07
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Evil Things. An Encyclopaedia of Bad Taste’ at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 16th May – 27th October 2013

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I just love the categories that this museum has classified these objects into:

  • Devotional kitsch
  • Construction and artists dummies jokes
  • Whimsical material
  • Relief transpositions
  • Material surrogates
  • Inappropriate jewelry designs (for a rug depicting planes flying into the World Trade Centre towers!)
  • Inconveniences
  • Relief transpositions
  • Hunter kitsch
  • Jewelry and ornamental waste
  • Hooray kitsch
  • Construction dummy or far-fetched fantasy design
  • Tourist souvenir kitsch
  • Racist design
  • Bad or rotten material

There is a whole series of exhibitions that could be mounted, like stuffed animals, on any number of these categories. I particularly like “Material surrogates” which has endless possibilities and paradoxical connotations, as though, surrogates always have to be material and cannot be immaterial, of the spirit.

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Many thankx for the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.

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'Mosque alarm clock in shape' Nd

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Mosque alarm clock in shape
Nd
Devotionalienkitsch, fishing Seng
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin, acquired 2009
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Abdominal ashtray' 2009

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Abdominal ashtray
2009
Construction and artists dummies jokes
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Ashtray horse's hoof' Nd

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Ashtray horse’s hoof
Nd
Origin unknown
Whimsical material
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Ottmar Hoerl. 'The Big Piece of Hare' 2003

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Ottmar Hoerl
The Big Piece of Hare
2003
Relief transpositions
Motive after a watercolor by Albrecht Dürer
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Celluloid hair clips, mimic the natural material horn' 1920

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Celluloid hair clips, mimic the natural material horn
1920
Germany
Material surrogates
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Exhibition views. Photos: Michaela Hille

Exhibition views. Photos: Michaela Hille

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Exhibition views
Photos: Michaela Hille

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“What is taste? Who decides what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly? Corporations spend billions trying to find out which product will catch the spirit of the times. Scientists devote themselves to researching which regions of the brain are responsible for forming taste. And what do we do? We argue about taste, although, as is well known, there is no accounting for taste. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is throwing itself into the argument about “good” and “bad” taste by showing the exhibition Evil Things: an Encylopaedia of Bad Taste developed by the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin, which juxtaposes historical and contemporary approaches. On top of this, we invite visitors to take an active part in the debate on taste by setting up an exchange where they can swap items. The idea of the exhibition Evil Things was based on the pamphlet “Good and Bad Taste in the Arts and Crafts” published by the art historian Gustav E. Pazaurek in 1912. In it, he sets up a complex catalogue of criteria which also underlies his “Department of Lapses in Taste” in the Landesmuseum in Stuttgart. Pazaurek was a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, founded in 1907, which set off the debate on “good form” in design which still shows no sign of abating even today. The exhibition Evil Things presents some 60 objects from Pazaurek’s former “Chamber of Horrors” and confronts these with items of contemporary design. This provides an opportunity to review Pazaurek’s systematic canon and decide if it is still valid today. At the same time it postulates new categories which might be able to classify things as “good” or “bad” from the perspective of today’s world. In parallel to this, the MKG is showing a project by the Muthesius-Kunsthochschule Kiel entitled Name That Thing. Students focussed here on kitsch and produced projections, installations, objects, photography and texts on the theme, whereby they also had the Museum as an authority for forming taste squarely in their sights.”

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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'Bocksbeutel bottle, covered with patriotic motifs and coins' c. 1915

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Bocksbeutel bottle, covered with patriotic motifs and coins
c. 1915
probably Austrian
Materialpimpeleien
Pazaurek Collection, Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart,
Photo: Hendrik Zwietasch, Landesmuseum fillies

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'Hand-knotted rug with motif for 9/11' Nd

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Hand-knotted rug with motif for 9/11
Nd
Inappropriate jewelry designs
Afghanistan
Donated by Achille Mauri, Milan
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Mobile Phone Holder' 2009

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Mobile Phone Holder
2009
Agora Gift House AB, Sweden
Inappropriate jewelry motifs
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Philippe Starck. 'Juicy Salif lemon squeezer' 1990

