... and the greatness of man

18 Nov 2018 – 25 Feb 2019

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Schloss Biesdorf

Berlin, Germany

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Graphics and photographs of poems by Johannes R. Becher. Presentation of the Beeskow Art Archive - Archived Art from the GDR.


Graphic folders are exhibitions on a small scale. The potential to capture a theme, an idea deeply and multi-facettedly in pictures floats between the folder lid and the folder floor. In the course of their 40 years, mass organizations and political institutions in the GDR have commissioned numerous graphic folders. The Beeskow Art Archive holds a significant collection of such portfolios, with examples from all four decades. This illustrates the development of the thematic production of GDR cultural policy, but also how differently artists dealt with these settings, where the limits of what can be said ran, where leeway was granted. Especially towards the end of the 1980s, the compilations appear increasingly ambiguous: gloom and ambivalence dominate many motifs that allow more than one interpretation.

Also the portfolio " ... und des Menschen Größe / ... and the greatness of man. Graphics and photographs of poems by Johannes R. Becher" (1988) can be seen in this context. "Schritt der Jahrhundertmitte / step of the middle of the century" (1958), the last volume of poetry that Becher created before his death, served 20 artists as the starting point for their work. It is the pondering of a poet like a socialist loyal to the line, disillusioned and doubtful at the end, about potentials and abysses of human existence in the context of society and history. The images that the artists derive from this text show people marked by dissension, sometimes in oppressive loneliness, sometimes in the whirlpool of social processes of which they themselves are the creators. While there are a few colored sheets among the 16 prints, the 20 photographs appear in grainy black and white. These photographs bear the melancholy for which East German author photography would become famous only a few years later.

The Beeskow Art Archive regularly shows excerpts from its holdings at Schloss Biesdorf. From Berlin, the presentations refer to the more than 20,000 works of art from the time of the GDR that have been preserved and made accessible in Beeskow in Brandenburg since the early 1990s.

Falko Behrendt, Christian Brachwitz, Helmut Brade, Manfred Butzmann, Michael Diller, Andreas Dress, Hubertus Giebe, Konstanze Göbel, Dieter Goltzsche, Ulrich Hachulla, Joachim John, Barbara Köppe, Wolfgang Mattheuer, Manfred Paul, Christine Perthen, Wolfgang Petrovsky, Uwe Pfeifer, Helfried Strauß, Ursula Strozynski, Dieter Tucholke, Werner Wittig.

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