As shopping shifts online and the pandemic transforms our perception of social contact, retail is facing its own reckoning. The arsenal of commercial techniques that retail has developed can no longer function as usual. As intense lovers of retail, we are eager to regenerate the high streets for Ornamenta 2024. With local gin for breakfast and a daily commute between Mode Lenk and Müssle Vinothek, our hosts for the week, staying over with the Einzelhändler became a matchmaking testing ground.
Stadtmuseum Pforzheim was in the midst of installing a new exhibition on consumer culture. Rediscovering footage of the Kaufhof building entirely decorated in flowers made us yearn for the hay days of the high street. It became clear to us that these entangled worlds of architecture, fashion, business and art make up for a big part of our common good – a collective institute of transmissible culture. Nothing is more telling than viewing people during their shopping spree.
But Der Handel is im Wandel. There was no time to doze off at this week’s Friday gathering. Before Galeria Kaufhof’s Bettenpavilion turned off its lights, the Ornamenta community gathered for a speed dating session with retail from the past and future. Dr. Adam Jasper from the design and architecture university ETH in Zürich presented thoughts on what we might rescue from the global bonfire of retail. Also in attendance at the evening was art historian Liesbeth den Besten who presented the work of jewellery designer Ted Noten, both veterans of Ornamenta 1989. Pforzheimer Stefanie Wetzke demonstrated the Alter Schlachthof initiative where designers and artists plan to live, make and sell under one roof. The list continues with advertising expert Moritz Jähde on hacking Amazon, art historian Claudia Baumbusch on the upcoming exhibition Konsumtempel and Horst Lenk, retired president of the Baden Württemberg retail association taking visitors to a dreamy past.
At the same time, retail’s techniques of attraction and distraction have become visible in a new way. Stripped of their use-value, they reveal themselves as techniques of pure display. This evening marks the beginning of a collective quest to save the Titanic from sinking. How can shops in the Nordschwarzwald region benefit more from a unique regional narrative in a post-pandemic Europe?