Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitioners

Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitionersOn the steps of Wasserpalais at Schloss Pillnitz, Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden. Photo by Klemens Renner.

Last 5 July, the Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden held the official opening of Add to the Cake: Transforming the roles of female practitioners, a project I curated with Matylda Krzykowski under the moniker Foreign Legion. The project started with the A Woman’s Work symposium back in January, and then evolved into a two-part exhibition, with a Preview opening back in 26 April.

With Add to the Cake, we wanted to take the conversation started at the symposium further: We commissioned various practitioners such as Ann Kern, Ji-hee Lee, Gabriel Maher and Garret Nelson to think about What happens when you Add to the Cake? — to think about the future. For the exhibition that opened 5 July 2019, spaces were transformed to give way to a series of installations on visions for the future of female practice. Simultaneously, various Visual Fictions by contributors such as Anne Dessing & Michel van Irsel, Gallery Stephanie Kelly, Kamau Patton and OOIEE, act as an expression of desire for something lacking here and now. The exhibition becomes the transformation it heralds, enacting futures that are inclusive, generous, all-encompassing and joyous.

Add to the Cake advocates that we can – and need to – add to the existing “cake”: infinite layers for an expanded canon. Adding to museum collections and to historical accounts, adding to collective memory and to possible futures. Most importantly, we must realise that “adding” enriches the existing context with multiple, varied voices and perspectives.

After the jump, an outline of all the work and new commissions that were developed as part of Add to the Cake, as well as some installation views.

Against Invisibility Hellerau Designer - Work by Gertrud Kleinhempel - Erna Sandig - Irmgard Harras
Exhibition view, with works by Gertrud Kleinhempel, Irmgard Harras and Erna Sandig. Photo Klemens Renner.

Why were women written out of this historical frame?
Building on the work that
 was initiated in Against Invisibility by the Museum of Decorative Arts Dresden, the work of Gertrud Kleinhempel is complemented by two further designers who had been forgotten, and which the exhibition Gegen die Unsichtbarkeit [Against Invisibility] and subsequent research allowed to rediscover: textile designer Irmgard Harras and designer Erna Sandig, whose work is here presented to the public for the first time after a long disappearance.

For Your Information Installation at Add to the CakeFor Your Information (FYI). Photo Klemens Renner.

Do you understand your reality? 
For Your Information (FYI) – A non-­periodical newsletter of women-­related current articles by Chrissie Muhr and Ji­hee Lee
This non-periodical newsletter of current articles related to women offers a subversive take on contemporary news, skewing and decentering the media landscape. In a continuous collection of national and international news, the project invites a new reading of women’s current and future place in the media, and gives visitors access to this information flow.
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Subject: For Your Information

Unstable Signs as Radical Tools Installation at Add to the CakeUnstable Signs as Radical Tools. Photo Klemens Renner.

What if we present reference points and messy histories for building knowledge of unstable signs as radical tools?
Unstable Signs as Radical Tools by Garrett Nelson & Anja Kaiser
Unstable Signs as Radical Tools offers a future of work where unstable signs become radical tools. Using as a starting point Sheila Levrant de Bretteville’s 1974 Women in Design conference poster, they propose reference points for building knowledge and awareness of unstable signs as radical tools, opening visual and narrative spaces for revolution.

Futuress Installation at Add to the CakeFuturess. Photo Klemens Renner.

What stories and theories have not yet been recorded or formulated?
Futuress by Ann Kern & Common Interest  (
This project questions who writes history and whose histories are told. It is a feminist library of blind spots, untold stories, and missing narratives within history and theory, in he form of a collectively built, continuously growing online repository. Futuress invites all to contribute to the active writing of past, present and future history.
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Call for Collective Representation_2019Call for Collective Representation. Pictured: Adeola Enigbokan, Alice Rawsthorn, Aynouk Tan, Carly Rose Bedford, Lonny van Ryswyck, Nadine Sterk, Riksa Afiaty, Simona Castricum, Yandell Walton & Yetunde Olusanya. Image by Gabriel A. Maher and Ina Weise.

Can you only dream what you have seen?
Call for Collective Representation by Gabriel Maher & Ina Weise
This project is an open call for a future where womxn* are visible –  womxn of colour, queer womxn, all who participate in the definition of womxn and trans & non-binary identities.
*Womxn* is an attempt to a more inclusive term that not only sheds light on the prejudice, discrimination, and institutional barriers womxn have faced, but to also show that womxn are not an extension of men. The term is more intersectional than womyn because it includes trans-femme and non-binary identities.

SARA DE CAMPOS ATTCWhen Designers started wearing trousers by Sara de Campos. “I see this future where opportunities are given equally both to women and men, and it looks to me as normal as I’m wearing my jeans today.”

What happens when we have added to the cake?
The Visual Fictions offer glimpses of the future of the practice—complex, multilayered, polyphonic and ambitious. The narrators of these fictions come from all realms of art, architecture and design, diverse geographies and origins: Associates Associates, Sara de Campos, Fictional Journal, Anne Dessing and Michiel van Iersel, Marie Herwald Hermannand Anders Ruhwald, Zoë Ritts and Océane Réveillac, Galerie Stephanie Kelly, Kosmos Architects, Oliver Klimpel, Alexandra Midal and Emma Pflieger, Kamau Patton, Martha Poggioli, Alejandra Navarrete Llopis and Naho Kubota, OOIEE, James Taylor-Foster.

Performance Excercise to Unlearn the Canon at Add to the CakeExercise to Unlearn the Canon. Photo by Klemens Renner.

How can you learn anew?
Exercise to Unlearn the Canon by Vivien Tauchmann
This is an invitation to practice changing power dynamics through tactile and bodily engagement. As a series of experiential performative interventions, the participants in Exercise to Unlearn the Canon become the material itself, exploring the capabilities of our bodies to extend the individual experience of our environment and thus provoke behavioral change. The performance references texts by Sara Ahmed, Margarete Stokowski, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Audre Lorde. This was performed during Dresden’s Museum’s Night, 6 July 2019.

Ritual of Self-Empowerment. Photo by Klemens Renner.

How does an alternative world look and feel like?
Ritual of Self­-empowerment by Pinar&Viola
In this personal presentation, Pinar Demirdag of artist duo Pinar&Viola discusses her self­-growth process in recent years, sharing her journey towards consciousness and breaking out of conventions and expectations.
The patterns in the video are from the Alternative Collection by Pinar&Viola which celebrates an alternative world system and a more conscious, loving and unifying existence.

AddToTheCake ForeignLegion Expo SDK 01Exhibition view, entrance room. Photo by Klemens Renner.

How can we make space for a multitude of voices? 
Multiverse by Julia E. Dyck
Working with analogue synthesis and a small group of voices, this composition is a soundscape for a speculative non­place. Driven by the passage “Add to the cake / Add to the canon”, the shifting atmosphere reflects spontaneous creation and the continuous conversion of energy into matter.
Listen to the soundpiece here.