Portalban, in the line of sight of the Neuchâtel Observatory

The association “EspaceTemps”, which wants to safeguard the scientific heritage of the former Neuchâtel Observatory, inaugurated the renovated Portalban calibration sight this afternoon. For the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo, it is a 1st category marker of the national triangulation, for drawing up the map of the country. But let’s go back to 1861, when this calibration sight had another function…

Report on the television channel CanalAlpha (in French)

Calibration sight of Portalban to calibrate the meridian telescope of the Neuchâtel Observatory. It was renovated during the year 2020 by the EspaceTemps Association.

Torn Island – A spatial audio experience

Design: Kossmanndejong
Article on Dutch Design Dayli

This story unfolds in the dunes of the Dutch island Texel in a bunker from World War II that has recently been acquired by the Aviation & War Museum Texel.

Visitors crawl into the minds of Georgian soldiers, five days after their bold and bloody uprising. Having to admit failure, they decided it is every man for himself now. In this unique spatial audio experience you listen to the echo of a past that divides the island until today.

Michel de Vaan (lead designer): “This was a chance for us to design a narrative space that uses 3D audio as its only tool. It communicates the story in a very personal manner, but it is also the means to immerse visitors. Most importantly, leaving almost no visual elements allows for visitors to use the most versatile of media: their own minds.”

To create an audio drama that feels authentic, Kossmanndejong collaborated with professional actors and podcast-makers. Wandering through the bunker you will hear different dialogues between people who were in the bunker that day and you will get to understand their dilemma’s. Through a multi-dimensional sound system with very precise geo-tracking you will hear changes in direction and volume depending on where you walk

Bunker Vlijt Texel. Luchtvaart Museum Texel. Photo’s Thijs Wolzak

Introduction Central European Time in Switzerland

In the 19th century, every town in Switzerland had a different time!
Article in L’Illustré, “Le changement d’heure, quelle histoire!”, October 2018

Graphic published in a supplement to the “Berner Tagblatt” on 3 June 1894 about the introduction of Central European Time (Mitteleuropäische Zeit, M.E.Z.) in Switzerland two days earlier. While the watch in the centre is at noon… © Berner Heim/Swiss National Library

There was a time when there was, for example, a difference of 1 minute and 57 seconds between Geneva and Lausanne, 3 minutes and 8 seconds with Neuchâtel, 4 minutes and 1 second with Fribourg and 4 minutes and 50 seconds with Sion. As Jakob Messerli, Director of the Museum of History in Berne, writes in an article on time measurement, “In the mid-19th century, mechanical clocks were still set throughout the country according to sundials. The creation of the federal state in 1848 did not lead to any unification of time measurement systems and each Swiss locality continued to have its own time. With a difference of 18 minutes between the extreme points of the territory, from east (Val Müstair) to west (canton of Geneva)”. It was the installation of the telegraph network in 1852 that sounded the death knell for the coexistence of different times in the territory. The acceleration of communications required a unified system. In 1853, the Federal Council adopted the Berne mean time for all postal and telegraphic traffic. From 1860 onwards, this time was set daily by the Neuchâtel Observatory. In the second half of the 19th century, the railways also aligned themselves with Berne time, which became the national standard and Berne, the time capital of the country, in the second half of the 19th century. Yes, we were living on Berne time without always suspecting it. And for those who were indifferent to the clock stories, we can still hold on to the timeless Latin saying: “If you want to put a price on days, don’t count the hours!”.

Dennis Severs’House “Museum”

Immersive experience to live with all 5 senses, in the heart of London!

© Dennis Severs’House

Its creator was Dennis Severs, an artist who used his visitors’ imaginations as his canvas and who lived in the house in much the same way as its original occupants might have done in the early 18th Century. This he did for his own personal enjoyment as well as for the harvest of an atmosphere, which he then employed to provide the visitor with an extraordinary experience. To enter its door is to pass through a frame into a painting, one with a time and life of its own.

The game is that you interrupt a family of Huguenot silk weavers named Jervis who, though they can still sometimes be heard, seem always to be just out of sight. As you journey off into a silent search through the ten rooms, each lit by fire and candlelight, you receive a number of stimulations to your senses.

It is the smell of food that first aligns your imagination with the faces around you in portraits. Then… Mr. Jervis’ wig, is it not the very same one that hangs over the back of his chair? His meal is only half eaten; did he abandon it when he heard us arrive?

Visitors begin to do what they might if indeed they had travelled through a frame into a painting: use what they sense to piece together the scene they had missed. Thus, and this was Mr Severs’ intention, what you imagine… is his art.

