“Why we forget” is the second temporary exhibition to be presented at the newly constructed Historical Museum Frankfurt, completed in 2017. The exhibition sets the tone for the museum’s new orientation, i.e. to address the challenges of urban society of the 21st century and perform commemorative cultural work on a sustainable basis. In this exhibition, the museum turns its attention to the subject of “forgetting” as an aspect of memory and as a major global issue of society and history.
Many have long believed that the primary responsibility of remembrance culture was to rescue historical events from succumbing to the “natural” process of forgetting. Now in the digital age and in light of the unforgiving memory of the Internet, many are appealing for the right to be forgotten. That being said, it is important to bear in mind that throughout history and in regions around the world, “forgetting” is a politically convenient way to suppress and silence inconvenient truths. Starting with the “memory crisis” of the digital age, the exhibition presents a wide array of issues dating back to the first memory crisis of the secularised and industrial modern age 200 years ago. Since 1800, the study of the brain has developed in lockstep with the establishment of our major institutions of remembrance: the museum, the archive and the library. Indeed, the formation of modern nations is inherently tied to collective remembering and forgetting. The 20th century bears the scars of horrendous crimes and genocide committed in the context of two world wars and colonialism – crimes which continue to inflame deep social and personal conflicts with regard to remembering and forgetting.
This exhibition presents the political manifestations of forgetting, as well as related life-scientific, neuroscientific and psychological aspects. It is divided into eleven sections: forgetfulness, renewal, forgetting in the brain, aids for preventing forgetting, deletion, devaluation, denial and silence, revising, curative forgetting, forgiving and the right to be forgotten. In addition to thematically relevant ensembles of works from the museum’s collection, the exhibition will present the different forms, strategies and motives of forgetting by highlighting selected case studies from various disciplines. Approximately 20 international works of contemporary art will explore the issue in further detail from alternative points of view.
Idea: Jan Gerchow
Curators: Jasmin Alley and Kurt Wettengl
Artists: Kader Attia (FR), Christian Boltanski, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Daniela Comani, Tacita Dean, Mark Dion (US), Hans-Peter Feldmann, Jochen Gerz, Martin Honert, Ilya Kabakov, Christina Kubisch, Boris Lurie, Arwed Messmer, Jana Müller, Adrian Paci (AL), Regis Perray, Maya Schweizer (FR), Tino Sehgal, Sigrid Sigurdsson (NO) and others