press release

April 13–July 9, 2018
Opening: April 12

Neolithic Childhood examines how in the interwar years the artistic avant-gardes in Europe and beyond reacted to the “crisis” of almost everything, from the barbarism of technological mass war to the hypocrisies of colonial discourse. The perceived need to re-establish European civilization after the disaster of the First World War led to an interminable reconstruction of origins and beginnings—making “ground zero” the limiting function of modernity.

Based on the writings of the extra-academic art historian Carl Einstein (1885-1940), the exhibition is devoted to despair over the present and the pressing interest in “altering” humanity, as manifested from the 1920s to the 1940s in the artistic avant-gardes and the sciences. In addition to works of art, publications and archival materials will be presented that demonstrate the intensive interplay of the visual arts, politics, philosophy, ethnology, psychology, and the natural sciences in this epoch of historic turmoil and totalitarian projects. The title of the project, Neolithic Childhood, is based on a 1930 essay by Carl Einstein in which he interprets the pictorial symbols in Jean (Hans) Arp’s art as a repetition of children’s ritual, “prehistoric” play.

The printed matter and archival materials included in the exhibition constitute the manifold material evidence of the diverse and active roles played by art, scholarship, and political theory in the perception and radicalization of the crises around 1930. In cooperation with the Akademie der Künste the Carl Einstein Archive, which is held there, has been fully digitized. Original manuscripts and typescripts from the Archive will be presented in the exhibition.

The exhibition will include works by Jean (Hans) Arp, Willi Baumeister, Georges Braque, Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Sergei Eisenstein, T. Lux Feininger, Max Ernst, Florence Henri, Hannah Höch, Heinrich Hoerle, Valentine Hugo, Paul Klee, Germaine Krull, André Masson, Richard Oelze, Wolfgang Paalen, Jean Painlevé, Alexandra Povòrina, Gaston-Louis Roux, Kurt Seligmann, Kalifala Sidibé, Jindřich Štyrský, Toyen, Frits Van den Berghe, Paule Vézelay, Catherine Yarrow, and others.

A comprehensive, richly illustrated reader will be published on occasion of the accompanying conference in late May 2018. The authors include Irene Albers, Philipp Albers, Joyce Cheng, Rosa Eidelpes, Anselm Franke, Charles W. Haxthausen, Tom Holert, Clemens Krümmel, Sven Lütticken, Jenny Nachtigall, David Quigley, Cornelius Reiber, Erhard Schüttpelz, Kerstin Stakemeier, Maria Stavrinaki, Elena Vogman, Zairong Xiang, and Sebastian Zeidler.

Curated by Anselm Franke and Tom Holert. Advisory board: Irene Albers, Jenny Nachtigall, and Kerstin Stakemeier.

Neolithic Childhood is part of the multi-year project Kanon-Fragen.

Kanon-Fragen is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag. Haus der Kulturen der Welt is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as well as by the Federal Foreign Office.