Staying in Line

Single objects in series

29 April 2016 - 28 May 2017

Series are omnipresent: in art, the production of series is a commonly encountered method; philosophers analyse the serial nature of our everyday life; mass consumption is based on serial production; crime series often focus on serial killers; and for “soap junkies”, TV series have replaced the novel. And what about anthropology? The exhibition “Staying in Line” explores the nature of series and shows why it is often worth viewing single pieces in a series.

Aztec deity figures, incarnations of the god Vishnu, masks from Papua New Guinea, you name it – our collections contain numerous examples of seemingly identical objects. It is only when you place them next to one another in a row that the differences show up. This wealth of variants contains information on style development and it can tell us something about social conventions and ritual protocols. But often it merely reflects the pleasure of creating subtle aesthetic nuances or the desire for singularity on the part of the maker. Producing the details that make the difference is a matter of creative skill. In the end, no two pieces are exactly alike.