brecht: fragments

brecht fragments

Saturday 15 June - Sunday 18 August 2024

Exhibition opening hours:  11am – 9pm, Wednesdays to Sundays
Performances at 3.30pm and 7pm, until 28 July 2024

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This exhibition will be the first dedicated to the visual production of legendary German playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956). It features original material from the Bertolt Brecht Archive in Berlin, alongside performances of a set of scenes from his early unfinished plays.

Throughout his working life, Brecht cut out and organised visual material from sources ranging from newspapers and magazines to labels and packaging. He accumulated images to inform his theatre, from medieval paintings and Chinese theatre to contemporary clothing and industrial production, and also recorded social and political events and their actors – politicians, soldiers, workers and people on the street – in a collage project that played out across notebooks, journals and manuscripts. Brecht’s dramatic works were often constructed in fragments of text, cut out and reorganised as montages on large sheets of paper. Alongside a selection of these, the exhibition will display original manuscripts, made by Brecht while in exile, that document the devastation of the Second World War. With the exception of War Primer, Brecht’s image-text essay about war under capitalism, most of this material remains little-known.

Twice a day throughout the exhibition, actors will lead visitors through Raven Row, performing dramatic fragments from four of Brecht’s unfinished plays from the 1920s, showing how montage and snapshot techniques played a crucial part in his conception of playwriting. Audiences will be asked to consider class conflict and poverty in The Breadshop, the excesses of stock trading in Fleischhacker, a man-made apocalypse in The Flood and a tank crew deserting the front line in Fatzer. Sets for these performances will further animate Brecht’s archive, reproducing his writing about the plays as well as research material he gathered to inform them, and revealing the profound role that visual conceptualisation played in his creative and political thinking.

brecht: fragments is curated by Phoebe von Held, in collaboration with Tom Kuhn, Alex Sainsbury, and Iliane Thiemann from the Bertolt Brecht Archive at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. With thanks to the Akademie der Künste for their invaluable support in developing this exhibition.