With its new exhibition, Albtraumvorhersager, the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts (Museum der bildenden Künste, MdbK) is bridging the divide between Leipzig’s cultured elite and its disillusioned teenagers. MdbK director, Dr. Stefan Weppelmann, spoke to the press about their first collaborative exhibition with the Leipzig youth art project, greater form. It opened on Saturday, 29 October, and runs through 27 November 2022.
The Nightmare Predictor (Der Albtraumvorhersager) exhibits works by 6 to 18-year-olds from the Grünau-based youth art club, greater form. It is a diverse group, both in age and background. A core group of 8-12 kids meets 3 days a week and up to 100 have visited over the course of a year. There is no registration required, no cost, just a safe space to make some art.
Lina Ruske explains the exhibition’s recurring symbolism of a Schutzbude.
This literally translates into “protective hideout”, and is something that is important for the kids. “They always build them,” she tells me. “The kids come to us out of their personal crises, through a world in crisis and then we ask them to talk about the future. I mean, it’s such an adult topic and it’s hard for them to get their head around; it’s hard for us all. So, to begin with, we just painted the whole meeting room black.”
“Out of this black room developed the idea of the Nightmare Predictor,” Mirko Gust of greater form tells me. “It was putting an image to all the unknowns of the future.” The Nightmare Predictor, which is on show, is a large box covered in green fur, with a single large eye on top. To enter the Nightmare Predictor one must step into its gaping mouth, over the sharp teeth, and take a seat under its enormous, illuminated brain. A protective hideout. The exhibition is laid out in the form of a labyrinth, giving the visitor a sense of the wrong turns, dark corners, and disorientation experienced by these young people. “The labyrinth was a logical layout for the theme,” Mirko says.
Other exhibited works include a bunk bed painted and decorated to represent what doesn’t happen for some of these kids at home. A bed how it should be, designed to protect. Experimentation with different materials is core to the group, and the diverse works on show make this apparent. These materials range from latex, papier maché, coloured sand, plastic fingernails, and video, or works combining many of the above.
Leipzig’s Kulturamt partly funds greater form.
However, new applications for funding need to be submitted every year. There is never any guarantee that there will be enough funding for the coming year, or that their 6 staff members will be able to continue. This new collaboration with the museum is a wonderful chance to receive publicity and support from a secure government-funded gallery. “It’s unacceptable how little funding such projects receive,” Dr. Weppelmann concurs.
It is no accident that the nightmares of young people on the outskirts of the city find space in Leipzig’s premier art space. “A city doesn’t consist of streets and houses alone; a city lives from community and collectives. Where do young people find a place to process the topics of friendship, love, and death? Where can we find these images? What kind of education does one need to enter this museum? The museum belongs to everyone in this city, every taxpayer, not only the ones in the inner city but also those on the outskirts, in Grünau. It belongs to them,” Dr. Weppelmann continues.
Dr. Weppelmann has a vision of using the space adjacent to the gallery café as a place for social discourse.
Therefore it will remain free of cost so that no one is excluded. “Art museums are an unfinished place where things are allowed to exist and to be experienced,” he says. “A place of protection and defense, and both are present in this project. This exhibition is intergenerational. It is equally as important as Caspar David Friedrich upstairs. An educated society has many layers. I want to bridge this gap. When does an art exhibition happen? Inside this building or also outside? Maybe next year in Grünau?”
Bringing the Grünau kids into the intimidating space of the gallery was a challenge.
Through many visits to the space, starting in May this year, this challenge was overcome. “In the beginning, the kids just walked straight through the exhibition spaces and didn’t look at anything. When they were prevented from touching the Max Klinger sculpture of Beethoven in the foyer, one kid was surprised. He admitted that he didn’t know that it was real art and thought that they were all just fakes. Thereafter, the group went through the paintings of the 1800s and took photographs of them so that they could take them home and continue to look at them in their own familiar environment. “Now the group is very confident in the art gallery,” Lina tells me. “They are no longer anxious in this space.”
The enrichment takes place on both sides of this cultural exchange. It is embodied in the make-up counter where the youth make up the faces of adults. This encounter is a two-way street. “Regular visitors to the gallery are confronted with realities that they don’t normally see,” Lina explains. Then she pauses and adds, “Or realities they don’t want to see.”
The Albtraumvorhersager by greater form is on show from 30.10.2022 – 27.11.2022 at the gallery café of the MdbK Leipzig.
Any donations to greater form, Grünau, Leipzig can be made to:
Accountholder: GIRO e.V.
Details: greater form
Bank: Sparkasse Leipzig
IBAN: DE29 8605 5592 1100 4333 56