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Edmund de Waal

Benjamin and Brecht. Thinking in Extremes (group show)
Akademie der Künste, Berlin
26 October 2017 - 28 January 2018

Edmund de Waal, casualty list, 2017. Photo: Mike Bruce.
Edmund de Waal, casualty list, 2017. Photo: Mike Bruce.

With their very different backgrounds and influences, the relationship between the critic Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) and the writer Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956) was an unusual one. They came to know each other personally during the years of the Weimar Republic, discussing fundamental issues in art and politics in a way that is excitingly provocative and raises questions still relevant today. During their years of exile, they became trusted friends.

The exhibition shows the topicality of this friendship, the historically documented aspects, the resonances from friends and enemies, and moments of reception in ideas and art. Starting from their close personal relationship, this exhibition responds to Benjamin’s and Brecht’s names becoming ciphers, models for art and a particular view of the world.

The exhibit includes a number of unfamiliar original items: Brecht’s chess board and a Chinese figure of Lao Tsu, manuscripts of poems, diary entries, letters and photos – key documents illustrating the pivotal and conflictual points in this relationship. The historical material is supplemented by original film and audio documents, as well as recordings of early Brecht productions. A series of art works comment on events from present perspectives. Confirmed participants include Zoe Beloff, Adam Broomberg / Oliver Chanarin, Edmund de Waal, Felix Martin Furtwängler, Friederike Heller, Alexander Kluge, Mark Lammert, Jonas Maron, Marcus Steinweg and Steffen Thiemann.

Akademie der Künste, Berlin