Hans-Ulrich Obrist opens his talk with a quote by Erwin Panofsky, who said that “we often invent the future out of fragments of the past.” This sentiment is at the heart of Obrist’s own curatorial practice, in which he examines curatorial history to learn from past exhibitions in order to envision future exhibitions. Obrist begins with a discussion of the 1985 exhibition Les Immatériaux, curated by the renowned philosopher Jean-François Lyotard at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. This exhibition was the first to make him aware of the potential of the labyrinth as a curatorial model.
Taking Les Immatériaux as his point of departure, Obrist walks us through some labyrinthine exhibitions he (co-)curated, detailing the myriad sources and the web of influence for these labyrinths: a planned follow-up to Lyotard’s Les Immatériaux, themed “Resistance,” in collaboration with Daniel Birnbaum and Philippe Parreto; Cities on the Move with Hou Hanru, inspired by Dylaby and the aborted Situationist exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, along with Édouard Glissant’s idea of mondialité; Laboratorium with Barbara Vanderlinden in the Fotomuseum Antwerp, influenced by Umberto Eco’s writings on the labyrinth; and the Swiss pavilion for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, motivated by the work of the Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt, the founder of “strollology”: the science of flânerie.
Obrist leaves us with some ruminations on the digital dimensions of the labyrinth as a curatorial model as he reflects on what the import of labyrinth structures for exhibitions of a digital nature could be.