It’s fun and now after almost thirty five years the experience ranks as one of the rarest in the world. David Hockney once rated its effect as standing amongst those of the world’s great opera experiences. Mr Severs spent a lifetime peering past sitters in paintings in search of the light and moods that lie in the air of Other Times. Sharing what he found and created here is what a visit to the house is all about. A rare thing to experience first hand: the warm, smoky light captured by the Old Masters; the creak of footsteps on wood; whispers and opening doors; arresting reflections, mixtures, textures and smells; the ticking and chiming of clocks; a cat and a canary. All this Mr Severs gave while at the same time encircling it with a picture he painted with recorded sound of a larger 18th Century world brooding outside its perimeter. Spellbinding… and at its core something very rare: soul, the bonding warmth of a generous family’s presence.

The experience is conducted in silence. Its level is poetic and unlike anything, so works best on those who are endowed, willing and able to meet it halfway. The house’s motto is “you either see it, or you don’t”. Post-materialist, it seeks to remind the visitor of a specific thing: what we cannot see is essential to what we do.

Be warned, it is a mistake to trivialise or pigeonhole the experience into any of the mothball camps: “heritage”, “local history”, “antiques”, “lifestyle” or “museum”. A visit requires the same style of concentration as does an exhibition of Old Masters.

Dennis Severs called his unique spectators sport “still-life drama”, and his goal was to provide his visitors with a rare moment in which to become as lost in another time as they appear to be in their own. He proved that the formula amounts to the same in any time, that getting caught up in it all is what we call “now”.

The Smithsonian’s IPOP Exhibition Framework: Lessons for a Human-Centered Content Approach

Digital Gov, Dec 8. 2016

One of the great challenges in designing a product — digital or otherwise — is stepping outside yourself and climbing into the minds of your users. You love the wonderful new app you’ve designed, but will it appeal to others? Fortunately, the field of user experience design (UX) gives us tools to understand our users through surveys, interviews, card sorting, and user testing.

The Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Policy and Analysis has another tool to consider for your UX toolbox: IPOP. IPOP is model of experience preference created by Smithsonian behavioral scientists led by Andrew Pekarik, in collaboration with Professor James B. Schreiber of Duquesne University. It was formed to guide exhibition design, and born from years of research studies and interviews with Smithsonian visitors. Though created specifically for museums and physical exhibitions, IPOP is useful for anyone wanting to widen appeal and engagement.

IPOP is a useful framework for building a content strategy and thinking about audience diversity and preference differences. The model names four dimensions of experience. Individuals are drawn to each dimension in varying degrees and usually have a dominant preference among the four:

  • I: Ideas — an attraction to concepts, abstractions, linear thought, facts and reasons;
  • P: People — an attraction to emotion, human connection, affective experience, stories, and social interactions;
  • O: Objects — an attraction to things, aesthetics, craftsmanship, use, ownership, and visual language; and
  • P: Physical — an attraction to somatic sensations, including movement, touch, sound, taste, light, and smell.

Taking the public’s expectations into account

Jérôme Delgado
Article on Le Devoir, 21 October 2017 (in French)

The Canadian Museum of History is working on renewing the visitor experience through its three creative development specialists. Photo: Marie-Andrée Blais

Jean-François Léger recognises this from the outset: he has a “special profession”, in view of the world in which he works, that of museums. Indeed, he presents himself as a “specialist in creative development”.
However, it is not surprising that he should become an example to follow, when the development – or “renewal” – of audiences remains an obsession in the cultural world.
His work focuses on the visitor experience or, as this man of communication expresses it in his pictorial language, his role is to be the “visitor’s spokesperson” to the museum team. He tries to tame the “beast” that is an exhibition, but also works on web projects and publications.
Working for the Canadian Museum of History since the time when it was still called the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Jean-François Léger seeks “to create unique, stimulating and innovative experiences. His hobby is not technological gadgets, but a theory based on “public preferences”. His four preferences, to be precise.

