a figurehead of a canoe from the Wouri Delta, a Baulé spirit partner and about masks by the Beninois artist Romuald Hazoumé, using scientific literature provided by the museum.

 

The pupils’ reflections built upon knowledge gathered earlier on, namely for an artistic actualization of the photograph “Noire et Blanche”, shot in 1926 by Man Ray and featuring a carved mask from Ivory Coast. In 2019, each pupil of Annette Schemmel’s art class had conceived of a new composition relating critically to the historic picture and its colonial implications. Their new black-and-white photographs formed the visual material for a video that is continuously screened at Museum Fünf Kontinente since March 13th, 2020.

 

At the occasion of the video’s inauguration, the pupil teams charmed in visitors with an unheard-of guided tour around the Africa exhibit, performing what they had to say in the style of sketches, telenovelas, masked dialogues or staged Q&As involving the public. This cheerful experiment that took place just hours before Covid 19-prevention politics sealed off the Museum Fünf Kontinente, proved successful at promoting transcultural competence and criticality towards museum representation. Also, we trust that these youths and their peers will continue to draw artistic confidence from the experience of being part of one of Munich’s oldest museums.