From Romanticism to the future

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Project description

The forest has been viewed symbolically and aesthetically as the epitome of nature ever since Romanticism. Its historical mythologisation as a place of longing where we can find harmony with nature and ourselves has now become one of concern about its future which is existentially threatened by climate change. This interdisciplinary exhibition project in Frankfurt/Main aims to explore the interlocking cultural and environmental motives which are driving this new awareness that we must protect our forests. The project organisers assert that Romanticism was in fact the first environmental movement in German cultural history and is still relatable to this day. Numerous authors of early Romanticism (Novalis, Günderrode) assumed that nature and humans were fundamentally equal and urgently warned against instrumentalising and exploiting nature. In this respect, the exhibition presents an alternative and more politicised interpretation than the traditionally reading, i.e. that the “Romantic” forest served primarily as a projection surface for human sentiments and needs.

The project largely focuses on the interdisciplinary approach of the early Romanticists who programmatically referenced natural scientific, natural philosophical and literary-aesthetic perspectives. These facets of the forest and nature, which were lost on the Romanticism scholars of the late 19th and 20th century, are now being rediscovered by contemporary artists and authors (e.g. in the nature writing movement) and are being perceived and reconsidered as the starting point for a changed attitude. The roots of modern eco-criticism can be traced back to the era of Romanticism and provide material for a contemporary narrative of an aesthetically and ethically informed relationship with nature.

In cooperation with several Frankfurt institutions, the newly opened Romantik-Museum, the Senckenberg Naturmuseum and the Museum Sinclair-Haus of the Stiftung Kunst und Natur, the project is able to combine the collective expertise of literary and cultural studies, the fine arts and music, and the natural sciences. The fourth station of the project, the Frankfurt Stadtwald (municipal forest), will serve as a kind of real-world laboratory.

Artistic directors: Nicola Lepp, Kathrin Meyer
Curatorial team: Thorolf Müller, Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken, Wolfgang Bunzel, Brigitte Franzen
Preselected artists: Maria Thereza Alves, Dieter Appelt, Ursula Biemann, Persijn Broersen, Agnes Denes, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Volker Kreidler, Markus Maeder, Antje Majewski, Agnes Meyer-Brandes and others
Preselected sound artists: John Grzinich, Garth Paine, Sofia Gubaidulina, Hildegard Westerkamp, Pantha du Prince and others

Exhibitions: Deutsches Romantik-Museum and Senckenberg Naturmuseum Frankfurt am Main; Museum Sinclair Haus, Bad Homburg: 14 Mar. – 25 Aug. 2024


Freies Deutsches Hochstift

Großer Hirschgraben 23-25
60311 Frankfurt am Main
Telefon: +49 (0)69 138 80-0
E-Mail: info​(at)​ (external link, opens in a new window)