Today, where Marco Polo once brushed the grime of 13th-century travel from his cloak, you might find dust thrown up by great mining vehicles. The Weltmuseum Wien’s exhibition takes you on a journey along the silk roads.
- Combines historical items with contemporary perspectives and art
- Shines a light on the people and places along the traditional east-west routes
- Draws in socioeconomic and other issues related to transit and infrastructural projects
- Runs Dec 16, 2021 – May 3, 2022
- See also:
- Current exhibitions in Vienna
Steppe and Silk Roads
(Exhibition view © KHM-Museumsverband)
The subtitle of the Dust & Silk exhibition already reminds us of the inaccuracies of our perceptions: silk roads, not silk road. No one single trade route linked east and west, whatever the myths, legends and stories of our childhood might have led us to believe.
The idea of a silk road still conjures up images of camels, Marco Polo, and precious spices in those people brought up on reimaginings on film and paper.
But what was the reality of such trade routes – then and now?
Who or what travelled along them?
What about the peoples and settlements found along the way?
And what about new Chinese-led infrastructural initiatives that focus on the same overland and maritime routes of the past?
Gaps in our knowledge and understanding seem to echo Marco Polo’s alleged last words:
I have not told half of what I saw.
Dust & Silk explores some of these issues, shining a light particularly on the regions flanking the routes: filling in some of the spaces in our collective understanding of the silk roads and their wider meaning and roles.
The exhibition presents over 200 ethnographic and archaeological items that include those from the collections of the Weltmuseum and other international institutions. It also draws out different perspectives and narratives by juxtaposing the historical material with modern commentary and contemporary art using a variety of media.
That approach also allows us to recognise and consider various issues raised by transport infrastructure and development projects, such as resource use, travel, globalisation, and neocolonialism.
Dust & Silk draws particularly on:
- The work of the Dispersed & Connected research project funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and part of the Programme for Arts-based Research
- The 2021 Silk and Steppe Roads exhibition at Hamburg’s MARKK Museum am Rothenbaum that also emerged from the project’s work
Dispersed & Connected‘s project leader Maria-Katharina Lang curated the Weltmuseum exhibition, which she also conceived and designed together with Christian Sturminger.
Tickets and dates
Travel the dusty roads of the trade routes between December 16th, 2021 and May 3rd, 2022. A ticket for the Weltmuseum includes the various exhibitions and installations inside.
How to get to the exhibition
See the main Weltmuseum article for travel tips.
Address: Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna