FACING HISTORY

CULTURAL HISTORY IN DIALOGUE

Special exhibition

7 June 2019 to 7 June 2020

University of Bern’s Collection of Antiquities


Speaking Sculptures at Bern’s Collection of Antiquities

The University of Bern’s Collection of Antiquities is exploring new avenues of digital arts education. Thanks to interactive technologies such as speech recognition, facial expression detection, emotion analysis and dynamic video mapping, we can now engage in direct dialogue with the sculptures of Greek and Roman Antiquity. A team of ten actors and actresses as well as the well-known German philosopher Rebekka Reinhard played an active part in the realization of this project. In twelve interactive video installations, they lend historical sculptures their voices, their modes of expression and a contemporary style of speech. With the aid of microphones, the Greek gods Hermes, Aphrodite, Apollo and Athena can be addressed directly and questioned about their own past and about what they think. In striking video sequences, the Olympian deities explain their respective roles in Greek mythology as well as commenting on some of the issues of concern to us today.

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Digital Arts Education

The exhibition concept was developed by the media artists Franticek Klossner and Marc-André Gasser and realized in collaboration with the archaeologist Prof. Elena Mango. Its transdisciplinary interplay of the humanities, video art, archaeology, interactive theatre and the latest digital technologies has given rise to an extremely lively and highly unconventional exhibition. As an entry in the innovation competition Kultur.Digital, the exhibition concept was singled out by Canton Bern’s Office of Culture as a model education project for others to follow. It enjoys the patronage of Bern's education director and executive council member Christine Häsler. The pilot project is to remain in Bern for a whole year before being shown in other collections of antiquities elsewhere in German-speaking Europe.

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An Education in Cultural History and Diversity

The exhibition themes all turn on education and engagement both with our own cultural history and with the present. Drawing on historical starting points, issues such as diversity, intercultural competence, equality and social responsibility are viewed in a larger and highly topical cultural context. The show targets a young, multicultural generation, its aim being to get young people excited about their shared past and future and questions such as: Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we want to be? A visit to the show thus promises to be a fantastic journey of discovery that probes our collective and personal identity. Here, worldviews, ideologies, and patterns of orientation are reflected on from the point of view of cultural history. The exhibition was conceived as an important and contemporary contribution to public education. The playful dialogue with interactive sculptures is intended to whet visitors’ appetite for more in-depth knowledge packaged in a similarly attractive form. Our cultural responsibility to ourselves and to society generally thus become a sensory experience. The exhibition aims to facilitate a better understanding of current developments while at the same time strengthening social cohesion. It promotes dialogue between young and old and between the foreign and the familiar. Or, as the monumental sculpture of a Dioskouros at the entrance to the show puts it in his words of welcome: When we know our own history, we get to know ourselves better, too! If we don’t know anything about history, we won’t know much about ourselves either.

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Digital speech recognition: the Olympian deities answering visitors' questions.

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The philosopher Rebekka Reinhard lends the image of the ancient Greek poetess Sappho her distinctive voice.

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Greek mythology in relation to the present: Hermes, messenger of the gods, chatting about the digital age.

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The interactive "oracle" reading visitors' emotions.

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The sculptures in conversation with visitors: The actor Antonio Ramón Luque lends the statue of the Belvedere Apollo his way of expressing himself.