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Philippe Starck
Juicy Salif lemon squeezer
1990
Designed by Philippe Starck in 1990, Alessi, Italy
Inconveniences
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Evil Things. An Encyclopaedia of Bad Taste

In 1909, Gustav E. Pazaurek opened a “Department of Lapses in Taste” in the Landesmuseum in Stuttgart with the goal of educating people in “good taste”. The exhibits on show there were without exception examples of art and craftwork intended to induce repugnance and to expose the “bad taste” of the objects. Pazaurek developed a comprehensive canon to classify things in his pamphlet “Good and Bad Taste in the Arts and Crafts”. In this, he invented drastic terminology such as “decorative brutality”, “violation of the material” or “functional lies”. But what is “evil” about an object? For Pazaurek, it lies first and foremost in its external appearance, materiality and construction. In his opinion, things have a strong influence on human beings, and are capable of altering the essence of their being. Pazaurek follows the notions of the Deutscher Werkbund here, according to which an appropriate domestic environment should aim not only at improving living standards, but also “improving” people and educating them to be responsible and thoughtful members of the community. The idea of educating people to have taste at the beginning of the 20th century, which also had proponents in the Bauhaus and in the Reform Movement, set itself up in opposition to the ostentatious pomposity and rabid inflation of decorative excrescences of the Wilhelminian period, which were perceived as being dishonest and superficial. Pazaurek’s “Bible of Taste” can also be seen in this context as an “anti-product catalogue”. The guidelines of the Deutscher Werkbund, to which architects, designers and academics subscribed, continued to exert an influence until well into the 1960s. The application of the historical criteria to contemporary products provides a wealth of material for discussion. On the one hand, it would probably be argued that such canons make no sense today while on the other, if we were asked to formulate criteria, we would consider quite different ones to be relevant – for instance, sustainability, fair trade, wildlife conservation etc.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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'Mineral water bottle in the form of Madonna' Nd

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Mineral water bottle in the form of Madonna
Nd
Devotionalienkitsch, “lichen”
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Madonna figure "Fatima" Nd

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Madonna figure “Fatima”
Nd
Devotionalienkitsch, Portugal
collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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"The Scream" as a key chain, according to Edvard Munch's "The Scream" 1991

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“The Scream” as a key chain, according to Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”
1991
Relief transpositions
Robert Fishbone, On The Wall Productions, Inc.USA, 1991
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Historicist clock' Second half of the 19th Century

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Historicist clock
Second half of the 19th Century
Hunter kitsch
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Moeko Ishida. 'Studded with Stones cell phone' 2009

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Moeko Ishida
Studded with Stones cell phone
2009
Deco Loco
Jewelry and ornamental waste
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Obama children's sneakers' 2008

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Obama children’s sneakers
2008
Draft, Keds, USA 2009
Hooray kitsch
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin, Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'USB stick in the shape of a finger' 2009

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USB stick in the shape of a finger
2009
China
Construction dummy or far-fetched fantasy design
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a woman' 2009

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Salt and pepper shakers in the shape of a woman
2009
Construction dummy or far-fetched fantasy design
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin

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'Souvenir from Dessau in the form of acting as a salt shaker with view of the Dessau city hall' first quarter 20th Century

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Souvenir from Dessau in the form of acting as a salt shaker with view of the Dessau city hall
first quarter 20th Century
Tourist souvenir kitsch
Pazaurek Collection, Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart

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'Jewelry packaging Conguitos' 1998

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Jewelry packaging Conguitos
1998
Conguitos – LACASA. SA, Zaragoza, Spain, 1998
Racist design
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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'Withdrawn from the market Teletubbies character that contains toxic plasticizers' 1998

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Withdrawn from the market Teletubbies character that contains toxic plasticizers
1998
Hasbro, Inc., 1998
Bad or rotten material
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Philippe Starck. Floor lamp 'Guns - Lounge Gun' 2005

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Philippe Starck
Floor lamp Guns – Lounge Gun
2005
Inappropriate jewelry designs
Flos, Italy, 2009
Collection Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Berlin
Photo: Armin Herrmann

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Portrait Professor Gustav E. Pazaurek, © Fotoarchiv Landesmuseum Württemberg

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Portrait of Professor Gustav E. Pazaurek
© Fotoarchiv Landesmuseum Württemberg

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Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 11 am – 9 pm

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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