In September 1972 some 50,000 East Germans enthusiastically welcomed the African American Civil Rights activist Angela Davis to Berlin. Thousands of them had participated in the official state campaign “One Million Roses for Angela Davis” which helped secure the acquittal of the young academic who was on trial for terrorism in the United States. In East Germany and in leftist circles in West Germany, Davis had been stylised as an international communist icon. The exhibition at the Albertinum aims to deconstruct this rigid image of Angela Davis and offer a broader view of the now retired professor. The project highlights her strategies of female self-empowerment and radical black resistance, her commitment to social and ethnic equality and her fight against gender discrimination.
In addition to archived materials and works by prominent East German artists, the exhibition will present works by contemporary artists, which directly and indirectly refer to Davis. Ângela Ferreira, for example, addresses the repercussions of post-colonialism in Africa, while Elske Rosenfeld’s performances explore the “Vocabulary of Revolutionary Gestures”. Sadie Barnette pursues strategies for reappropriating history; her installation is based on files the FBI made on her father, a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and one of Angela Davis’s former bodyguards. Gabriele Stötzer’s video performance, in which she addresses her own incarceration in the GDR, establishes a thematic link to Davis’s investigations on and activism against prisons around the world. A central reading room designed by Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba from Contemporary And, provides a selection of books that are connected to the intellectual impact of Davis in various ways, showing the traces of colonial legacies and multiple realities of contemporary times.
The project investigates the socialist utopia which Davis had imagined the GDR to be and which continues to inspire people to search for more equitable forms of social coexistence.
While the exhibition runs in Dresden, other projects will be staged in the United States. In cooperation with the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick and the Oakland Museum, the Albertinum plans to commission works. An exhibition tour through the United States is also planned in order to raise awareness of Davis’s international influence.
Artistic director: Kathleen Reinhardt
Artists: Sadie Barnette, Ângela Ferreira, Steffani Jemison, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Julie Mehretu, Julia Phillips, Alex Martinis Roe, Elske Rosenfeld, Lewis Watts