Wordless — Falling Silent Loudly

How is it possible to speak about seemingly unspeakable things? How do societies overcome states of speechlessness after experiences of loss and violence? Collective traumas – war, genocide, persecution, and expulsion – leave deep traces in the memory of communities. They influence people's feelings, thoughts, and social actions. Common to all is the search for a language that puts the experience into words.

  • DATES 16/04/2021—01/08/2021

[Translate to English:] Der Begriff

The exhibition looks at various experiences of violence from a global and, at the same time, differentiated perspective. Literature and poetry, works by artists and activists, and the stories behind the objects in the Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen collection are woven together to relate these experiences to one another.

[Translate to English:] Werke

[Translate to English:] Ausgehend

Drawing on the poetic resilience of literature, the exhibition explores ways of overcoming a silence that continues to impact contemporary life. Nevertheless, it is also informed by what Hannah Arendt called "poetic thinking": in poetry, what is invisible becomes visible. It has the power to recast concepts and to draw attention to other traumatic experiences. This approach becomes apparent in the trail of poetry: it accompanies and comments on the exhibition. In examining the respective historical and social causes, language becomes a path and a method of empathic remembering. 

[Translate to English:] Zitat

Erreichbar, nah, und unverloren blieb inmitten der Verluste dies eine: die Sprache. […] Aber Sie musste hindurchgehen durch ihre eigenen Antwortlosigkeiten, hindurchgehen durch furchtbares Verstummen, hindurchgehen durch die tausend Finsternisse todbringender Rede.

Paul Celan, 1958, Gesammelte Werke in fünf Bänden. Dritter Band. Gedichte III. Prosa.

[Translate to English:] Dabei steht

By entering the museum, objects of everyday life, works of art, ritual objects, and works of political representation became part of a museological order. They became "ethnological objects." The provenances and acquisition contexts of the collections of the Museums of Ethnology in Dresden and Leipzig reveal the shared yet unequal histories of colonialism, structural violence, and racism. A central concern of the exhibition is to make colonial heritage, injustice, and robbery visible, as well as the efforts to make amends to the communities of origin.

[Translate to English:] Haik

© Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Unknown artist, Blanket of a Healer (Fqîh), Morocco, Siroua, 1850 Textile, Donation June 2019 from Annette Korolnik-Andersch

[Translate to English:] Im Japanischen Palais

In the Japanisches Palais, these objects enter into dialogue with works by artists and activists. Through this, a web of relationships is created in which questions about connections and the (in) translatability of experiences become tangible and audible through their ambivalence.  

The visitors are invited to contribute to this project actively: With an accompanying performative program and the corresponding publication, the Diskursbuch Sprachlosigkeit (Discourse on Speechlessness), the exhibition creates a space for people to act and speak together, they pursue the utopia of a future beyond speechlessness and conceive scopes within which empathic remembering and common speaking are possible.

artists and activists

Katharina Balzer | unverblümt

The graphic design studio unverblümt (“blunt”), based in Dresden, was founded by designer Katharina Balzer. The office develops together with project partners various solutions of varying sizes. Her credo is: “unverblümt is the way to express something straightforwardly”.  

For the Dresden State Art Collections, unverblümt has already designed the public presentation media for the exhibition Madonna meets Mao - Selected Works from the Collection of the Yageo Foundation, Taiwan (2008) as well as the print media for the exhibition Tecumseh Keokuk Black Hawk – Portraits of Indians in the Era of Treaties and Removal (2013). In April 2021, the publication (un)told Vision Osthaus - Collector, Patron, Founder, designed by unverblümt, was published for the Damascus Room in the Japanisches Palais. 

For the exhibition Sprachlosigkeit, unverblümt, working with designer and musician Enrico Wuttke, was responsible for the overall graphic and spatial conception.  Balzer worked closely with the collective “kaboom” and the community curator Ute Puder. The result is a poetic design concept that reflects the multifacetedness of the exhibition.  

Katharina Balzer lives and works in Dresden.

Anna S. Brägger

Anna S. Brägger is the initiator of Rola sjećanja (Commemorative Scroll). In her artistic and therapeutic work, she creates intimate, mediating experiences between people and the space that surrounds them.  

Since 2003, as part of her work for the association Südost Europa Kultur, she has been creating the Commemorative Scroll – a participatory work of textile art and memory commemorating those killed in the wars in Southeastern Europe since the 1990s. The scroll consists of handkerchiefs embroidered by bereaved family members with the names and life dates of their loved ones. These women, by embroidering together, find the opportunity to express their grief intimately. Brägger assembles the individual scarves into extensive lengths of fabric, now more than 50 meters long.  

The Commemorative Scroll is a processual, performative and growing memorial of an empathetic and contemporary culture of remembrance.  

