Kleist – Crisis and Experiment

Cultural historic exhibition marking the Kleist Commemorative Year 2011

Kleist: Krise und Experiment. Foto: Carsten Steps / Fotolia

"Kleist – Crisis and Experiment” was a dual exhibition that portrays the life, works and personality of this important German writer. The two interrelated exhibitions were shown simultaneously in Frankfurt (Oder) and Berlin – the places of Kleist's birth and death.

The presentation focused on Kleist as a "crisis specialist", whose life had been influenced by numerous catastrophes and who developed his ideas and projects based on his years of experience with crises. After serving in the military, Kleist constantly renewed and revised his life's plans. His models of crisis management and catastrophe represent a pervading sense of insecurity and existential fear which are reflected in his dramas and novellas, for example, in the crazed pursuit of justice and vigilante justice, fury and the ideal of liberation. Based on his visions of happiness and their failure to materialize, Kleist developed his own experiments and projects.

But how did Kleist come to terms with a life that was merely a collection of experiments with unpredictable outcomes? In his literary works and on stage, he presented extremes – in both his portrayal of personal ties and their fragility, and his radical formality. Although most of Kleist's contemporaries didn't understand him or his extraordinary opinions, this playwright and storyteller seems quite modern to us today.

The goal of the exhibition's curators was to summarize Kleist's unusual life and outstanding works, illustrate the relevance of Kleist to our world and attitudes today, and demonstrate the importance of his cultural legacy. The scenography of the exhibition featured a didactic narrative level along with rooms designed as stage sets which present the main themes of Kleist's texts, especially those of his letters. Along with a richly illustrated catalogue, the exhibitions were accompanied by numerous events, such as discussions, lectures, film adaptations, readings and musical soirées, which provided opportunities for scientific and artistic discourse and commentary.

Directors: Prof. Dr. Günter Blamberger, Stefan Iglhaut

Venues and schedule:
Ephraim-Palais, Stadtmuseum, Berlin and
Kleist-Museum, Frankfurt (Oder), 21 May 2011 - 29 January 2012


Anne Maase
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Franckeplatz 1

06110 Halle (Saale)

Tel.: +49 (0)345 2997 163

Fax: +49 (0)345 2997 333