The IPOP model

This theory is known by the acronym IPOP and has been developed since 2010 by Andrew J. Pekarik of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. It is based on the premise that museum visitors are challenged along four axes: ideas, people (and their stories), objects, and somatic and sensory experiences (including interactive and immersive modules). The letters IPOP, not to be confused with hip-hop, stand for “idea”, “people”, “object” and “physical”.
“Originally, the idea of preferences was developed as a way of rethinking the diversity of audiences [and helping] exhibition designers to accept that their own preferences […] influence programmes designed for visitors,” summarise Andrew Pekarik’s IPOP presentation notes.
“We tend to think of our own reactions as those of the visitors. It’s not a bad thing for a museum curator to bring what he feels as a human being,” admits Jean-François Léger, but he believes that we need to be able to take better account of the public’s preferences.
This is the precept defended by the IPOP theory. The specialist from the Canadian Museum of History spoke about it at the most recent symposium of the Société des musées québécois (SMQ), held at the end of September.
Jean-François Léger does not claim, even though he is the voice of the public, that the public determines what is exhibited, and how it is exhibited.
We take the main idea of the exhibition, we develop the message, we think about the tour route, we propose a scenario,” explains Léger, who says he works with a whole team. We want to know how to introduce the subject, how to attract the public to the objects, how to surprise them. »
The texts in the rooms, he gives as an example, are among the things he and others evaluate. You have to think about who is speaking, you have to define the voice of the museum and those of the other participating parties. “When you put on an exhibition, you are interested in who speaks,” he says.

From one voice to another

In other words, just because we listen to the public does not mean that we do not pay attention to what the designers of an exhibition want to express.
Anyone who has looked at a wide variety of subjects, from religion to voodoo to Inuit drawings, acknowledges that he or she does not control the public’s choices. “Not at all,” he insists. He was surprised by the surprising responses from children at the exhibition on religion – God(s), instructions for use (2011-2012) – while the comments from adults seemed stereotypical to him. Later, during the Vodou exhibition (2012-2014), he saw how the video testimony of an animist priest demystified the object on display next door. Jean-François Léger says he has learned a lot from these past experiences. He assures that knowing what attracts people helps to think better afterwards about how the whole thing will be put together. But that, from one time to the next, the exercise needs to be repeated.
So an exhibition will not be better because it has all the treasures of the world, believes Jean-François Léger, nor because it completely meets the public’s expectations. You have to be attentive to what the visitor is looking for, but you also have to make sure that he or she is surprised.
He also insists on the teamwork involved in creating an exhibition. The main challenge, he says, is to stimulate the creativity of all visitor experiences, whether cognitive, sensory or emotional.
While the model developed in Washington is enthusiastically adopted by Jean-François Léger, this is not necessarily the case for all his colleagues and fellow members. Including at the Canadian Museum of History, where three of them are specialists in creative development. A still rare profession whose approach has yet to be implemented.

Why you should make useless things

Simone Giertz on Ted Talks

In this joyful, heartfelt talk featuring demos of her wonderfully wacky creations, Simone Giertz shares her craft: making useless robots. Her inventions — designed to chop vegetables, cut hair, apply lipstick and more — rarely (if ever) succeed, and that’s the point. “The true beauty of making useless things [is] this acknowledgment that you don’t always know what the best answer is,” Giertz says. “It turns off that voice in your head that tells you that you know exactly how the world works. Maybe a toothbrush helmet isn’t the answer, but at least you’re asking the question.”

The Institute of the Cosmos: Museum and Timeline


Emma Willard, The Temple of Time, 1846.

The museum occupies a central place within the cosmist worldview as an institution dedicated to the preservation, conservation, and restoration of the past. It is a singular place in human society where a broken appliance, a damaged picture, a ceramic shard, or an unfinished poem are not discarded, but systematically preserved and maintained. The cosmist museum is encyclopedic and nonviolent. As a collection of everything, its mission is to restore life, not take it. Nikolai Fedorov writes that the museum is related to the school and the observatory. The ancestral memory it preserves in the form of artifacts, botanical specimens, animal and human remains is mirrored in the constellations of the stars. The museum is related to ancient temples and the knowledge it transmits is astronomical. According to Fedorov, the museum will be the site of resurrection once museological technologies of restoration are radicalized to restore life. “If a repository may be compared to a grave, then reading, or more precisely research, is a kind of exhumation, while an exhibition is, as it were, a resurrection.”[1]

The museum of the Institute of the Cosmos is comprised of an infinite number of rooms. Each room contains a permanent exhibit. We invite you to visit Room #12, containing an exhibition by Arseny Zhilyaev, signed by the algorithmic artist Robert Pasternak. The room presents a suite of sculptures devised by Robert Pasternak in the distant future, in an attempt to understand its origins, which are closer to our present time. Based on satellites, rockets and space stations developed during the early days of space exploration, these sculptures can be downloaded and printed on a 3D printer. 

More rooms will open in the near future, with projects by artists and curators including Victor Skersis, Jonas Staal, Ahmet Ögüt, Iman Issa, Pierre Huyghe, Bahar Noorizadeh, Nikolay Smirnov, Liam Gillick, Maha Maamun, Emilija Škarnulytė​, Oleksiy Radynski, Boris Groys and others.

