Peter Weibel on the virtual exhibition »Critical Zones«

»Will the ZKM be opening?« No, because the ZKM never closed! Peter Weibel on the virtual exhibition »Critical Zones«.

It was always open, online. Currently, we are hearing that the museums are open again, which means actually entering the real space of the museums is now possible again. In reality, most museums were open the whole time during the coronavirus crisis; namely, open in virtual space while their real spaces were closed. The coronavirus crisis forced many public facilities to produce new, digital forms of serving the public and to communicate via the telematic media, because the old forms were not operating. Thus, through being obliged to enter the digital sphere it then became clear that today we possess many forms of public spheres.

While the ZKM’s real spaces remain closed, the ZKM stay open in the virtual space of the networks. From April 6 to May 1, 2020, Monday to Friday from 6 pm, the ZKM broadcast the »FEMINALE OF MUSIC: FEMALE COMPOSERS«, a digital festival to present female composers, from the 17th century to the present, with a changing live program that included interviews and concerts. The ZKM also »opened« the closed exhibition »« in virtual space at least twice a week presenting film screenings, talks with experts, and workshops. The ZKM was »on the air« and thus always open and freely accessible.

One returns to the old, analog world, and acts as though nothing has happened, back to business as usual. However, the coronavirus crisis has revealed the digital weaknesses of public institutions. One of many examples was the amateurish broadcast of the German Film Award 2020 ceremony, #lola20, in Berlin, by public service broadcaster ARD. The television people had no idea how to work with remote teletechnology.

Therefore, the upcoming exhibition »Critical Zones: Observatories for Earthly Politics« on the biggest issue of the present day and what we can do to see that Planet Earth remains habitable for humankind, will not only open on May 22 as a real exhibition, but importantly will also open with a virtual vernissage in digital space. From to May 22–24 there will be a Streaming Festival, from late afternoon until midnight. At this Festival the ZKM will present the contours of the museum’s future, and also the future of tele-vision. With a mix of recorded and live material, lectures and discussions with the audience, original contributions and films, we want to show that it is possible to transform the classic roundtable format of the real world into a virtual roundtable with mosaic-like interconnections. Dialogue between people who are present and others who are distant, between present and distant artworks, will characterize the experience of a new exhibition format and a new form of education. Private television channels claim »We want to entertain you,« which is actually a cynical euphemism for »We want to dumb you down.« To this the ZKM retaliates with a famous quote by the great German mathematician David Hilbert, who calls to us from beyond the grave: »We must know. We will know.«

The global shutdown has demonstrated to every one of us that the global system of life and the life of every single human being is in jeopardy. We need to mount an appropriate response to this. Thus artists and scientists will utilize the Critical Zones exhibition and its tele-vernissage to show »horizons for a future life lived in freedom, equality, and sisterhood.«

Peter Weibel