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Denkmal Demokratie

Under construction

München, 05/21/2014

Angela Merkel as a Greek goddess, Sokrates at the World Cup in Brazil. These are just two of the ideas developed by a diverse group of students over the past two years for the exhibition “Denkmal Demokratie” (“Monument [for] Democracy”). The show is now open to the public.

Angela Merkel as a Greek goddess, Sokrates at the World Cup in Brazil. These are just two of the ideas developed by a diverse group of students over the past two years for the exhibition “Denkmal Demokratie” (“Monument [for] Democracy”). The show is now open to the public.

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Picture gallery: Exhibition “Denkmal Demokratie”

The collaboration that began more than two years ago between the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke (Museum for Casts of Classical Statuary) in Munich and students drawn from a range of disciplines slowly evolved into a huge project. In numerous seminar sessions over the course of five semesters, some 70 students of Ancient History, Classical and Near Eastern Studies, Archaeology, Art History, Art Education and Design developed their ideas, created new works and installed an exhibition devoted to “Democracy”. The exhibition is now on, and runs until 29. July.

“The perennial problems of choice, peace and freedom are themes that have found expression in works of art created in Classical Antiquity and in the modern era,” says Andrea Schmölder-Veit, who teaches at LMU‘s Institute of Classical Archaeology and was the guiding spirit for the whole project. Democracy as it was practiced in Classical Greece - its political form and context, and the artworks which it inspired - form the basis for and the background to the exhibition. In interactive installations, animated films and sound collages, the students confront monumental sculpture created in Greece in the Classical Age with issues that loom large in our current political landscape.

Eirenic Angela Merkel
Among the exhibits is a depiction of Angela Merkel in the guise of Eirene, the Greek goddess of peace. “Eirene symbolizes the democratic process in Classical Antiquity,” says Schmölder-Veit. “In the modern version by Julia Bjalik, the attribute borne by ‘Angene’ is an umbrella – a reference to the problems of democratic legitimacy in Ancient – and contemporary Greece.” (In Germany, the European Stability Mechanism, the rescue facility set up by the EU as a safety net to ensure the long-term survival of the euro, is popularly referred to as the Euro-Rettungsschirm, the “(life-)saving umbrella”).

In the video clip “Demokrates”, Filip Pobocik and Benedikt Reiser place the symbols of ancient Greek democracy in a surprising (though not altogether unfamiliar) context. In the spirit of Monty Python’s famous football match between Greek and German philosophers, they cast a critical eye on the protests that have occurred in Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup, the activities of the “Anonymous” movement, and the attack on the World Trade Center in New York – all themes that prompt questions such as: What exactly is democracy? What role do I personally play in our society?

The A-to-Z of mounting an exhibition
“The project was an ideal way of learning how knowledge can be communicated to others,” says Ulrich Hofstätter, a doctoral student in Classical Archaeology, who has been involved in the venture from the start. The roots of the Denkmal Demokratie project lie in a seminar at the Institute of Classical Archaeology on the preparation of a museum catalog. “First of all, we had to learn how to write descriptions that would be of interest to non-archaeologists – and in the beginning, that was surprisingly hard,” Hofstätter recalls. But the students soon got the hang of it, and the texts they subsequently produced formed the basis for the further elaboration of the project. They also supplied the inspiration for the works created by members of the Art Education class, served as the basic source for the communications material used in the exhibition, and provided the background knowledge for the posters produced by students of the Munich School of Design.

“Putting the overall concept of the exhibition together was another particularly challenging phase of the project,” says Andrea Schmölder-Veit. Teams representing the different disciplines involved worked out an agreed concept for the exhibition as a whole that would prompt viewers to reflect on the relationships between the ancient and modern works in the show. “It wasn’t always easy to reconcile the very different viewpoints and approaches favored by students of Archaeology, History and Art and come up with a practical concept that all could agree on. To see how well everything turned out in the end was a pleasant surprise for all.”

The exhibition “Denk!mal Demokratie. under construction” is on show until 29. Juli in the Museum für Abgüsse klassischer Bildwerke München, Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10. Visitors can take part in guided tours of the exhibition, led by students who were directly involved in its conception.