The Timeline of Russian Cosmism is a chronological mapping of key developments in art, literature, poetry, science, politics, technology, philosophy and numerous other fields, as they pertain to cosmism. Researched and edited by Anastasia GachevaMarina SimakovaArseny Zhilyaev and Anton Vidokle, the timeline traces the influence of cosmist thought on culture and society, starting with the sighting of the comet 3d/Biela, which triggered the global panic of the 1820s, to the present day. The timeline is ongoing: more entries will be added expanding its content as we move into the future and rediscover the past.

[1] Nikolai Fedorov, The Museum, its Meaning and Mission, originally published in 1906

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Sep 4–Nov 30, 2020

In the 1920s, the historian of art and culture Aby Warburg (1866-1929) created his Bilderatlas Mnemosyne tracing recurring visual themes and patterns across time, from antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond to contemporary culture. His approach provides inspiration for today’s visually and digitally dominated world. At HKW all 63 panels of the Atlas will be recovered for the first time from Warburg’s original images.

Aby Warburg with Gertrud Bing and Franz Alber in front of Warburg’s panel design, Rome, Palace Hotel, May 1929

Aby Warburg studied the interplay of images from different periods and cultural contexts. He designed the Mnemosyne Atlas to provide a pictorial representation of the influences of the ancient world in the Renaissance and beyond. In its last documented version, the Atlas consisted of large black panels on which Warburg placed photographic reproductions of artworks from the Middle East, European antiquity and the Renaissance, alongside contemporary newspaper clippings and advertisements. In the years leading to his death in 1929, Warburg and his closest colleagues Gertrud Bing and Fritz Saxl experimented with the form and function of the Bilderatlas. Their goal was to present a publication designed for discussion among experts as well as the broader public. During the course of its creation, the Atlas developed into an instrument of cognition.

Aby Warburg, Bilderatlas Mnemosyne, panel 39 (recovered, detail) | Photo: Wootton / fluid; Courtesy The Warburg Institute

Warburg’s method set new standards: it consisted in rearranging canonized images and looking at them across epochs. His project traversed the boundaries between art history, philosophy and anthropology and was fundamental for the modern disciplines of visual and media studies. Today, his use of visual memory provides inspiration and alternative routes through a reality dominated by visual media.

The exhibition at HKW restores the last documented version of the 1929 Atlas almost completely with the original images. In collaboration with the Warburg Institute in London, the curators Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil have located most of the originals, some partly in color, 971 images from the 400,000 individual objects in the Institute’s Photographic Collection to show all 63 panels of Warburg’s unfinished magnum opus for the first time since his death. In addition, 20 unpublished large-scale photographs of panels that were previously only accessible in the Warburg Institute archives will be shown: Most of them made in autumn of 1928, they originated from the previous versions of the Atlas and are presented as large prints of the original black and white negatives.

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne | Exhibition view | © Silke Briel / HKW

The Warburg Institute

100 objects to represent the world

Peter Greenaway / Saskia Boddeke

In 1997 two spaceships were launched from Cape Kennedy containing material to represent life on earth. The ambition of the project was to make hypothetical contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence. The choice of material was subjective to an American, scientifically educated, 1970s community, with paternalistic attitude towards the rest of the world. But who consulted us? We were not asked to make a contribution and we must do something about this falsification, especially now as we approach the end of the second millennium, when everyone is making lists and taking stock of what has been achieved.

With a mixture of irony and seriousness, the filmmaker, artist and director has chosen to put together his own shopping list called 100 objects to represent the world. After presenting this 100 objects in an exhibition at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace in 1992, Greenaway now brings the objects to an audience instead of bringing the audience to the objects: in a completely new and theatrical setting, light, sound, voice and music will be part of a modern opera – a prop opera. The importance of the prop should not be underestimated in our own materialistic and icon-producing world. Can you imagine a Chicago Gangster Film without a gun?
But the objects to represent the world are not inanimate but are presented in a mixture of Machiavellian, galactic toy store and Faustian dream space.

The opera set is an installation that can be contemplated on stage also before and after the performance.

The 100 objects are presented in a sequential narrative by Thrope the Misanthrope, who guides us and Adam and Eve (two silent, naked actors) to show what mankind has really learned during the past millennium: from the comforts of domesticity and sentiment, through the delights and torments of sex, power and money, to the tragedies of war, disease, loss and death. This journey is to be traveled in 70 minutes, structured by Thrope’s spoken discourse. His dramatic performance is accompanied by the soundtrack of Jean-Baptiste Barrière (engineered at IRCAM Paris), making him a teacher, a pedant and persuader, a charlatan and preacher.