HZK / CARMAH Colloquium:

The Museum as a Choir: Visitor Reactions to the Multivocality at the Humboldt Forum’s ‘Berlin Global’

2 pm / Kurssaal im Gerlachbau, Campus Nord Haus 3 | Philippstr. 13 // and online

The colloquium will take place in a hybrid format.
Access data for the video conference / Zoom-link will be provided on request by email to oliver.zauzig@hu-berlin.de.

This talk will provide insights into the research project ‘Realizations and Reception in the Humboldt Forum,’ based at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. With ethnographic audience research at its root, the project explored how visitors engaged with the Humboldt Forum and its exhibitions during the first weeks of the institution’s operation. The talk will focus on some of the findings related to audience experiences of multivocality as employed in the exhibition ‘Berlin Global.’
For the creators of ‘Berlin Global,’ the presentation of various perspectives was important from the very start. Sharon Macdonald (2022), who carried out fieldwork at the different stages of the exhibition’s making, writes that the curators ‘used the notion of multiperspectivity to emphasise how diversely Berlin may be experienced.’ The 2016 version of the concept of ‘Berlin Global’ also uses the words ‘multiperspectivity’ (Multiperspektivität) and ‘diversity’ (Vielfalt) in order to explain the principal idea behind the exhibition. The catalogue speaks of the exhibition as ‘an insight into Berlin’s diversity,’ an opportunity to show that ‘there is only one Berlin with its unique history, yet there are endless opinions, experiences and perspectives on the city and its issues’ (Leimbach and van Dülmen 2021: 5). The strategy for doing so has been to ‘let different voices speak,’ as the authors put it (Leimbach and van Dülmen 2021: 5).
This kind of multiperspectivity has to do first and foremost with the diversity of stories and personal experiences demonstrated in an exhibition space. However, these voices––even when they, guided by subjective experiences, sound somewhat differently––often sing in unison. The choir, while needing and welcoming multivocality, tends to have a strict selection process, excluding voices that sing even slightly out of tune. Is ‘consensual multiperspectivity’ (Cento Bull, Hansen and Colom-González 2021)––a representation of voices that sing more or less in unison––always the best option? When do we need ‘radical multiperspectivity’ (Cento Bull et al. 2021), one that unsettles and challenges us? And crucially, how do visitors relate to these different types of multiperspectivity?