Witte de With: Alexandre Singh

The Humans

Rotterdam, NL
Type: Exhibition Architecture

Commissioned by Defne Ayas, Witte de With

The Humans

  • Exhibition Designed by Studio Miessen
  • Project Leader: Markus Miessen, Diogo Passarinho
  • Production Team: Paul Van Gennip
  • Photography by Bob Goedewaagen

Taking its cue from the history of Witte de With’s building, originally erected as a girls’ school in 1875, and later renovated into a technical school in the 1970’s, the Berlin-based collaborative agency Studio Miessen has developed a multitude of reflexive spaces that punctually intervene and activate specific areas across the this 19th century construction. Through these interventions, spread over two floors and at the entrance, a space has been created that reflects the structures used in the educational system to structure an open and flexible space.

The redesigned entrance invited visitors into the new foyer, which utilized the new identity of the Witte de with design by APFEL (A Practice for Everyday Life). A wall mounted grey metal structure announced the constant programmatic changes, offering different possibilities of display with mobile and interchangeable panels panels, and elicits an ephemeral and ever-changing condition.

Hidden on the first floor, visitors occasionally encountered “the consensus area”, a temporal dark space behind a white curtain roll that functioned as a shared space for social gatherings and events. Furnished with simple wood bench structures and a white fading smoke ceiling that rejuvenates every hour, the space echoed the structure of a hidden apse. Playing with the historical relationship between religious structures and educational systems, the room’s atmosphere was eerily similar to a religious setting for sacrilege and profanity.

Continuing the journey up into the exhibition floor, the visitor encountered two main spaces divided by the new reception front. Both spaces were configured to allow different activities to occur alongside the Alexandre Singh exhibition. Drawing upon both the historical identity of the building as an educational institution and keeping in mind the conceptual framework of the exhibition and future events, the spaces were arranged to reflect the complex relationship (or to create a productive tension) between an art work and the specific environment in which it was contained.

The first space housed a massive bleacher covered with astroturf;. Underneath this structure, an archival space containing publications and video displays was built, producing an environment that felt simultaneously public and hidden. The back of the room also contained a reading table that allowed visitors to have a more intimate experience with Singh´s work.

In the second main space stood a multi-purpose yellow monolith. This giant modular cube consisting of sixty-four separate blocks was constantly mutating in accordance to a series of events taking place in 2012, including Singh’s Causeries. This educational rehearsal space was wrapped by a grey blackboard stripe painted on the wall.

These new settings provided a tailored, yet open platform to stage and host discursive events, bringing the many different artists and projects closer to the audience and offering a versatile means to reflect on artistic creation.