At Night — Awake or Dreaming

Museum der Kulturen Basel
Until January 21, 2024

No two nights are the same. Between dusk and dawn, the hours of darkness have many different experiences in store for us—restful sleep, glittering parties, indispensable work, and moments of menace. A daily occurrence, the night lends structure to our lives, but can also turn the existing order on its head. Playing with light and dark, the exhibition illustrates how we spend our nights, what we fear in them, and what so fascinates us about them.

The exhibition shows how the world more or less beds down comfortably for the night and stays warm. Clever items keep mosquitos at bay and special objects like miniature mobile altars protect children.

Although young visitors to the exhibition need have no fear of the bogeyman under the huge bed, the exhibition does illustrate how night-time gives rise to fears, evil spirits, and devils. Heroes like Batman, a Japanese lady courtier, or many and diverse customs can banish them, however. And night watchmen provide a sense of security.

Light does this, too. Various types of lamp and carnival lantern that have accompanied Basel’s revellers through the dark for centuries light up the exhibition. Paintings, woodcut illustrations, and photographs also reveal the impressive nature of dawn and dusk as a backdrop.

Over the winter, the Museum installed a camera on the neighboring cathedral tower. Visitors to the exhibition can watch video footage of what went on through the night, and can immerse themselves in Basel’s nightlife through the medium of photography.