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Current: 24 November 2018—17 February 2019

Of Magical Creatures, Monsters & Ghosts

Myths and legends in Japanese colour woodcuts from the 18th and 19th century

The fantastic realm of magical creatures, monsters and ghosts is featured much more extensively and theatrically in Japanese colour woodcuts from the 18th and 19th century than in Western art. The Japanese myth of ghosts is similar to our concept: People who suffered harm, injustice or violence during their lifetime won’t find peace in death, haunting their tormentors as ghosts. Furthermore, many Japanese ghosts are incarnations of natural elements: Mountains and waters, snow and wind, animals, plants, and even tools become animated beings (BAKEMONO or HENGE), who have the ability to confuse and even kill people. The YOKAI, chimerical monsters, are mostly summoned in uncanny places. Even until this day, the belief in the existence of ghostly spirits and rituals of appeasement are an inherent part of Shinto, the traditional religion in Japan. As a result of an increase in book production during the Edo period (1603-1868), Japanese colour woodcuts became the primary medium for artistic expression. Portraits of actors and scenes from KABUKI theatre were particularly popular. In the 19th century, the KABUKI repertoire featured the thrilling and sometimes familiar ghost stories. The theatrical finesse of KABUKI, which incorporated revolving stages, quick costume changes, candle light effects and invisible stagehands, was a suitable framework for eerie dramaturgy and the presentation of transcendental beings. Since the colour woodcuts reproduced the KABUKI scenes on a high technical and artistic level, the ghost myths presented in this medium became popular works of art that were often bought as souvenirs. The magical creatures’ appearance unleashed both the director‘s and the wood block artist‘s creative fantasy, which is where the relatedness to modern Japanese comic strips (MANGA) and animated films (ANIME) becomes particularly evident.

The exhibition is curated by Hannspeter Kunz, Sigmaringen.

Current: 11 November 2018—28 April 2019

ShadowArt VideoGame


Video games are the most monetized and aesthetically bewildering artefacts of the present age. They have long since conquered children‘s and living rooms aswell as offices. And we don‘t want to miss them on our smartphones either. At least since the New York Museum of Modern Art has acquired selected examples for its collection, it is appropriate to include video games in the canon of art history – as a new art form.

The exhibition at Museum Ulm builds on that development and, for the first time, attempts to understand video games in terms of their inimitability as a medium and their aesthetic significance. For this purpose, the character of the shadow is isolated as a special aspect that links video games to the origins of our culture – to art, philosophy and religion.

The term SHADOW evokes an atmosphere of something on the dark side, something devious and ominous. The exhibition strives to counter this negative stereotype: It marvels at the healing properties of St. Peter‘s shadow and admires the shadows in Plato‘s cave. With Pliny, it attests to the graphic capturing of a beloved‘s silhouette and watches a statue brought to life step out from under the shadow of its creator. It observes how Peter Schlemihl‘s shadow disappears and how Peter Pan stitches his shadow back on. Based on the myths of the origins of image representation, the exhibition draws conclusions for a deeper understanding of video games.

Following the theme of the shadow, the exhibition combines popular and yet to be discovered video games with early modern paintings, baroque emblem and contemporary children’s books, with graphic novels, illustrations, advertising posters, photographs, films, shadow puppets and multi-media installations. It attests that video games have indeed arrived in the very heart of ‘high culture’.

: An extensively illustrated publication with a preface by Dr. Stefanie Dathe and an essay by Prof. Dr. Thomas Hensel will accompany the exhibition. For our young visitors, a new detective booklet serves to explore the exhibition.

: A television report by the ARD Tagesthemen from 7 November 2018 about the exhibition OBUMBRO:


: A television report by the SWR Aktuell about the exhibition OBUMBRO: