Helmut Völter: V&A Goethe Photography Resident finishes at the V&A

September 28, 2016

We have just said goodbye to our V&A Goethe Photography Resident Helmut Völter, this was a residency in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut London. Helmut has spent six months working at the V&A, exploring our galleries, stores and objects and working with various people across the Museum to gain insight into our collection to broaden his own areas of interest.

Helmut Völter is a graphic designer and artist from Berlin.  In his work, he combines research with the authorship and design of books and exhibitions. His interest lies on the role of photographic images within history, media, art and science. The double character of scientific images as rational evidence and aesthetic objects often form the starting point of his work.






Work in Progress, Helmut’s Studio

During his residency, Helmut wanted to develop a series of displays about the diversity of ways to look at a photograph. Helmut curated a series of displays to coincide with London Design Festival at the V&A. These displays were centred around photographs from the V&A’s collection, displayed in ‘constellations’ – a combination with other images and objects that highlight and comment different aspects of the photograph.

The design of the displays used furniture and spaces within the Museum that are not usually used for the display of photographs. This followed the idea that the constellations are like essays—experiments to explore the multiple meanings of images, but also experiments with their aesthetic potential.

The first display was The Cabinets, in the Prince Consort Gallery or the Lunchroom of the V&A. This space was previously used to house parts of the textile archive, but is now used as a lunchroom for schools and families who visit the V&A. The large room is lined with beautiful mahogany cabinets built in the 1950s . Their initial function as an archive inspired Helmut to playfully revive the era when photographs were physical objects, and not just digital data. The Cabinets was displayed from September 17 – 23, as part of London Design Festival.


Cabinet 54, Remember, and Cabinet 44, Move

Helmut also curated Reading Proposition, a one-day installation for the London Design Festival at the National Art Library alongside a conversation with Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A, about his research and residency at the V&A.


Here, Helmut once again used his surroundings to display objects from the collection in new and interesting ways, creating ‘constellations’ of photographs, prints and drawings from the V&A collection. He displayed a variety of objects on two tables in the National Art Library. The first table had the title Pictures of Plants. It conveyed different ways and ideas of how plants were represented by scientists as well as by artists. The second table was about Writing. Helmut selected images that show that writing does not only mean conveying a message, but that it is also a gesture and the creation of a form.

Finally, for Helmut’s conversation with Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A,  they spoke about his residency and his work. During his residency, Helmut spent a lot of time in the Photograph’s stores researching our collections with various members of staff. These investigations have led to new categories in which to view our objects and display combinations that may not have been previously considered.

We wish Helmut all the best and are sure we will see him again in the near future!

In collaboration with the Goethe-Institut London

About the author

September 28, 2016

I am the Residency Programme Assistant at the V&A, managing our artists in residence and their studios. I also project manage many events, displays and installations run by our Learning...

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