Lecturer Csilla Ariese attended the workshop ‘Humboldt Futures’ in Berlin (11-12 January 2024) together with invited German, Dutch and international cultural heritage professionals, artists, and immersive media creators. The goal: to brainstorm disruptive hybrid (physical + digital) interventions into the controversial Humboldt Forum, containing among others the ethnographic museum. The Humboldt Forum is deeply contested both in terms of the reconstructed building as well as the institutions it contains. There are issues of accessibility, sustainability, decolonization, purpose, restitution, transparency and trauma. A solution is yet to be found, although some have been proposed and are still under consideration.
During the workshop, we worked in teams on brainstorming interventions which AI curator Thomas Haferlach illustrated on the spot through Stable Diffusion. At the end, we pitched the interventions to governmental and diplomatic representatives. My team worked on ‘Atlantis’: a rehearsal simulation in the virtual realm to cut the whole island of the Humboldt Forum free, set it afloat across the world bringing objects home, and ultimately sinking into an artificial reef. A virtual rehearsal to prepare for the end of the Forum’s permanence in the physical realm. A pipe dream?
The three other teams also pitched hybrid interventions. Accessing the building through doors representing different emotions as different perspectives into the building. A game machine that would let you explore different contextual perspectives from which a single object could be understood and then debating this with avatar chat bots. A physical box that people would receive at home, giving them access to a co-creative online platform which would be in constant flux.
And where to next? Will any of these brainstormed interventions grow into something concrete? The workshop organizers, Hybrid Space Lab and gamelab.berlin are committed to seeing if there is potential to continue developing any - or a mix of parts - of these ideas together with the Humboldt Forum and whether funding can be found. Maybe there will be a hackathon as a next step. In the meantime, participants will stay in touch and keep the conversation going, play around with the AI image generator bot, and in any case meet again in December 2024 during the Immersive Tech Week, Rotterdam.