Over two years, at the instigation of the SLA and EPFL+ECAL Lab, experts in literature, museum research, design, engineering and psychology have come together to work on a major experimental project for a virtual exhibition on Jean Starobinski. The exhibition Relations critiques has won the “Meilleur du Web” Award 2020 in the category user experience.
Born a century ago in Plainpalais, Geneva, Starobinski developed over the course of his long career a “method”, or rather a critical approach, that was never dogmatic and had little time for fads or factions – one that combined the histories of ideas, science, literature, art, philosophy and psychoanalysis. In addition, he wrote landmark studies in which he observed, documented and commented on the history of criticism and the critique of criticism, at a time when debates on the topic made the front pages of the leading newspapers. This metacritical reading is at the heart of our exhibition project, and shows Jean Starobinski at work in the many fields in which he exercised his craft.
The first version of this digital exhibition, which opens on 26 November 2020, experiments with a number of key concepts that can be explored online. One of these offers visitors a main tour covering a series of theme-based island displays. They can then, as they wish, choose to view an object from a novel perspective, at which point the theme takes a back seat as the object is placed in a historical or typological context – as if the museum galleries and their contents could reconfigure and rearrange themselves. Visitors can thus select their own route, depending on their expectations and the discoveries they make.
When La Relation critique was published in 1970, Jean Starobinski was asked why – or against what – he was writing. He replied: “Against obscurity, confusion, oblivion, death? To understand better and make others understand. (To understand is to change the world.)”