Thursday, 3 April 2014




Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a Kraftwerk concert at the Sony Centre in Toronto. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this influential band, they emerged from the experimental German music scene in the 1970s. Founding members, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, first met at the Dusseldorf Conservatory while studying classical music. What makes Kraftwerk  (meaning "power station") such a relevant and pioneering musical group, is their artistic development of early minimalist electronic music. Self-described as “Robot Pop”, their combined fascination and fear of technology has defined their identity for decades. 

"The Robots" & "Radio Activity", Kraftwerk 1978

Kraftwerk 3D Glasses, photo by Jaime Clifton-Ross

Their experimental performance art pieces explore the use and development of technologies, such as computers, calculators, robots, mass transportation, and spaceships, to name a few. Their identity is strategically crafted through their LP cover art, promotional materials, live performances, stage props, and their instrumentation. Another definitive aspect of their identity is their emergence as children of Nazi Germany. In an effort to reconstruct German identity and to distance their generation from the destructive fascist past of Germany, they celebrated the development and acceleration of technology. Their musical themes alleviated anxieties associated with the perceived domination of futurist robotics through playful humour concerning the oddities of technologies. Even after 45 years of artistic production, Kraftwerk continues to embrace new technologies by exploring technological progression and its effects on human civilization. Their live performances incorporate mesmerizing 3D visuals and lighting that illustrate imagery associated with their music. They ultimately reaffirm their conceptual principles by recreating their music using modern technologies.

"Computer Love"

Kraftwerk Imagery

You must be wondering how Kraftwerk relates to museums? Well first and foremost, the progression of technology is incredibly relevant to the future of museum development. This is apparent through the integration of 3D printing and maker-culture, mobile applications, and extensive digital collections with museum culture. And secondly, the MOMA hosted a series of live performances in their museum that explored the “sonic and visual experiments” of Kraftwerk through “a live presentation of their complete repertoire”(MOMA website). As described on the event webpage, “this reinterpretation showcases Kraftwerk’s historical contributions to and contemporary influence on global sound and image culture” (MOMA website).

Do you believe that technology has a place within museums? What technologies do you associate with progression? In what ways does electronic music embody elements of human progression and experimentation? Please share your thoughts. :)

1 comment:

  1. What a great story about yet another type of objects which should or should not make it into museums! I am so happy that you and your colleagues here at the iSchool experience the museum world at a time when some of the main issues discussed in cultural institutions are about what objects matter. The fact that these questions are asked in a post-modern context where boundaries between categories of taste are so blurred and messy makes our work more difficult but also so much more fun and complex.