Bruno Ingemann
Present on Site:
Transforming Exhibitions and

Present on Site
The cover of the paperback.
Ingemann, Bruno (2012): Present on Site. Transforming Exhibitions and Museums, Lejre: Visual Memory Press. 396 pages, 147 illustration, printed in colour.

About the author

Gaea Leinhardt and Karen Knutson’s book, Listening in on Museum Conversation, begins with the statement, “For both of us, museums are fascinating and enchanting places. They are places of enormous beauty, places of transport, and places that reflect both the most conservative views of the status quo and the most provocative new ideas of our time” (Leinhardt & Knutson (2004:vii). And they continue, “… we share here our own personal identification with the museums of our childhood and adolescence”.

For me, Bruno Ingemann, museums are fascinating and enchanting places but they also represent lost opportunities, a lack of inclusive communication and missing interactions. This will be elaborated more in the introduction chapter, but for now my interest in museums is driven by a desire to push stable, hierarchic institutions into expanding the potential resources of exhibitions toward more provocative and meaningful communication.

In my family and in the rather small town where I grew up, going to museums was not the norm so they were not part of my childhood. At fifteen I began creating my own museum without walls, – a practice that mimicked André Malraux, though I had no idea who he was or how he combined photographs of artwork from many sources and cultures.
The impetus for this museum without walls came when I encountered a reproduction of an abstract painting by Kandinsky and began wondering about the basic idea of acknowledgement. When this abstract painting was reproduced in colour in a book, there must be something worth looking into and reconsidering, even as I did not understand why this painting was something in itself.

Within a year I had scraped enough money together to buy some canvases, a few tubes of oil paint and some brushes. I began by painting in a naturalistic style, but soon began experimenting in the realm of abstract painting, woodcut and linocut.

My journey into museums and my interest in museum communication and the way exhibition visitors and users are encountered and engaged started not with museums and exhibitions, but from the far more productive process of learning-by-doing that later led to meeting, experiencing and analysing museums and exhibitions. The initial outflow of paintings, drawings, woodcuts, linocuts and exhibitions started in 1961 when I was sixteen and lasted nearly a decade. This period was followed by a second highly productive round of output as a professional graphic designer working in co-operation with groups of environmental activists to produce exhibitions clear designed to inform and influence public opinion and the political system about a rather new and very complex theme. These two productive periods were combined with teaching of activist groups, environmentalist, architects, communication planners, producers and such, culminating in a book called, The Exhibition Handbook: Technique, Aesthetic and Narrative Style (1986).
During this time, I met a variety of people working in museums as exhibition designers and encountered different views on democratisation, exhibition language, popularisation, valuable content and attractive forms. The exhibitions at the museums were criticised and discussed and new ideas came up.

In 1990 I earned a PhD and started working as a researcher at Roskilde University in Denmark. For over nearly twenty years I ran workshops on exhibition and communication together with professor Søren Kjørup that focused on production and also on visiting museum exhibitions in order to use them for analysis and discussion closely related to the production of new exhibitions. The focus was, to quote Karen Knutson, “Who decides which story to tell? And how do they tell it?” (Leinhardt & Knutson 2004: ix). But we were also interested in exhibitions as seen from the user’s perspective: What are the questions they want answered? What knowledge are we expected to have? Who will be included and excluded? What about relevance?

This book is a collection of articles written over a period of ten years. My membership in the Museology Network since 1998 has been a vital impetus for my research because the network has provided a forum for the presentation and discussion of papers and articles of relevance to the highly influential Scandinavian journal Nordic Museology, which originally published some of the chapters of this book in Danish. Functioning as a fruitful medium, work in the network led to the anthology New Danish Museology (2005), which frames museums and exhibitions as an idea, analysing the ideological foundation for the museum and taking a critical look at the visitor perspective and communication strategies for collections and exhibitions.

Experience is, of course, essential in exhibitions, but my interest led me to exploring processual and experimental methods in cultural analysis. The visitors or users of an exhibition were narrowly defined. We explored how the person-in-situation experiences and constructs meaning from the complexity of traces and narratives in an exhibition (Gjedde & Ingemann 2008).

Exhibitions by the author

The following 19 exhibitions were presented in Denmark from 1963 to 2012:

(1963) Participated with woodcuts in a group exhibition by art academy students; Art Society, Grenaa

(1964) Solo exhibition of 20 linocuts and woodcuts in black and white and colour; Gallery Kaage, Horsens

(1965) Solo exhibition of 30 linocuts and woodcuts; Horsens College of Continuing Education (Horsens Statsskole)

(1965) Participated in a group exhibition celebrating the jubilee of Danish experimental poetry and the visual arts magazine Hvedekorn; Gallery of Superlove, Copenhagen

(1970) Some Information about the Earth We All Live On – extensive exhibition with the environmental activist group NOAH involving more than 30 participants; Copenhagen Town Hall

(1972-1974) Amager Common 1972 – temporary advocacy exhibition comprising 20 chipboards with black and white photographs and text on the Gypsies and their circumstances in Denmark. Travelling exhibition shown at forty libraries in Denmark

(1975) North/South – temporary wall poster exhibition comprising 6 huge wall papers (160 x 100 cm) concerning growth, exploitation, energy crises, relations to the third world – made for Noah/Danida. Travelling exhibition to public libraries and schools.

(1986) His Master’s Voice: The Exhibition Handbook Model Exhibition – project for a large exhibition about the media and media use. The Exhibition Handbook (1986) presents and discusses this exhibition in detail as an example of the work process of an exhibition

(9 – 31 Jan. 1988) Into the Media: An Introduction to Education – presentation of 17 various forms of education in a broad range of media; the Round Tower, Copenhagen

(1990-92) Biotechnology – travelling poster exhibition sponsored by the Danish Board of Technology comprising eight posters on a topical issue. Five hundred sets displayed at various public libraries and places of study in Denmark

(6 June – 25 Oct. 1993) The Journey – opening exhibition. Shaman Tower installation and slide show called The Journey of the Soul; the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen

(1998-2002) The Drifting Sand – multi-screen show covering over three-hundred years of history of drifting sand; Han Herred Nature Centre

(2003- ) Museum: The Three Monkeys – online changing exhibition of hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, see-no-evil monkey collection:

(13 Nov. 2003) Places Speaking – Speaking Places – exhibition and seminar by six researchers on the visual culture of Paris. My contribution was nine large panels with panorama photos of various McDonald’s locations in Paris; Roskilde University, Roskilde

(2003) The Model Exhibition – 1:10 scale model with small fibre lights and eleven miniature paintings presented together with the original painting. Project subsequently turned into a video and presentation; Project for Gallery Clausen, Copenhagen. Not realised

(Aug. – Oct. 2005) Nine Hidden Paintings – solo exhibition; Hvalsø Cinema and Culture Centre

(4 May 2006) See, 1957 – The Volkswagen of the Air – exhibition and seminar by five researchers exploring visual culture in1957. Video installation on values presented in the men’s magazine Popular Mechanics; Roskilde University, Roskilde

(2009 - ) Inquiries into Visual Memory – ongoing development of exhibition on projects on unpacking and releasing individual and collective memories: www.visualmemory.dk

(19 Nov. 2010 – 31 Dec. 2012) Becoming a Copenhagener – activist exhibition, film and exploration of what occurred on Amager Common in 1972; focus on immigrants as a catalyst of and pre-condition for change and the growth of Copenhagen; Museum of Copenhagen


You can contact the author by sending a mail to bruno@present-on-site.net