We is Future
The threat to our living spaces shapes our reality today. Demands for fundamental changes are therefore becoming increasingly urgent. But how can the seemingly unchangeable be rethought? What new forms of living together are desirable at all? Based on these contemporary questions, the exhibition We is Future. Visions of New Communities examines historical and current artistic ideas for alternative forms of living together. Turning to nature or trusting in technical innovations connects the different positions. Each chapter of the show marks a historical fault line. Using a variety of media such as painting, sculpture, graphics, video and performance, the presentation culminates in a temple-like installation by architect and artist Yussef Agbo-Ola [Olaniyi Studio] created especially for the exhibition.
We is Future begins at the end of the 19th century, when the negative consequences of industrialisation and urbanisation are already becoming apparent. Counter-movements and alternatives were not long in coming. The first chapter of the exhibition outlines the hope for a liberated life in harmony with nature in paintings by Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach or Ludwig von Hofmann. A new spirituality can be found in the drawings and paintings by Elisàr von Kupffer.
Bruno Taut and Wenzel Hablik designed their large architectural projects from steel and glass, with forms inspired by crystal. As a symbol of the new age, they call for a new building for a new society in designs of crystalline architecture after the horrors of the First World War. Taut found a supporter in the founder of the Museum Folkwang, Karl Ernst Osthaus. Their collaboration resulted in the conception of Osthaus' heart project, a reform school.
A separate chapter is devoted to Constant's work complex New Babylon. From 1956 to 1974, the Dutch artist designed a new modular and flexible living world in numerous paintings, drawings and models. Here, the playing human being (homo ludens) builds his own environment for a new society. Further on, We is Future – with Superstudio's gigantic structural reform of the planet and Anna Halprin's ritual Planetary Dance – tells of the hippie modernism of the 1970s and 1980s. In sketches, collages and films, their visions of an alternative life are brought into the exhibition space.
The final chapter of the exhibition shows contemporary works by Eglė Budvytytė, Emma Talbot and Timur Si-Qin. Their works address a new connection with nature and all living things and confront historical positions with questions of the present. Spatially and in terms of content, the threads of the exhibition come together in Oriji: 12 Stone Frog Temple by Yussef Agbo-Ola, a new production for Museum Folkwang. Inspired by the poison dart frog, which is threatened with extinction, the expansive temple sharpens the eye for even the smallest creatures of the ecosystems that keep the world in balance and invites a sensual experience. (Yussef Agbo-Ola explains the genesis of his work Oriji: 12 Stone Frog Temple in conversation with Rebecca Herlemann and Antonina Krezdorn) The quest for an ideal community that does not (yet) exist or no longer exists is the unifying element and driving force of the works on display.
ON THE CURRENT SITUATION
In autumn 2022, Museum Folkwang has invited Anaïs Duplan to curate a chapter on "Afrofuturism" for the exhibition We Is Future. Visions of New Communities. The curator, author and professor of literature, who lives in the USA, has recognised expertise in this subject area. Since 18 October 2023, various posts relating to the current situation in Israel and Gaza have been shared and commented on by Duplan on the Instagram channel @an.duplan. On 10 November 2023, a post appeared on this account calling for support for the BDS network. The German Bundestag has categorised this network as anti-Semitic. The Museum Folkwang has therefore decided to end its collaboration with Anaïs Duplan. This decision was made neither for artistic-curatorial reasons nor because of the exhibition's theme, but solely because the curator personally takes sides with the BDS campaign, which questions Israel's right to exist. The Museum Folkwang views the developments in Israel and Gaza and the suffering of the civilian population on both sides with great concern. The City of Essen and the Museum Folkwang stand for peace and dialogue between cultures.