Over the last four and a half decades, Lothar Baumgarten has drawn wide acclaim and respect for his powerful body of work centred on ethnography and anthropology. Using a broad range of media—from ephemeral sculptures, photography, slide projections, 16 mm film works, recordings, drawings, prints, books and short stories to site-specific installations, wall drawings and architecture-related interventions—he questioned the core ideas and systems of representation.
The exhibition derives its title from the artwork Unsettled Objects (1968–1969), made up of 81 slides of artefacts from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford shown on a carousel projector. Through an interplay between text and image, Baumgarten’s work makes visible how European and Western museums present and store their so-called ethnological and anthropological ‘treasures’. Considered an early part of the art historical movement known as ‘institutional critique’, the verbs and adverbs written on the slides call into question, sometimes subtly and at other times more pointedly, not only the contents of the images but also the methods of classification, categorisation and conservation that institutions use to hold these varied histories of the so-called ‘Other’.