The Democracy Project

This visual exhibition explores the intellectual, social, and cultural impact of the Weimar Republic on the African diaspora

By Carnegie Hall

Curated by Reynaldo Anderson and The Black Speculative Arts Movement

“A man thinks his will is the will of Heaven.” —Bertolt Brecht

Curated by Reynaldo Anderson and The Black Speculative Arts Movement

Reynaldo AndersonCarnegie Hall

Meet the Curator: Reynaldo Anderson

Dr. Anderson is an associate professor of Africology and African American Studies at Temple University; executive director and co-founder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement; and co-editor of the books Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness and The Black Speculative Arts Movement: Black Futurity, Art+Design.

The Black Speculative Arts Movement presents a visual-arts interpretive retrospective of Germany’s Weimar Republic. Inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s play Drums in the Night, The Democracy Project explores the aftermath of World War I, its links to imperialism, the creativity throughout the Weimar period, and the struggle over the future fought in the streets. With influences that range from Aleister Crowley, Otto Dix, Kurt Weill, and Paul Klee to art and the architecture of Bauhaus and jazz, The Democracy Project highlights how the esoteric, the speculative, and the outsider were creative features of modernity. The exhibition’s three-part focus is on the threat to democratic values, complexity, and inclusive societies around the themes of Desire, Deliverance, and Descent. The Democracy Project further explores how the Weimar Republic influenced contemporary American culture and vice versa, providing lessons on how our own society must deal with threats to democratic values. 

Desire

The theme of Desire focuses on the occult and science fiction—both features of the Weimar Republic. Figures like Aleister Crowley, Fritz Lang, and others were influential in the practice or emergence of theosophy, Dadaism, surrealism, New Objectivity, Bauhaus, and other art forms alongside new sexual freedoms, technology, and democracy in post-imperial Germany. 

Fumée (2023) by Greg AiméCarnegie Hall

Fumée

By Greg Aimé

Insurgência Cultural (2023) by Cola Pretta and GCCarnegie Hall

Insurgência Cultural

By Cola Pretta and GC
"The work brings elements and symbols that composes art and that refer to the insurgent movements in the north and northeast of Brazil at the time, building a representation of the struggle and resistance of samba schools in times of war, to maintain popular culture. The work is developed with digital painting containing digital collage elements."

Josephine Baker (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

Josephine Baker

By Tim Fielder

Cyborgue Cosmológico Ou: a colonização daquele que é anterior à construção das raças (2023) by Likidah and Amon RáCarnegie Hall

Cyborgue Cosmológico Ou: a colonização daquele que é anterior à construção das raças

By Likidah and Amon Rá

From the artists of Cyborgue Cosmológico Ou: a colonização daquele que é anterior à construção das raças, Likidah and Amon Rá:

"The work displays the cosmic cyborg, guardian of its multiple versions. He reconstructs narratives of erasure of black identities and his focus is to reconstruct the version presented with the white mask sewn into his skin. 
In the work one can also see references to the writings of Frantz Fanon, Gilberto Freyre, the Municipal Theater of São Paulo, the mantle of Bispo do Rosário, the works of Tarsila do Amaral, the concept of Anthropophagy in Brazilian Modernism and the production of Emicida."

Vozes da Alvorada (2023) by A1219 and Disco DuroCarnegie Hall

Vozes da Alvorada

By A1219 and Disco Duro

"The radio play “Vozes da Alvorada” (Voices of Dawn) explores Afro-Brazilian sound symbols within the political-cultural context of Brazil and black racial political mobilization in the 1920s and 1930s, especially the Frente Negra Brasileira (Brazilian Black Front), influenced by distinct political currents on the rise at the time, such as fascism, integralism and socialism. In this context, we consider the political articulations that established nationalist and modernization ideas, such as the influence of the Weimar Republic on the Brazilian Constitution of 1934, radio broadcasting, black press publications and phonographic recordings of sambas as national symbols. These points trigger historical contradictions in the country, where black people and their cultural practices are constantly co-opted in favor of the construction of Brazil's identity, although social agents are systematically excluded from its official organization.

Thus, the piece proposes to investigate ideological conflicts of the black movement in its formation at the beginning of the 20th century using sound as a technological artifact of historical and cultural memory, visiting recordings and documents in order to weave the complexity of the construction of a black identity post-abolition in search of social emancipation." - A1219 and Disco Duro

My Ancestor (2023) by Zaika dos SantosCarnegie Hall

My Ancestor

By Zaika dos Santos
"My ancestor, protected with all her strength and cosmic energy during the transatlantic crossing until arriving in Brazil, the books she wrote, telling the stories of the Adinkras, the Orishas and the Nkisis, to maintain the syncretism of our family's royalty in Africa. In 1919 in Brazil, she was a great quilombola who carried on her face the traces of our ancestral history and in her hands the book of tomorrow. Thus, her knowledge was passed from generation to generation until it reached my generation."