Anna Brägger lives and works in Elkhausen-Katzwinkel (Westerwald).

Michelle Eistrup

© Michelle Eistrup
Michelle Eistrup, In the Deep Underground and Up Above

Michelle Eistrup

In her works, artist Michelle Eistrup combines various mediums of expression such as photography, drawing, video, sound art, and performance. Using the categories of identity, corporeality, belief, and memory, she examines the efficacy and legacy of colonialism.  
Her works reflect multitemporal and transnational colonial entanglements. The documentary video installation In the Deep Underground and Up Above explores the history of colonialism in Australia through the personal narratives of three women. 

[Translate to English:] Die Arbeit

The work Mineral Emissaries also deals with this theme: working together with the University of Freiberg / Sammlung Terra Mineralia, Eistrup accompanied scientists in geological research and analysis procedures. The work reveals how the meaning of Australia’s caves has changed: from hallowed grounds to sites where resources are sought, something that continues to shape the former colony’s present. The work Breathing Archives highlights the violent impact that museum collection policies have had on the regions and communities in question. In doing so, the artist also recalls the restitution policies of the GDR, which enable important impulses for current museum debates and discourses. Michelle Eistrup lives and works in Copenhagen.

© Michelle Eistrup
Michelle Eistrup. Entwurf für Breathing Archives 2, 2021

Collective »kaboom«

The collective »kaboom« brings texts into public spaces, thereby creating unique, new art forms. Their artistic work aims to create synergies with other disciplines, allow literature to be experienced through the senses, and create new approaches to texts. 
For the exhibition, the collective »kaboom« has conceived a trail of poetry that presents language as a path, a perspective, and a method of recollection. The trail of poetry focuses on an emancipatory, global (and predominantly ‘female’) perspective that gives a narrative voice to various realities of life, marginalization, and trauma. 

© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: David Pinzer
Ausstellungsansicht "Sprachlosigkeit - Das laute Verstummen"

[Translate to English:] »kaboom« II

The texts, which occupy the house, interweave with the objects in the collection and the artists’ works. They probe them for links and (in)translatability, set focal points, consolidate and then disappear, and form voids  only to reappear again and expand the viewpoints.

Exemplary of this is the Celan-Kosmos, created in collaboration with the literary scholar Leon Doorlag. The work examines the poem SPRACHGITTER by Paul Celan, stripping away layers and levels of meaning to approach the text step by step and translate it into a spatial image.  

»kaboom« consists of literary scholar Carolin Schmidt and scenographer Margaret Schlenkrich. Both live and work in Berlin. 

Kuwash in collaboration with Beátrice Babin

“On one of our trips, we sat with an old man and drank tea with him. He told us scary and funny stories about the wild and fearless people who once lived in these mountains. That night we decided to call ourselves “Kuwash” and tell stories ourselves. Wild and fearless.” – Kuwash  

Together with video artist Beatrice Babin, Kuwash tells a story of discovering a language in Remember? Memories. The exhibition space becomes the setting for a journey of discovery, a place of encounter in images and words.   

The visitors become witnesses to a very personal story that, choreographed in the space, grows into a universal narrative. Fragments give rise to their own poetic approach to memories, which tells of overcoming speechlessness and the emergence of open spaces.

Silvina Der Meguerditchian

In Silvina Der Meguerditchian’s multimedia works, performative knotting and connecting become an artistic mnemonic – an individual, collective, and above all, transgenerational memory work. As the granddaughter of Armenian grandparents who fled to Argentina in 1915 in the face of the expulsion and massacre of the Armenians, the artist’s personal history is closely linked to the collective trauma of the genocide. From lost stories, things, and objects, Silvina Der Meguerditchian arranges living archives and creates textures of memory that serve as material for new affiliations, opening up scope for a transformed coexistence. 

The tapestry Made in Turkey II creates an imaginary map of Istanbul: missing fragments of an incomplete satellite image appear through the artful crochet technique. At its edges, documentary photographs show everyday life in Armenia at the beginning of the 20th century. Lost opportunities resulting from a divided history are symbolically represented by empty spaces in the cityscape and erasers. 

© Silvina Der-Meguerditchian
Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, „When they go low, we go high“, 2021

[Translate to English:] Silvina Der Meguerditchian II

A family-owned notebook containing 350 remedies, written in Armenian script and Turkish, forms the starting point of the installation Treasures:  

The artist re-correlates her great-grandmother’s recipes with various objects from the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden. By juxtaposing the objects, their stories are interwoven and transformed into a shared narrative of overcoming collective suffering.   

Silvina Der Meguerditchian lives and works in Berlin. 

Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro

Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro is a conceptual multimedia-artist, writer and activist. In her works, she analyses processes of power- and knowledge production in historical archives, which engage critically with struggles of migrant communities and colonial memory culture. She combines pictures, photographs, radio sounds, live-performances, films and archival materials into immersive installations. 
Auf den Trümmern des Paradieses (On the Ruins of Paradise) combines questions of colonial memory culture and future visions with literary voices. It shows a “ruinous” film set, on which stories and biographies of female authors become hearable. She invites visitors to edit the history and write their own ending for the script. 
Mba Bikoro’s work is a legacy to anti-colonial resistance movements led by women. It uncovers blank spaces in a historiography produced during the colonial project in Europe, hinting at the possibility of a de-colonial future. Thus, she creates opportunites for alternative narratives beyond speechlessness. 
Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro lives and works in Berlin.

© Courtesy of Körnerpark Gallery, Foto: Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Nino Nihad Pusija
Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, On The Ruins Of Paradise 2017

Comfort Women Museum

In 2009, the Korea Verband founded the “Comfort Women” initiative, which has been providing information about the fate and experiences of women who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military during the Pacific War (1937-1945). This work gave rise to the “Comfort Women Museum” in Berlin. The museum is dedicated to global continuities of sexualized violence in times of war, crisis, and peace. It examines the far-reaching consequences for the victims of sexually violent crimes and shows how women collectively and in many voices seek to overcome their speechlessness.

© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: David Pinzer

Kim Seo-Kyung and Kim Un-Seong

Selected exhibits from the museum’s previous exhibitions will be on display at the Japanisches Palais. The peace statue, for example, can be seen in two versions, one made of bronze and the other of plastic. It is both a memorial and a tribute to the victims of the “comfort women” system. It was designed by the artists Kim Seo-Kyung (*1965) and Kim Un-Seong (*1964) and realized together with the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Yajima Tsukasa

The portrait series Face to Face by Japanese photographer Yajima Tsukasa (b. 1971) shows the survivors as personalities. For the series, Yajima lived and worked at the House of Sharing in South Korea, a housing project for “comfort women,” from 2003 to 2006. Through the striking photographs, he finds a means of expression to give the anonymously abducted women back their voice.

© Yajima Tsukasa
Yajima Tsukasa, Projekt "face to face", Mun Pilgi, 2003-2006

Remedios Felias

The embroidery My Experience in War was created by Remedios Felias (1928-2004). Felias was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was 14 and was systematically subjected to sexual violence for two years. Fifty years later, she began drawing her experiences in colored pencil. Her pictures were published as a book titled The Hidden Battle of Leyte. She used selected scenes from it for the embroidery on display. The work has invaluable documentary value, as no photographs exist of the “comfort women” experience. 

Ute Puder

Ute Puder is a director, communication expert, and head of the agency puder+consortio pg. In her interactive artistic works, she deals with themes of flight, topographies of commemorative landscapes, and intergenerational trauma. She is co-founder of the Leipzig-based “Revolutionale, Festival for Change.” During the 2019 Leipzig Book Fair, she initiated the installation Black Box. Where do I come from? Where am I going? based on the theme of loss of home and new beginnings at Leipzig Central Station.   

Using participatory and artistic interventions in Dresden’s urban space, Ute Puder will be inviting people to talk about personal memories and traumatic experiences. In the Semper Room of the Japanisches Palais, she has created a place of encounter and discussion. Puder creates a dialogue between the past and the present, which only takes shape through the visitors’ active participation. Her documentary film “Where do I come from. Where am I going?” will be shown as part of the exhibition. 

Ute Puder lives and works in Leipzig.

Olaf Schlote

Olaf Schlote’s photographic works are dedicated to the interplay of individual and collective memories and their materialization in landscape and memorial sites. In Schlote’s highly sensitive photographic explorations, places become temporal navigational systems of subjective experiences that expose hidden layers of meaning inherent to space. Schlote’s photographs take the observer from Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Stutthof to Israel. They show partly blurred landscapes from the surroundings of former National Socialist extermination camps and at the same time convey an ambivalent longing for overcoming inconceivable suffering in the state of Israel. 

© Olaf Schlote
Olaf Schlote, Bild ohne Titel (Arbeitstitel: La mer), 2019

[Translate to English:] Olaf Schlote II

Haunting portraits of survivors of the Shoah show people who narrowly escaped death and found a new life in Israel. The portraits connect the past with the invitation to a more hopeful future and a new dialogical coexistence. Olaf Schlote lives and works in Bremen. 

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Further Exhibitions
18/09/2021 —24/04/2022
[Translate to English:]

Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut

in Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut

Buddha in einem Schrein
02/10/2021 —06/02/2022

Dreams of Freedom

in Albertinum

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