Curated by Dr Hilary Potter and Mark Epstein
The exhibition Weimar 1919-1933 Dancing on a Volcano was supposed to open on 19th June at the Lit & Phil, accompanied by a lecture series. Mark and myself visited the library, chatted with the members and were really looking forward to launching the exhibition in this fantastic, historic space. COVID-19 has pushed those plans back. The exhibition will still happen when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we’d like to tell you a little about it, about us, and invite you to get involved in the process.
Dancing on a Volcano, Exhibition and Lecture Series. Date to be announced.
History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. The Weimar Republic, a brief flowering of international social and cultural life in Germany between 1919 and 1933, stands for us today as a warning from history. Forces of populism are amassing across Europe and the world, making the Weimar story deeply relevant to a contemporary audience. Dancing on a Volcano reframes this story for our times in all its joy, wild creativity and macabre foretelling. The artist Georg Grosz described living in those fractured times like sailing in a boat on stormy seas, driven by the winds of change into an unknown future:
“…many of us flew pennants. Some with three arrows, some with a hammer and sickle, some with a swastika and steel helmets. From a distance, it was difficult to tell which was which. Most of us had little command of our boats and just drifted along in the prevailing wind. The wind blew now from the east and now from the west and with such force that the whole world felt the blast.”
‘Behind the scenes’ at the exhibition
The inspiration for this exhibition comes from several different angles - partly from my teaching, partly from research and partly my noticing how much interest there is in the Weimar Republic at the moment – in the UK and Germany. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say, ‘it’s just like the Weimar Republic’, which made me curious – is it really? If so, are we talking culture, politics, economics or even a combination of them all? Maybe there are parallels to be found in the culture, economics, politics or even a combination of them all, but then again maybe there are contrasts. The Weimar Republic was founded in the aftermath of the global Spanish Flu pandemic, so perhaps any comparisons are really only now beginning to make themselves known. This exhibition is our way of exploring these questions, of generating conversations and seeing where they lead.
We wanted this to be a genuinely public exhibition rather than one hidden away in some corner of a campus accessible only to a few people who were ‘in the know’. We’re of the view that the town/gown divide needs knocking down and that we can all learn from one another. Originally, we thought that would come as a result of the exhibition. However, circumstances have brought about a re-think. If you’d like to get in touch – tell us what you associate with the Weimar Republic, what you think of the comparisons between then and now, or just have a question, we’d love to hear from you! An exhibition e-mail contact is below and a website is to follow which will show the exhibition taking shape. firstname.lastname@example.org
Who we are
My name’s Dr Hilary Potter. I’m currently working as a lecturer in German at Newcastle University. I write about German history, memory and identity. My book Remembering Rosenstrasse: History, Memory, Identity in Contemporary Germany is on the shelves of the Lit & Phil. This exhibition is part of a larger research project, exploring contemporary resonances between the present and the Weimar Republic.
You can read more about what I do here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/sml/staff/profile/hilarypotter.html#background
I’m joined in this exhibition by Mark Epstein, a tutor at Edge Hill University and a professional photographer. He’s bringing his photographic, writing and exhibiting skills to this. You can read more about him and his work here: https://www.marke.photography/
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Hilary & Mark.