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Ode to Mineralogy

Materials: Mixed media; paleontology display cabinets, graphite, hematite, olivine and malachite from the TU mineralogical collection, fabric banner, mural from mineral paints and vinyl stickers.

Shown at: Berlin Science Gallery, TU Berlin 2023

‘Ode to Mineralogy’ is a work-in-progress exhibition by Niamh Schmidtke (she/they), artist in residence at Science Gallery Berlin’s EARTH residency program at Technische Universität Berlin.


For two months earlier this year, Niamh worked with Dr. Johannes Giebel as their science inspiration partner. He is the scientific curator of TU Berlin’s Mineral Collection, one of the biggest in Germany, where he is the keeper of more than 200,000 minerals.


One of the key themes in the exhibition is the philosophical idea of deep time - the timescale of geological events and forms. The exhibition, which is a heartfelt tribute to mineral collections, provokes questions such as  -  how do we value minerals? What is a mineral’s experience of the world? And how can both humans and minerals relate to each other in a more sensitive way which reflects deep time and the millenia it took for geology to form?



Using different media - from drawings, photographs and large-scale collage to audio, mobile-phone films, sculpture and writing - the exhibition shows Niamh’s unusual multimodal methodology when researching science. Niamh processes their research, from day one through the physical act of making, which is an important part of their practice, and you can see some of this  revealed here for the first time. This intense artistic processing of scientific information as a way of knowing, and the works which come from it, will give you a few clues as to what Niamh’s final exhibition will be for the EARTH residency in May/June 2024 when it will be shown in this same space. So come back then to find out!


In the meantime, this exhibition is a celebration of  minerals, beginning a conversation with them, calling out to stones, crystals and elements, and reflecting on the conversations that might come back if they were able to speak about their experience of the world to us. It includes display cabinets from the Mineral Collections’ archive, with each cabinet framed by a large print of a hand holding a specimen from the collection - pyrite, graphite or gold -  the photos act like portraits of the rocks but also of the person holding them - Dr. Johannes Giebel. 


These cabinets and their prints become sculptures in the space, with a backdrop of a large-scale mural made from collaging elements of thin-sections - a scientific tool to investigate rock samples - combined with drawings made with rock powders, and text from the audio work ‘The Diamond’s Less Sexy Sister’. 


To the far sides of the gallery is a group exhibition of students’ works, made through a two-week workshop with the artist, questioning if they could ‘pull blood from a stone?’ Each of their works investigates their relationship to minerals and reflects on the minerals’ role in their lives or to technology.

- Ariane Koek   -

Ode to Mineralogy, Pyrite Portrait, 2023, image courtesy of the artist


Ode to Mineralogy, 

Installation views in Berlin Science Gallery

Image courtesy of the artist

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