This special exhibition coincides with the company’s anniversary and emphasises its vibrancy and forward-looking focus. “You start first, and then you optimize and optimize and optimize” – this quote from a 2017 interview with Hans Georg Näder sums up the constant drive for innovation that has been the motto of each of the three entrepreneurs: Otto Bock (1888–1953), who founded the company and was a pioneer in the industrial fabrication of prostheses; Max Näder (1915–2009), a trendsetter in the field of orthopaedic technology who achieved brilliant engineering feats; and Hans Georg Näder (born in 1961), a global player, driving force for digitisation and lateral thinker who continues to push boundaries.
Visitors experience a striking introduction to the exhibition’s theme with “Kriegskrüppel” (“War Cripples”), a street scene depicting soldiers who are fitted with inadequate prosthetic devices. Otto Dix’s drastic look at post-war realities illustrates the stark situation that inspired the founding of “Orthopädische Industrie Berlin” just a few months after the end of World War I. The new company’s aim was to revolutionise the field of prosthetic treatment.
The exhibition covers three floors, and its works touch on various aspects of the company’s ongoing history. Technological milestones over the course of 100 years help visitors understand the fundamental changes that the fabrication process has undergone – from a milled wooden leg to a high-tech electronic prosthesis and all the way to a 3D printed orthosis. Stories from individual users also give visitors a feel for what everyday life is like with prostheses and orthoses.
Contemporary insights make the exhibition a fascinating trip through time. The company continually faced new challenges during the fateful years in German history between the Weimar Republic and Germany’s reunification. Decisive factors today include the social trends of the 21st century: globalisation, demographic changes, the digital revolution and global migration.
A separate exhibition area in the adjacent “Erdhaus” building picks up on the topic of flight, migration and new beginnings. Titled “Vom Weggehen und Ankommen” (“Of Departures and Arrivals”), this exhibit covers the story of the displacement of the Bock und Näder families following World War II, portrays the experiences of three migrant families in Berlin and uses the professional biographies of individual Ottobock employees to highlight the flow of people’s movements in a globalised working world. Finally, the topic of migration is examined from an artistic perspective in the video installation “Mapping Journey” (2008—2011) by Moroccan-French artist Bouchra Khalili.