By Frank Kaltenbach on March 2, 2018
For the seventh year in a row, the MCBW design week attempts to solidify Munich’s position as Germany’s design capital. After years of topping one superlative after another, the event organizers and many participants feel the need to take a breather. How do creatives deal with the everyday design overkill surrounding them?
Munich Creative Business Week drew 65,000 visitors in 2017. This year’s nine-day event encompasses around 200 events involving 250 partners at 100 different locations. As in years past, Tocame, the leading industry meeting place for communication designers, will hold the opening night with all of the important players in the field. But one prominent figure won’t be there: Michael Keller. The visionary responsible for dramatic interpretations of global brands and brand worlds for Munich Re, Audi, VW and Siemens, to name a few, will be on his own mission this Saturday instead of in the state capital. “I could have booked pretty much any space in Munich for our project. But it was important to me that people take the initiative to get there.” While others try to break down obstacles to so-called high culture, Keller talks about the “treasures of searching”, the activation thresholds that intensify the experience – like waiting in line at the most popular club or hyped exhibition. His workshop, “Neue Räume für die Kunst” (“New Spaces for Art”), is located in the still unfinished rooms at Herrenchiemsee Palace.
Unique or interchangeable?
These stand in stark contrast to the splendid hall of mirrors, showing no grandeur whatsoever. Instead, the unfinished brick walls reflect the monarchy’s empty coffers. As members of the International Patrons, Keller and curator Corinna Thierolf explored how Franz, Duke of Bavaria’s 80thbirthday event five years ago could meet a variety of different needs, but ultimately benefit the world of art: “It was very important to both of us to show art to the largest possible audience. The Pinakothek der Moderne was closed at the time due to structural damage, and there was nowhere to show the 6,000 paintings in their cellars. We came up with the idea, despite all doubts, to organize a three-month exhibition of works by living artists at Herrenchiemsee Palace. As a reference to the Duke, who is the direct descendent of Bavaria’s last king, Ludwig III, we called the show ‘Königsklasse’.” According to Keller, the comparably spontaneous event had a cultural and political background: “These days, it’s practically impossible for any good public museum to afford good art. At the same time, the most prominent international collections are becoming more and more homogeneous. It doesn’t matter which temple of culture we visit around the world these days. We’ll see the same classics displayed on white walls in perfect museums designed by international artists. It’s just not authentic. Do you think that Andy Warhol had sterile-looking white walls in his Factory? No, he didn’t. They were made of bricks, like the ‘Unfinished Chambers’ at Herrenchiemsee.” The idea of showing work from primarily living artists who created new works for this special venue proved to be very successful. A total of 140,000 people have visited Königsklasse, which has been repeated every year in a slightly different form.
Carrier pigeons instead of computers
Michael Keller is still trying to escape the mainstream, excitement and bustle that he creates with his artificial interior landscapes: He still doesn’t own his own computer. He jokingly commented that he communicates by carrier pigeon. Keller also described the most moving and ingenious typography he’s ever seen as the Christmas letter he received from his friend, artist Wolfgang Laib – which was just a blank piece of paper. Isn’t Keller’s new Königsklasse venue actually striking a chord with all of society? Aren’t we longing for an undesigned space, void of screens and ads, free from the pressure caused by gruelingly short innovation cycles? Instead of the mobility everyone’s talking about today, aren’t we actually looking for ways to slow down? For something timeless, and the serenity of isolation? “You have to watch Wolfgang Laib spend three months sitting in a field of flowers to understand what he’s all about: His art isn’t made of pollen. It reflects an approach to life that involves being part of the meadow. Like Otl Aicher, the designer responsible for the 1972 Olympic Games: He always said that design is attitude. Today, that matters more than ever.”
Creating new spaces
Keller enjoys bringing his favorite subject into his work: the two halves of the brain. The left half is responsible for logic, languages and math, and the right half for intuition. This reflects the duality of MCBW. For the first time, the organizers divided the event’s nearly unmanageable itinerary into two blocks. They also wanted to clearly convey which content the cryptic Munich Creative Business Week abbreviation stands for: The “Create Business!” block is geared towards professionals, while “Designschau! Transformationen” (“Design Show! Transformations”) is for design enthusiasts. The organizers decided against an overarching theme for this year’s event. Once again, the heart of the event is the MCBW Forum at the Deutsches Museum. Major players in the design industry are opening their doors throughout the entire city. A tour through Munich’s Werksviertel explains the area surrounding the new planned concert hall, followed by a visit to the agencies and design stores located there. This year’s event does not include a partnership with a guest country, but people can see design from Hungary at the Loft im Tal gallery. Once again, partner region Miesbach invites people to events focused on the regional craft-related design on Lake Tegernsee. A recurring theme throughout the exhibitions is the sociopolitical relevance of design for metropolitan areas in the future. The idea of the “smart city” is explored from a variety of perspectives in various transdisciplinary symposia: “Kreapolis” is the name of the design talk hosted by Boris Kochan, President of the German Design Day. Julia Hinderink from Schnitzer& discussed the present and future of mobility in a presentation titled “abgefahren”. At the Architecture Matters conference hosted by plan A, architects like Reinier de Graaf from OMA have the opportunity to meet with philosopher Julian Nida-Rümelin and investors in the luxury real estate market.
If you’re not interested in the hustle and bustle of this design event, you can explore this topic from the comfort of your own couch: Check out Elisabeth Hartung’s book, “Neue Allianzen” (“New Alliances”), which she will present at MCBW. She is convinced that the challenges of the future can only be overcome by unconventional interdisciplinary collaboration. She conducted interviews with people from the worlds of art, architecture, sociology and academia to forecast the future of design in the next 20 years. Michael Keller said: “Politicians are watching our world transform in so many ways, and doing nothing in response. As designers, we need to finally take the initiative and create our own new spaces. It’s a good time for it.”
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