(to) stage * (be) aware * (to) wear

How do you feel about fashion? And what does sustainability mean to you? With the STAGEAWEAR project, three students of the "Sustainable Design" course at the ecosign/Akademie für Gestaltung want to overcome the supposed gap between young people and museums.
STAGEAWEAR provides insights into the lifeworlds of young people: Who are they? What's on their minds? What do they define themselves by? For this purpose, a part of the section "The Body as Stage" in our permanent exhibition was revised. Here it is shown that people all over the world use clothing, accessories and body adornments to provide information about the position they have or would like to have within their community. Carmen Servos, Leonie Hogefeld and Sarah Menzer have expanded this presentation with the interactive part STAGEAWEAR. Visitors to our permanent exhibition can actively participate in the project and share their thoughts, wishes and opinions. In addition, favourite songs can be added to the STAGEAWEAR playlist on our Youtube channel.

STAGEAWEAR is a student project of ecosign/Akademie für Gestaltung with the RJM as part of the thematic series "Rethink Fashion!" in cooperation with Integrationshaus e.V. with photographer Fadi Elias. Sponsored by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland.


From 7 March 2024

The Recognition Machine

Who are the people looking back at us from the photos in our collection? What does the colonial past have to do with each and every one of us? The RJM holds around 100,000 photographs from all over the world. Many were taken and collected in the context of the colonial appropriation of countries. Based on external characteristics, their inhabitants were inserted into racist orders. This created or reinforced prejudices that still have an impact today.

The "Recognition Machine" focuses on the often unknown and involuntarily photographed people in the photos and questions classification and evaluation systems: Using facial recognition software, the image that visitors take in the machine is analysed and linked to a portrait from the colonial era. This is based on the FER2013 AI model, which has been trained to recognise emotions. The Recognition Machine was fed with hundreds of photos from the RJM and other European museums. The artists also scrutinise modern surveillance systems. Facial recognition is widely used today, but is often imprecise and biased: The categorisation according to emotions in the Recognition Machine is just as questionable as the classification of people into supposed ethnic groups.

In 2019, Belgian artist Antje Van Wichelen was a guest at the RJM for the Artist Meets Archive scholarship programme of the International Photoscene Cologne. During her stay, she delved deep into the museum's historical photo archive. Together with programmer Michael Murthaugh, she developed the "Recognition Machine" and exhibited it for the first time in 2019 in the "NOISY IMAGES" exhibition at the RJM. The work was exhibited at the Dakar Biennale in 2022. Now it can be experienced permanently in the museum.

With photographs from the archives of the following institutions:
Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, Wereldculturen Museum (Netherlands), Musée du Quai Branly (France), Africamuseum Tervuren (Belgium), Pitt Rivers Museum (United Kingdom)

Realised with the support of Moussem Nomadic Arts Center (Brussels) and nadine - laboratory for contemporary arts (Brussels)


28 May to 1 September 2024

Mothers of the Resistance. At Iran's graves

In 2024, the RJM will be focussing on Iran. ‘Mothers of the Resistance. At Iran's Graves’ tells the personal stories of Iranian mothers who have been fighting for years for justice for their children murdered by the Iranian government. An emotional memorial with works by the Iranian artist and mother of resistance Shole Pakravan and the Iranian artist ICEFLOWER, supplemented with films and interviews.
The intervention gives a voice to the so-called justice-seeking mothers from Iran whose children were killed by forces of the Islamic Republic during various protests against the Iranian government. This term was coined after the Aban protests in 2019, during which hundreds of people were executed within a few days. The mothers of the murdered children organised themselves, went viral with their stories and joined forces. These women are demanding justice for their murdered children through their protests, by taking part in rallies and meeting together at the graves. The perpetrators should finally be identified and held accountable for their actions. The Islamic government is afraid of the grieving mothers and wants to silence them through torture, long prison sentences, fines and lashes.
Iranian artist Shole Pakravan lost her daughter Reyhaneh Jabbari when she was executed before the eyes of the world in 2014. With the 25 small wooden sculptures, Shole Pakravan created representatives for the mothers of the resistance, some of whom lost up to six of their children at the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The installation makes the stories of the mothers of resistance and their children visible and audible. Visitors can read them and listen to them via audio installations. The actors Jasmin Tabatabai, Jasmin Schwiers, Elmira Raifzadeh, Lisa Biehl, Caroline Schreiber, Julia Philippi and Naghmeh Alaei tell their stories. The watercolours by Iranian artist ICE FLOWER are part of the installation and show portraits of the children who were killed. An accompanying film shows clips of funerals, demonstrations and meetings of the mothers of resistance.

A project by the free_human initiative in Cologne in co-operation with the RJM.

RJM reloaded #1
Intervention by Nando Nkrumah

In our first “RJM reloaded”, the Cologne artist Nando Nkrumah considers prejudices against people of colour. His installation appears in the exhibition area “The Misaligned Gaze: Prejudices”, conceived for the permanent exhibition, inaugurated in 2010 and revised in collaboration with our diversity manager Carla de Andrade Hurst and researcher Dr. Clara Himmelheber. The museum strives to engage more actively in the debates about structural racism and take a clear position. How can we talk about racism and prejudice without hurting those affected? How can we avoid reproducing racist images? How can we let those affected speak about their concerns and needs? “RJM reloaded #1” studies and deconstructs prejudices step by step.
Nando Nkrumah, born in 1979 in Kumasi, Ghana, and raised in the Westerwald area, Germany, lives as an artist and designer in Cologne. He studied design in Essen and Singapore, and media design at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. In 2D or in 3D, his works play with Ashanti images and symbols, combining the latest computer technologies with stencil art, alienated and fragmented photos, texts, patterns and screen prints.