What words can express the apparently inexpressible? What steps can societies take to overcome the speechlessness sparked by collective experiences of loss and violence? The exhibition WordlessFalling Silent Loudly in the Japanisches Palais
from April 16 to August 1, 2021 is dedicated to exploring possible ways of shattering the phases of silence that result when people suffer collective trauma.
Based on the works of the poet Paul Celan, the presentation examines, from a multitude of angles, how poetry opens up a pathway out of speechlessness and offers a space for empathetic remembrance. It presents items from the Völkerkundemuseen (The Ethnological Museum) in Dresden and Leipzig, in dialogue with contemporary works of art probing the circumstances and effects of silencein photographs, videos, mixed-media installations and conceptual works. Among other things, the exhibition reflects on colonial power relations and ways of dealing with the controversial contexts in which items from the Völkerkundemuseen collections were acquired. A string of poems accompany and comment upon the exhibits and works by the seven artists and activists.
This presentation clearly reveals the sociohistorical causes of collective trauma and how it is dealt with from a global and highly nuanced perspective: from the dispossession of the Kaurna in Australia to the Shoah and the violence experienced by the Comfort Women in the Second World War to the crimes committed in the Yugoslav Wars.
While the exhibition is on, the Semperraum at the Japanisches Palais will become a forum for visitors to discuss their personal experiences. Ambassadors from the Japanisches Palais will also cycle through Dresden, stopping at places of public life, handing out postcards and inviting people to write down what makes them personally speechless.
The supporting events will include invitations to the public to take part in the project together with the artists, activists and museum staff. The future forums will take the form of panel discussions on the topics brought up in the presentation and on the programme of films jointly developed with the initiators. The workshop days with artists and regular discussion tours will invite visitors to get to know the exhibition and its participants.