BEYOND MATTER | From Iconoclash to H3K Basel

Online Talk with Sabine Himmelsbach

Online Talk with Sabine Himmelsbach
Online Talk with Sabine Himmelsbach

The project »BEYOND MATTER: Cultural Heritage on the Verge of Virtual Reality« reflects on the virtual condition by, among other things, reviving groundbreaking exhibitions. One of them, »Iconoclash. Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art«, was presented at the ZKM Karlsruhe in 2002.

In the context of the series of talks »BEYOND MATTER? – A Revival of Clashes between Materiality and Representation« Sabine Himmelsbach remembers the preparatory phase for the exhibition »Iconoclash«. With a leap into the present, she shares her current practice as the director of H3K (Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel), focusing on the institution’s reaction to the recent lockdowns and the possible ramifications of these measures. 

The exhibition »Iconoclash« aimed to display, in a systematic confrontation, three great clashes about representation – about its necessity, sanctity, and power – in the domains of science, art, and religion. By linking the three domains of theology, art and science all at once, the aim was not to increase the critical mood or to reinforce disbelief and irony. On the contrary, the aim was to transform iconoclasm from being an indisputable resource into a topic to be systematically interrogated. 

For the project »BEYOND MATTER«, two institutions have committed to examining the possibilities of revival through experiential methods of digital spatial modelling, using the case studies of »Les Immatériaux« (Centre Pompidou, 1985) and »Iconoclash« (ZKM | Karlsruhe, 2002). »Les Immatériaux« and »Iconoclash« were both landmark shows, and both were »Gedankenausstellungen« – thought experiments manifested as exhibitions. They each displayed scientific and technological as well as artistic practices. What’s more, they each reflected on the exhibition as a medium and an interface.

In preparation for the digital interpretation of the two exhibitions, a series of discussions are taking place throughout 2020, bringing outstanding thinkers, curators, and art historians together to probe the most topical questions around the digital revival of past spatial assemblages. These discussions contribute to the conceptual development of the exhibitions’ digital interpretation, but also serve as groundwork for the unfolding research conducted on »virtual museology.« A worldwide audience can follow the series via live online broadcast, and can access each talk online at or on the websites of the partner institutions.