There is a thin line between danger and protection: Guardian angels and supernatural powers, education and coercion, freedom and commitment, refuge and migration can all play a decisive role in children’s weal and woe. What kind of protection is appropriate for each individual child? With around 160 carefully selected objects from the collections of Berlin museums, the exhibition highlights various aspects of protecting children.
The way social groups and cultures relate to children is a strong indicator of the bonds that hold them together. In Europe children were long considered miniature forms of grown people, essentially as small adults. This fundamental idea has recently been turned on its head to the extent that not only are adults permitted to act like children, they are actually encouraged to do so. In both past and present there were and are contradictory notions of what constitutes “normal” behaviour.
There are similar tensions surrounding the primary function of adults in caring for children: their role as protectors. Since time immemorial there has been a basic consensus that children must receive sufficient nutrition and learn about the demands of the adult world through play. Yet these requirements are a long way from being satisfied in many regions of the world – often they are rendered impossible due to external conditions or family strife.
What kind of protection is appropriate for each individual child? Even where protection can be guaranteed, there is a danger it will lead to too many restrictions. This quandary is particularly apparent in the extreme situation of people being forced to flee their homes. Even in times of peace and plenty, there is a thin line between danger, protection and “protective control”. Education and coercion, freedom and commitment, refuge and migration can all play a decisive role in children’s weal and woe. This triple set of conditions are symbolically reflected in rituals, objects and myths of supernatural forces and powers.
With around 160 carefully selected objects from the collections of Berlin museums as well as contemporary works of art, the exhibition highlights various aspects of protecting children. We find contributions from the Antikensammlung, the Ethnologisches Museum, the Museum Europäischer Kulturen and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, along with the Botanischen Garten and Botanisches Museum Berlin and the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin.
The “Mini-Shop” in the exhibition is an ongoing art platform by Chinese artist 嘉 Jia. It brings together Yi children of the Liangshan Orphanage School in Sichuan with people outside the orphanage. The children have donated their own art works to the Mini-Shop project from among the works they most prize. You can receive a child’s art work of your choosing, if you replace it with a prized object of your own to offer the children. The art project is named after pop-up stores found throughout China, selling sweets and toys along with household goods. They appeal particularly to children, who often gather at outlets located between school and home. Get involved and visit Jia's website!⠀
“Watch Out: Children! Protected. Loved. Threatened.” is the Humboldt Forum’s second exhibition under the aegis of the Steering Committee’s three members, Neil MacGregor, Hermann Parzinger and Horst Bredekamp. The exhibition exemplifies the Humboldt Forum’s cooperative approach, illustrating ideas and themes which will be of key importance to the Humboldt Forum of the future: culture, nature, migration, religion and globalization. The Humboldt Forum is aiming to communicate cutting-edge scholarship in an interdisciplinary and interactive manner. The contents of the exhibition will be augmented by discussions, talks, tours and workshops held in a range of languages.