Saturday, 4 September 2010

Bitte nicht berühren

Please do not touch

Today I hit the Museum für angewandte Kunst (Museum of applied art) to see an exhibition about Dieter Rams. It finishes tomorrow so I thought I had better take the chance while it was still there.

The exhibition began with a wall with biographical details about Herr Rams (born in Wiesbaden, studied there and later in Frankfurt). To read the details all the visitors ended up in a line, moving along the wall; the woman ahead of me translated the odd word into Spanish for her boyfirend. After reading details of Dieter Rams life, you moved into the exhibition space. One of the first things you encountered was a Thonet bent wood chair above your head. There were numerous examples of design classics and the egalitarian dreams of designers were quoted on the walls in a sans serif typeface.

The majority of the exhibiton was dedicated (this may not surprise you) to Dieter Rams' own designs. As well as camera flashes, pocket and desk lighters, hair dryers and electric shavers, there were also the revolutionary turntables and radios which were designed to not seem designed at all. They were simple and easy to use and there was no fuss. And it was a thrill to see in real life what before I had only ever seen in books and television programmes about design.  However, something spoiled the exhibition for me.

The 'Please do not touch' labels on everything! Everything was so well designed, the first thing you wanted to do was turn the dials, pick the items up, turn them over in your hands and appreciate what had gone into them. But you couldn't. I accidentally tried to pick up a travel hairdryer and was glad I realised what I was doing before anyone noticed. I didn't want to get thrown out of a museum, that would have been simply too embarassing.

After enjoying the Dieter Rams exhibition (to an extent) I decided to have a look around the museum. Er, it wasn't great. I might not have taken the best route, but I only saw a room on the middle ages (yawn), the Renaissance (there was a nice silver bowl) and a room about modern and hi-tech design (a bit better) which had a lot of chairs. I wasn't sure if you were allowed to sit on the chairs though so didn't take the chance and kept on walking.

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