Benjamin and Brecht. Thinking in Extremes

“Benjamin and Brecht. Thinking in Extremes” is an exhibition shown at the Akademie der Künste Berlin from 26.10.2017 until 28.01.2018.

It invites to get to know the friendship between Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht, two very different representatives of Literature at the beginning of the 20th century. Brecht was a famous author and rationalist he invented the “Epic Theater” (a mixture between drama and epic), he wrote many plays, novels, and poems. Benjamin was a critic, other than Brecht he was influenced by Metaphysics and Science. Their Friendship was very tense, full of disputes and many people thought Brecht had a bad influence on Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno said:”Under Brecht’s influence Benjamin is doing only stupid things.” But inside their tension they found productivity. Benjamin called it “Thinking in Extremes”, a way to reach the freedom of thought through diversity.

The exhibition begins with an illustrated timeline with pictures of them and audios. They make clear how much they valued each other although they were so different. The audio data somehow dives you into a different time, four women who were assistants or lovers of Brecht describe their impression of his friendship with Walter Benjamin.
The second room follows a different strategy it’s noisy and alive, because of two different parts of the exhibition merging here. In the middle, there are original Books and documents, excerpts of their work, letters or manuscripts. They are ordered by the topics these two men were talking about, a grand variety including, for example, Home Living, Politics, and Literature. Many of their discussions were accompanied by a game of chess which leads to the other part of this room. Like a frame “comments” by contemporary artist surround their work, installations, films, photography. An eye-catcher is an automatically moving chess board which reconstructs some of their games and a foto series of Brecht’s chessmen. I also liked a giant Mind-Map connecting all the topics that moved the two men and connected them. The new works of art enrich the exhibition and make sure it’s not only focused only on the past but on ideas that are still up to date today.

If you don’t know anything about Walter Benjamin or Bertolt Brecht it might be kind of difficult the empathize into the exhibition but if you are interested in Literature it’s a surplus. What do you think? Would you visit the exhibition and if you did, did you like it?

Picture and Text by Verena

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