It’s All in How it’s Packaged

Those of you who know my sculpture Jessica working on Torpedo--Xiaolu photo IMG_4933                                                know that I’ve been a bit label-obsessed for the last couple of years. Well, actually make that for the last 30 years, when I started collecting sardine and olive oils cans: IMG_3241   IMG_3242 IMG_20140407_100300849 (close up of my kitchen wall) So how incredibly great that I got to visit two label-intensive museums in a row during my recent travels to Germany. Heidelberg houses the very quirky yet tidy Museum of Packaging, IMG_0857 (I ask you: does this ad make you want to run out and buy a Frigidaire?) a private collection of ads and brand labeling, mostly from the past hundred years. All kinds of commercially packaged products are on display, from soda to cigarettes to dish detergent. The best aspect of the presentation is the social commentary that one can deduce by seeing the evolution of labeling styles of a particular product ( such as Nivea hand cream–and darn–I was so enthralled by the evolution of Nivea that I forgot to pull out my camera) since its inception to current times.

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Much, much older labeling and packaging can be seen at the Heidelberg Apothecary (and Alchemy) Museum. IMG_0809  IMG_20150403_070946157_HDR

Magnificent cabinets of tinctures, brightly and ornately painted hand blown bottles, majolica-glazed ceramics vessels to hold the various ingredients for medicines, room after room devoted to the magical, mystical art of healing. You’d start to feel better just LOOKING at these pill bottles…

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And, this may be off topic, but the Alchemy room!  Every manner of metal and glass stills, each one a sculpture in its own right, and en masse–oh, swoon! IMG_0824 IMG_0826 IMG_0835 Before closing out–I want to circle back to product labels. A wonderful visit to Seligmann Bauer’s House in the Jewish Museum in Trebic, Czech Republic had the unexpected bonus of a beautiful display of 1940’s packaging in the poignantly preserved general store of Mr. Bauer. IMG_1130  IMG_1131 IMG_1137

I would definitely buy bobbins even if i didn’t need them if they came in this box!

Is there a wee bit of irony that this post comes from someone who is known to rant against the current obsession with marketing and “branding”? Ah! But this is different!

Historic, Haunting Eastern State Penitentiary

For those of you who pining for a very unusual and moving site visit closer to home (OK, I’m making an assumption a lot of my readers are from Boston) you could visit the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia while I am visiting medieval crypts in Germany. This 1800’s prison, is now a Beautiful Ruins and has been open to the public since 1994.  It is for this institution that the term “penitentiary” (meaning prison) was coined. The revolutionary wagon wheel structurephiladelphia 085 of the architecture was designed to house inmates in solitary cells (a Quaker based idea, considered a forward thinking, humane notion at the time!). The theory was that alone with their own thoughts, inmates would  meditate on their misdeeds and become penitent. On the bright side each inmate was encouraged to spend time outdoors for recreation and gardening. Corporal punishment was banned and, amazingly, Eastern State Penitentiary had central heating, running water and flush toilets in the cells before the White House did!

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Besides the incredibly evocative ruins that one can walk through

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this historic site runs a very interesting, dare I say, QUIRKY, artist opportunity. Artists can apply to do an art installation occupying one of cells. There are about four installations up at a time. Here’s a couple:

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In the above installation the entire interior surface of the cell, walls and furniture are covered with knitted fabric)

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This was an absolutely riveting installation: a video projection of a trans inmate describing her heartbreaking experience in prison.

(Sorry, I did not note the names of these artists so cannot give them credit here. I anyone knows, please tell me and I’ll add that in)

I keep mulling over proposal ideas in my head. Perhaps one of you will be tempted to submit a proposal. Let me know if you do. Next deadline for submission of proposals: June 17, 2015.

OK, next blog post (assuming I can figure out how to do by phone) will be from Germany–the much anticipated Ossuary trip.