A Thinking Hut in Venice
Fondazione Prada’s Venetian outpost is hosting Machines à penser, an exhibition that links seclusion with intellectual production
Among the objects inside a nearly 1:1 replica of a cabin is a German magazine laying on a desk. The cover story is about Martin Heidegger, the owner of the original hut located in the village of Todtnauberg, in the Black Forest. The philosopher used to spend long periods secluded there, as the isolation helped him produce some of his best work, including the 1927 ontological groundbreaker Being and Time.
The cabin reproduction is part of Machines à penser, the current exhibition at Fondazione Prada’s outpost in Venice. The titular thought machines are the residences that served Heidegger and fellow philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Ludwig Wittgenstein think their way through paper.
Wittgenstein’s small mountain cabin on a Norwegian fjord also receives the reconstruction treatment. Adorno’s Los Angeles villa, where he lived in exile during the Nazi regime, is where he wrote his Minima Moralia on the effects of forced emigration —the installation dedicated to it makes a point to establish how close he was to the Mitteleuropa diaspora, with neighbours such as Austrian composer Arnold Schönberg and German novelist Thomas Mann.
The direct references are joined by pieces inspired by the philosophers themselves, like Goshka Macuga’s sculptures depicting their heads with terracotta, porcelain and rubber, and by the act of production in seclusion, like Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photos of Engadin mountainscapes, a link to the private thinking quarters in Sils Maria where Friedrich Nietzche planned Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
“These were the places where our protagonists hatched out their deepest thoughts,” explained curator Dieter Roelstraete. “Isolation, whether chosen or imposed, appears to have inspired them decisively—and over the years their huts have proven to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration in turn for generations of artists, attracted to the fantasy of withdrawal as articulated in its most elemental architectural form.”
Machines à penser is on display until November 25