Hans Ulrich Obrist

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.

Hans Ulrich Obrist is Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries, London. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Since his first show World Soup (The Kitchen Show) in 1991 he has curated more than 300 exhibitions. In 2014 he curated the Swiss Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, where he presented Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price – A stroll through a fun palace. The building was designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron and the program was developed with artists Liam Gillick, Philippe Parreno, Tino Sehgal, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.

In 2011 Obrist received the CCS Bard Award for Curatorial Excellence, in 2009 he was made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and in 2015 he received the International Folkwang Prize for his commitment to the arts.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, ”Video: Hans Ulrich Obrist” Stedelijk Studies Journal 7 (2018). DOI: 10.54533/StedStud.vol007.art14. This contribution is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.