Liberation Ah Float (2019) by Quentin VerCettyCarnegie Hall

Liberation Ah Float

By Quentin VerCetty

Great Lady of Infinite Space (2023) by Christina MoniqueCarnegie Hall

Great Lady of Infinite Space

By Christina Monique

From the artist of Great Lady of Infinite Space, Christina Monique:

"The work uses digital imagery to depict the reclamation of the esoteric notions that were popular during the time of the Weimar Republic. In the center, a Black woman is depicted as a ballerina from Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus-style ballet, the Triadic Ballet, in reference to performativity and costume. She dons Perdurabo’s ceremonial hat, signifying her reclamation of the wisdom that is rightfully hers. Surrounding her are Thelemic symbols such as the unicursal hexagram, the eye of providence, and the ouroboros. The backdrop is a snapshot of the cosmos on the artist's birthday, which alludes to her return to reclaim the gnosis that had been co-opted and obscured by Eurocentric occultists. The work is meant to instigate discussion surrounding esoteric wisdom and ownership and to spur a renascent Afrofuturist esoteric consciousness."

Cosmogonía (2023) by Antonia GómezCarnegie Hall

Cosmogonía

By Antonia Gómez

Espiritualidad (2023) by Antonia GómezCarnegie Hall

Espiritualidad

By Antonia Gómez

Deseo (2023) by Antonia GómezCarnegie Hall

Deseo

By Antonia Gómez

AfroXotica by Andrea PeoplesCarnegie Hall

AfroXotica

By Andrea Peoples

"AfroXotica Burlesque is an energetic and sensual African drum and dance experience curated and directed by Andrea Peoples of Andrea Peoples Dance Theater in the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans, Louisiana. This pulse-pounding show features an Afrobeats DJ set, live African drummers, electrifying group dance acts, and African-inspired showgirl and burlesque performances celebrating African spirituality and the Black feminine form. This show actively tours, sharing New Orleans’ special blend of the old and the new through inspiring lessons in dance and culture with the world. " - Andrea Peoples  

Credits: Director - Andrea Peoples, Video Director - Jasamine Pettie, Videographer - @a_1of1, Song: “Golden Ticket”  Brasstacks featuring Masego and Common
Location: Treme Market Branch New Orleans
Cast: Nylyn Oubre, Travon Moody, Yvette Jones, Kayla Forney, Jasamine Pettie, Mercedes Watson, Rhaina Foxx, Sarah Mellman, Andrea Peoples, Zulu the Artist, Big Chief David Montana, Solomon Mason of RocSolid Productions, Djembe Judah, Mz. Juno, Joie DeVivre, La Reina

Deliverance

The theme of Deliverance highlights the arrival of the Jazz Age, Louis Armstrong, and Josephine Baker; the cultural politics of W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, and René Maran; and the intersection of African, Afro-European, and African American identities in Weimar Germany.  

W.E.B. Du Bois (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

W.E.B. Du Bois

By Tim Fielder

Alain Locke (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

Alain Locke

By Tim Fielder

QUAD STILL: Du Bois, Locke, Baker, & Crowley (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

QUAD STILL: Du Bois, Locke, Baker, & Crowley

By Tim Fielder

Black Angel of History (2023) by ZiggZaggerZCarnegie Hall

Black Angel of History

By ZiggZaggerZ

"Interpretation of Paul Klee's The Angel of History." - ZiggZaggerZ
Credits: Created and Directed by ZiggZaggerZ, Videography and Editing by Ra-sōn Theus, Executive Producer Reynaldo Anderson, Music by Don Kingski, ZiggZaggerZ, Sonship Theus, ZiggZaggerZ is artist Shannon Theus.

Fortschritte (2023) by Lauren-Ashley HowardCarnegie Hall

Fortschritte

By Lauren-Ashley Howard 
"Illusions of progress through the lens of Metropolis. A found image still from the film is manipulated through traditional printmaking and collage techniques and reconstructed digitally, the white flower motif heralding the arrival of Black culture, the asterisk warning that cosmopolitanism is not all that looms in 1920s Germany."

Ende (2023) by Lauren-Ashley HowardCarnegie Hall

Ende

By Lauren-Ashley Howard
"Disjointed, disoriented, and devoid of humanity, the image plane is flat and distorted. The floral motif returns, signaling the departure of the Jazz Age and Black culture and the transformation of the republic to a more foreboding space."

Schwarze (2023) by Lauren-Ashley HowardCarnegie Hall

Schwarze

By Lauren-Ashley Howard
"Josephine Baker’s form makes real the text from a German review of a Black cabaret—her Blackness, her body, and her sensuality are art. The silver of her dress, and of Beyoncé's disembodied metallic torso, call to Fritz Lang’s “Maria,” white flowers further binding them together while leaving them free to explore the planes of time and space."

Mack the Knife (2023) by Dr. Robert McNichols, Jr.Carnegie Hall

Mack the Knife

By Dr. Robert McNichols, Jr.

