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Change of Scenery – An expedition through 30 years of the history of collecting

14. December 2015 – 30. May 2016

Hildegard Knef sang Ich brauch’ Tapetenwechsel sprach die Birke (I need a change of scenery said the birch) and since then has been writing her own lyrics. The term “Tapetenwechsel” is also used in everyday life when we are in need of a drastic change.

The special occasion is the Schwules Museum’s* 30th birthday.

“Tapetenwechsel” does not simply want to cover something, but it grasps at radical change – a change, however, that still provides only a new backdrop for the already existing inventory. This can provide a new view point, a different notion, not only for daily life but also in regard to questions of self-discovery, questions of theories and ideologies.

We are throwing the spotlight on our objects and liberate them from the archives. We are specifically interested in the story behind these objects: where did they come from, how did we purchase them, how did we save them from being forgotten, how did we develop different levels of meaning. On the one hand, the ordering principles are genres like photography, drawings, paintings, sculptures. On the other hand, the events of gay-lesbian history.

Even though, we have extended our spectrum of collecting in the last couple of years, our collection still mainly shows the culture and the history of gay men. It takes time, patience and luck to build up a collection. It especially takes people who want to secure their own history, who completely engage themselves with the adventure of collecting, get thrilled by the process. Recently, there have been more and more lesbian women who add lesbian history to the collective basis of the Schwules Museum*. This is what can also be called a “Tapetenwechsel”.

To collect something means accumulating a large amount of things, consuming them, using them. We collect things that we find interesting, and gather them because of their beauty or similar characteristics. We ask for donations to add to our things; to build up a collection. Collecting is a process of accumulating a lot of things over a given period of time.

This is what happened over the last 30 years. In the beginning, there was only a desire to document gay history. Archives were holding objects that just seemed to wait to be finally appreciated. The significance of lesbian or gay history has often been denied, repressed or has only been addressed very briefly. For that reason it is important to absorb these objects and to take them in possession, despite resistance.

Exhibiting establishes contacts and rhizomes. Objects emerged: from artists, in antiquarian bookshops, at auctions and flea markets. Even our visitors gave objects to the museum. And lovers of the arts helped us with one or the other purchase. The artists, who we featured in the museum, were asked to donate at least one of their pieces. The curators also collected pieces, money was always tight, which is why we had to let go several important exhibits. Now, after 30 years it is time for a review.