100 Objects: An Archive of Feelings
The cabinet of curiosities exploded! In spring and summer 2020, the Schwules Museum will turn the spotlight on its own collection. Following the example of the British Museum’s successful exhibit “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” we present the richness, diversity and fascination of our collection in 100 selected objects. This uncompromisingly queer collection – ranging from photographs to drag costumes, documents to paintings, books from 1629 to contemporary artistic positions – stands in for our collection of 1.5 million archival objects.
In recent years, the Schwules Museum has taken decisive steps towards presenting a more diverse program. This year, we begin to reflect on how these interventions have affected and will continue to affect how our collections: how we see them, understand them, and present them.
How can we queer what has been traditionally a very gay collection? How do we celebrate our holdings, and the great importance they have for so many in our community, and simultaneously think them critically and open them up to ways of think ways of thinking and knowing?
“100 Objects” presents our collections in a new way: not arranged according to specific identities or historical eras, but according to affects, or feelings. What does an object make us feel? How did its creators feel? Its original audiences?
Affects are difficult to localize. Forms of experience and knowledge that transcend familiar categories for conveying histories and experiences, they set our self-image and our history in motion.
These questions open up new ways of understanding our collections – from new acquisitions in art to classic Berlin drag costumes, and everything in between. This affective look at our collection brings to light objects and connections between objects that might otherwise escape chronologically and hierarchically ordered historiographies. It highlights singularities and new horizons, and discovers coincidences that open new doors to the world of queer things.
What affects, emotions, or feelings can be used to evoke queer lifeworlds? Is there a characteristic “queer” feeling? The psychologist Sylvan Tomkins once suggested that human behavior could be understood through eight or nine basic affects. Starting from this idea, we organize this exhibition around five crossing paths: desire, joy, care, anger, and fear.
This affective approach to our hundred objects means we remain open to surprises, to stories that have not yet been written down. This presentation is necessarily incomplete. It is an experiment, and an invitation to our visitors to experience queer history in all its vividness, and to rewrite it and to dream it forward.
Curation: Ben Miller & Dr. Peter Rehberg
Project management: Justus Heitzelmann
Project assistants: Ralf Hupke
Intern: Christian Savini