Sieh Dir die Menschen an!
Das neusachliche Typenporträt in der Weimarer Zeit
What does our face reveal about our character, our life, our political leanings? In the context of the current use of artificial intelligence, this is a question that might well give rise to a comeback for physiognomy using algorithms and statistics. This approach is not new. Concepts of types were widespread even in the Weimar era. Reflections on physiognomy, type theory and characterology abounded, both in scientific publications and in the flourishing newspaper, cinema and literature sectors.
For the first time, the exhibition will focus intently on the portraits of types of the New Objectivity era in their historical context. Numerous works in which artists like Otto Dix, George Grosz, Jeanne Mammen and Hanna Nagel foregrounded the “typical” in their portraits of people were influenced considerably by a discourse taking place in society as a whole during the Weimar Republic: the search for the “face of the time”.
From today’s perspective, that way of thinking is seen as a mania for categorisation and typification in an epoch seeking orientation. On the other hand, the exhibition illustrates that many of the stereotypes and clichés of that time still continue to have an effect today and influence our view of other people. Finally, by means of an installation which Cemile Sahin created especially for the occasion, the exhibition draws a line from then to now.
The exhibition title refers to the widely read book “Sieh dir die Menschen an!” by Gerhard Venzmer (1893-1986). The book was first published in 1930 by Franckh’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung Stuttgart and, according to the publisher’s description, was intended to “vividly explain the inner relationships between the shape of the body and the nature of man”. From today’s perspective, it can be seen that despite the enormous scope of the publication, the theses formulated here did not go beyond pseudo-scientific fabulation, but had major consequences.
Organised by Kunstmuseum Stuttgart together with Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser