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“Brilliant Dilletantes”: Subculture in Germany in the 1980s

Start Date 23 January 2016
End Date 01 May 2016
Venue The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
Location Hamburg, Germany
Curator Mathilde Weh and Dennis Conrad

In the early 1980s, an alternative art scene in Germany attracts international attention and recognition with its strident protest and deliberate provocation. Rather than focussing on virtuosic mastery in their art, the artists aim at organizing their own artistic environment according to the do-it-yourself principle. To bring about a radical break with what had gone before, they found their own record labels, magazines, galleries and clubs, as well as independently producing records and cassettes. The art academies in particular see the development of an artistic dynamic characterized by genre-crossing experimentation.

Bands such as “Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.)” (“German-American Friendship”), “Palais Schaumburg” and “Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (F.S.K.)” (“Voluntary Self-Censorship”) deliberately use German names and lyrics in order to set themselves apart from the English-language mainstream. In 1981 a festival takes place in Berlin’s Tempodrom with a deliberately misspelt title, “Geniale Dilletanten” (“Brilliant Dilletantes”), which becomes synonymous with this early 1980s German subculture. The exhibition at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) will present the leading figures and venues of the art scene in various vanguard cities in both West and East Germany. It will focus on eight bands and on artists, filmmakers and designers of the early eighties. Brilliant Dilletantes will provide insights into the multiple interconnections between the individuals involved, and an account of how concurrent developments in the visual arts, film, fashion and design influenced one another. There will be over 250 exhibits in total, including paintings, photographs, objects representing art, design and fashion, records, music cassettes, audio stations, music, magazines and fanzines, posters, band films and an interview film produced especially for the show. A programme of short films compiled by the artist Florian Wüst will feature experimental works by Yana Yo, Helge Leiberg, Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, Norbert Meissner, Christoph Doering and Ramona Welsh. Brilliant Dilletantes, designed by the Goethe-Institut as a touring exhibition, has been substantially enlarged for its presentation at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. The exhibition was created by Mathilde Weh, consultant for the Visual Arts Division of the Goethe-Institut; the Hamburg stage of the tour has been curated by Dennis Conrad.