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Current Special exhibitions

Olaf Nicolai: „Oskar: A Camouflage“ at Max-Mannheimer-Platz, 2021 | © Olaf Nicolai / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021, Courtesy Olaf Nicolai and Galerie Eigen+Art, Leipzig / Berlin, photo: Edward Beierle/Axel Gundermann

Olaf Nicolai: „Oskar: A Camouflage“
10|09 – 10|10|2021

From September 10 to October 10, 2021, within the framework of the program VARIOUS OTHERS, the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism will show the installation Oskar: A Camouflage by Olaf Nicolai on Max-Mannheimer-Platz. In this work, specially conceived for the site, Nicolai uses a camouflage pattern to make the place where the “Brown House” was located until the end of the war (now Max-Mannheimer-Platz) apparently disappear. He thus engages in a complex restaging of the site’s momentous history and sets it in a broader, supralocal context. Referencing the work of Oskar Schlemmer (1888–1943), the installation thus addresses the conditions for art and artists under a dictatorship.

For the camouflage motif Olaf Nicolai uses a design Schlemmer made in 1941. Having taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 and 1929 as a “master of form,” Schlemmer was summarily dismissed in 1933 and was no longer officially allowed to be active as an artist. He therefore worked instead for a painting firm in Stuttgart. His works were ridiculed as “degenerate,” whitewashed, and removed from museums. He moved with his family to the provinces where, defamed and marginalized, he tried to eek out an existence as an agricultural laborer and commission painter. The few works dating from this period show the extent to which he had to sacrifice the ideals of the avantgarde to the ideological constraints of the Nazi regime. The camouflage design for the Stuttgart gasometer dates from this period. To protect it from air raids, Schlemmer projected an abstract form of the hilly landscape of the Black Forest onto the building in order to make it blend in with the background. The abstract pattern echoes the radical modernity of the Bauhaus. However, this design was made not with art in mind but for a pragmatic purpose. Schlemmer had ceased creating functional and aesthetic spaces and instead was now designing innovative camouflages for militarily strategic objects. The ostensibly idealistic connection between artistic genres and a progressive view of the world propagated by the Bauhaus only a few years earlier was now paradoxically reversed into innovative artistic design in the service of war.

Olaf Nicolai transplants his variation of this camouflage motif to the place where, until 1945, the headquarters of the NSDAP—the Nazi Party—were located. The headquarters were established in 1930 in no small part with the help of donations from Munich’s bourgeoisie. The Party quarter around Königsplatz with its monumental buildings erected from 1933 onwards served as a showcase for Nazi power and as a backdrop for the regime’s propaganda parades and state receptions. Only a short time later, however, the area had to be camouflaged from Allied bombing with nets, artificial bushes, and fake roofs.  

After World War II, the site was once again “rendered invisible.” The damaged “Brown House” was dismantled, the “Temples of Honour” detonated, and the remaining plinths on which they had stood planted. Over the years, they disappeared under the vegetation. In 1987, the granite slabs with which Königsplatz had been paved during the Nazi-era were removed in their entirety. Today, continual efforts are required to make the history of the place visible. The temporary art project Oskar: A Camouflage by Olaf Nicolai references these historical events and at the same time addresses questions of the ambivalent relationship between the language of artistic form and politics and ideology in a contemporary context.

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The End of Testimony?
24|06 – 14|11|2021

Soon there will be no-one left alive who witnessed the brutality of the Nazi regime first-hand. What remains are memories in the form of books, historical film docu-mentaries, exhibitions, educational projects, and most recently, virtual encounters with survivors of the Holocaust. These kinds of testimony will gradually replace that of living witnesses. The exhibition “The End of Testimony?”,  showing at the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism from June 24 to November 14, 2021, focuses on the history of testimony and examines the complex relationship between survivors of the Nazi regime and contemporary society.  How has testimony been recorded, collected, and preserved since the 1940s? How is it used in the public sphere? And how can schools, museums, and memorial sites care for this legacy in a responsible manner—now and in the fu-ture, when survivors will no longer be there to talk about their experiences in person? 

The emergence of testimony is a complex process involving more people than is generally assumed, and it raises numerous questions. How do memories become a narrative and to what extent is this narrative also shaped by other people? And how should we approach the fact that such narratives need to be treated just as critically as any other historical source?

The exhibition “The End of Testimony?” was conceived by the Jewish Museum Hohenems and the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial Site. It has now been adapted for Munich, and some new exhibits have been added. For the first time in a museum context the Munich Documentation Center will present two digital testimony projects currently being developed at Munich’s Ludwig Maximili-an University and at the Volucap Studio of the UFA film studios in Berlin; visitors to the exhibition will be able to try these out for themselves. 

The exhibition, shown on the second floor  of the Documentation Center, is divided into four chapters, each examining different aspects of the memories narrated by survivors. A number of audio-visual media points enable the contem-porary witnesses to speak for themselves.

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General press information on NS-Dokumentationszentrum München

In English

> Press release NS-Dokumentationszentrum München
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> Press release Opening of NS-Dokumentationszentrum München in 2015
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In German

Press information NS-Dokumentationszentrum München
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Press information permanent exhibition
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Press information art project „Brienner 45"
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Press information learning centre
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Presseinformation education services
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Press information visitor information
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Presseinformation historical site
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Presseinformation project history
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Presseinformation Director Prof. Dr. Mirjam Zadoff
> Download PDF | 74 KB

See also

Press contact

Dr. Kirstin Frieden
Phone: +49 89 233-67013
presse.nsdoku@muenchen.de