Satchmo (2023) by John JenningsCarnegie Hall

Satchmo

By John Jennings

UptownXpress (2023) by Stacey A. RobinsonCarnegie Hall

UptownXpress

By Stacey A. Robinson

Claude McKay (2023) by Stacey A. RobinsonCarnegie Hall

Claude McKay

Stacey A. Robinson

The Negro-Myths and Realities (2023) by Michael K. WilsonCarnegie Hall

The Negro – Myths and Realities

Michael K. Wilson

From the artist of The Negro – Myths and Realities, Michael K. Wilson:

"Langston Hughes’ poem The Negro is a reflective narration of African heritage and African American existence. During the 1920’s, it was one of several literary works translated into German language and disseminated throughout the Weimer Republic.  The Negro- Myths and Realities utilizes collage to visually map how the expressive symbols within the poem become activated through translation and dissemination, highlighting the complex relationship between German history and people of African Descent. The collage references three publications of Hughes’ poem. The first is W.E.B. Dubois 1922 publication within the Crisis magazine, a platform challenging racial injustice through African American intellectual thought and creative expression. The second is within Georg Widenbauer’s 1923 “die schwarze Weltgefahr” (The Black Threat to the World), where the poem is used to symbolize global black revolt against the white race. The third is within Alfons Goldschmidt’s 1931 pamphlet, where the poem is used to garner German support of the Scottsboro Boys.

An archival photograph of the Scottsboro boys accompanies jazz musicians as well as African soldiers in Rhineland. Hovering over these images are racist caricatures symbolizing the perceived threat of African presence and African American culture to whites in Germany. These images overlay a map of former German colonial territories in Africa, while the poem intentionally blankets these contrasting images to give life to African presence throughout complex history. Finally, the poem is anchored by Benin bronze sculptures looted by Germany during colonization, that are currently being repatriated back to Nigeria. As a result, The Negro – Myths and Realities utilizes Hughes' poem and the Weimar Republic to connect the past with the present and the multiple geographies and narratives that shape African cultural existence." 

Descent

The theme of Descent critiques the violent atmosphere surrounding the rise of fascism and the coming 1933 Nazi seizure of power; the afterlife of German colonial African genocide, which forecast the greatest mass murder of the 20th century; and the prophetic relevance of Paul Klee’s art. 

Hands of Darkness (2023) by tobias c. van VeenCarnegie Hall

Hands of Darkness

By tobias c. van Veen

"Hands of Darkness is a remix of Fritz Lang’s silent film, Metropolis (1927), which entered US public domain in January 2023. Made during the turbulent, final years of the Weimar period, the film was criticized for its “communist” narrative of emancipating indentured workers enslaved to the technology of the ruling class. This remix draws attention to the prescient and entwined themes of artificial intelligence and gender, familiar to us today with hallucinating chatbots Alexa and Siri. Furthering van Veen’s concept of “surreal silent cinema,” the soundtrack is a remix by Coingutter of van Veen's experiments with Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), an esoteric process of unearthing spirit from electromagnetic tape developed by B. Gysin and W. S. Burroughs." - tobias c. van Veen

Aleister Crowley: The Beast (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

Aleister Crowley: The Great Beast

By Tim Fielder

Black Death German Killing Field (2023) by Avery JetterCarnegie Hall

Black Death German Killing Field

By Avery Jetter

Gau tama hâ (Un-Healed) (2023) by Fatima Tajah OlsonCarnegie Hall

Gau tama hâ (Un-Healed)

By Fatima Tajah Olson

From the artist of Gau tama hâ (Un-Healed), Fatima Tajah Olson:

"Remembering the 1904 genocide in Namibia committed by the German military forces, where 50,000 – 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama were murdered. It was only in 2021 that Germany apologized for its role in the slaughter of Herero and Nama tribespeople in Namibia and officially described the massacre as genocide for the first time."

Brawl 1 (2023) by Alan Saint ClarkCarnegie Hall

Brawl 1

By Alan Saint Clark

Brawl 2 (2023) by Alan Saint ClarkCarnegie Hall

Brawl 2

By Alan Saint Clark

Brawl 3 (2023) by Alan Saint ClarkCarnegie Hall

Brawl 3

By Alan Saint Clark

QUAD ANIMATED: Du Bois, Locke, Baker, & Crowely (2023) by Tim FielderCarnegie Hall

QUAD ANIMATED: Du Bois, Locke, Baker, & Crowely

By Tim Fielder

Zankel Hall Exxhibit (2024) by Carnegie Hall Rose ArchivesCarnegie Hall

The Democracy Project: Zankel Hall Gallery Exhibit

Free to all Zankel Hall concertgoers and open for viewing up to 45 minutes in advance of the concert start time. 

Archives Research Room (2014) by © Jeff Goldberg / EstoCarnegie Hall

The Carnegie Hall Susan W. Rose Archives

Credits: Story

Black Speculative Arts Movement and Temple University in association with Carnegie Hall

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