About the WE ARE PART OF CULTURE exhibition
The initial step toward the WE ARE PART OF CULTURE exhibition was made in the summer of 2015, when the idea for a small t-shirt campaign on the history of homosexuals throughout world history blossomed - driven by the new, so-called “Homo-Propaganda” laws in Russia, that forbade a positive narratory of homosexuality. The first four, well-known faces were selected quickly: the silhouette portraits of Selma Lagerlöf, Friedrich II of Prussia, Pjotr I Tschaikowski and Oscar Wilde were printed on colourful shirts. The campaign itself proceeded rather quietly and without garnering large amounts of attention, but the idea to place the history of LGBTTIQ* in focus became a core point of Projekt 100% MENSCH. Several possibilities were considered: t-shirts, online photography campaigns, public posters. Several options, but the deciding factor, the actual impulse, was not amongst them.
Motzstreet Festival 2016 in Berlin. The New Yorker artist Robert W. Richards exhibited his art in Berlin. Projekt 100% MENSCH was invited to the opening reception. Just a single look at Richard’s paper cutting-esque art held in black, red and white, completed the puzzle. Ideas and possibilities merged into a single concept, “This is what we want to do. An exhibition with large portraits of our heroes. From ancient times to this day. A diverse set of artists. Techniques and styles as various as the people they depict. All of it unified in one colour scheme to bring order into this ‘chaos’. And stations! Let’s go where everyone is! We will visit stations!“
Time and time again it’s astounding how the simplest ideas develop a life of their own. At the opening reception itself, Projekt 100% MENSCH entered a conversation with Robert W. Richards. This concept – yet completely in the rough, with no knowledge whatsoever on how to plan such a feat, yet alone how to finance it – managed to convince one of the most well-known illustrators of the US. Robert W. Richards agreed. When the exhibition commences, he wants to become a part of it and support Projekt 100% MENSCH with a few illustrations.
Where does an exhibition on the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsex, transgender and intersex personalities begin? At the location. This was one of the most deciding factors. If the Deutsche Bahn hadn’t shown an interest in the exhibition, the project would have failed before it even had the chance to begin. On the 7th of August, a concise email landed in the post box of the responsible event manager, Martin Libutzki. We received a reply merely two days later, “The project sounds interesting. We should definitely speak on the matter.” A written concept was developed in no time at all, while the first artists were contacted. But who should they depict?
Research done in books and online resulted in a list of over 300 LGBTTIQ* personalities on the short list. Over 300 exciting, curious, incredible biographies. One thing became clear after the first phone call with the Deutsche Bahn: only up to 30 artworks could be exhibited - and the selection process would not be easy. A list of criteria was made. Selecting an equal number of females and males was obvious. Due to the sparse amount of information available on personalities whose own gender definition stood to question, these people were handled as priority. Additionally, we wanted to depict as many eras as possible, while also showing a broad range of influence. Several rounds later, the pool of possible candidates shrunk. With each round, we were faced with increasingly difficult decisions and many personal favourites had to make room for others. In the end, the selection amounted to 36 personalities. Some could be combined into double portraits; in the case of the Mann family, even a group image was possible.
Gerda Laufenberg from Cologne and Robert W. Richards from New York were the first artists ready to create portraits. Tschaikowski and Simone de Beauvoir were Gerda Laufenberg’s choices. When confronted with the list of personalities, Robert Richards quickly made his decision, “I’d like Marlene, Greta and Freddie. I knew them personally.” The third painter, Jeanne Lessenich, was convinced to join. The queer artist selected Chevalier d’Éon de Beaumont and Queen Christina of Sweden. Just a short time later, the first portraits and the exhibition concept were completed.
Within a visit in Berlin and some talks, it became clear that the Deutsche Bahn AG was willing to host the exhibition. We were ready to go.
The next turning point for the WE ARE PART OF CULTURE exhibition was our participation in the startsocial competition. Projekt 100% MENSCH applied in spring 2016 and in autumn 2016, just when preparations were coming to a head, we received the news that professional economic coaches would be supporting us for four months. Sonja Mechling (Bosch) and Marc Scharnbacher (Allianz) asked pointed questions, made us think, gave tips and helped further the concept - particularly in gaining new sponsors. We would like to take a moment to offer the startsocial team a great thank you for the opportunity and both of our coaches for their incredible support during the further development and professionalization of our exhibition.
Applications for the federal program “Demokratie leben!“, backed by the Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Federal Agency for Civic Education, were made. The search for companies and individuals willing to help finance the exhibition came on top. We would like to thank all companies and individuals, who have had faith in our concept and our vision of the exhibition. Thanks to your faith, we could raise the needed required capital resources that were prerequisite for governmental support. We’d also like to extend our gratitude to the head office of “Demokratie leben!” and the Federal Agency for Civic Education. You have placed your trust in us and have made our concept of a positive, subtle and far-reaching exhibition possible.
After insurmountable talks, revisions, emails, phone calls, postponed appointments due to the parliamentary elections and another revision of petition papers, the financing was concluded toward the end of 2016 by sponsors and the state.
Spring 2017 opened with an invitation for WE ARE PART OF CULTURE to the nationwide selection of the startsocial competition and Projekt 100% MENSCH, along with other organisations, was elated to be invited to Chancellor’s Office. The selfie with the chancellor was thrown in for free!
In the meantime, the artistic family had grown to 18 members and step by step the artworks for the exhibition were completed. 18 talented artists, national and international, have gratuitously provided us with their art. The quality, the diversity of style, the expression, the support and the gradually completion of the image puzzle has struck us speechless. Thank you for your art, your vision, your support - without you, WE ARE PART OF CULTURE wouldn’t have been possible.
Organising the tour throughout all large stations, planning and conducting the road show for teaching staff, along with the preparations for the public debates in the according cities concluded the final steps. The touring schedule for the first half of the year has been settled in the past few days: After Berlin and Frankfurt 2017, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Bochum, Essen, Dortmund and Münster will follow. The stations for the second half the year are still being placed in order.
The exhibition WE ARE PART OF CULTURE was specifically developed for classes from 8th grade onwards to especially draw teens to the exhibition and give their teachers the opportunity to incorporate it and its topics into their teachings. To realize this goal, we are in close contact with organisations such as SchLAU or Queerformat. Thank you for your support! Additionally, public debates such as talks, panels and presentations are planned to give the exhibition additional depth.
It’s the 8th of August, 2017. In exactly 50 days, the exhibition is due to open and there is yet much to do. But we are optimistic. The catalogue is currently in layout. The presenters for the opening reception are almost fully fixed. The first press events are due. All artworks are finished. The dates for the first half of 2018 are decided on. Talks and panels in Berlin and Frankfurt are prepared. The crowd pulling campaign during the Christopher-Street-Day events is still on-going. Invitations to the opening are done. The excitement if palpable. Just now, our posters have been delivered. Posters depicting all artworks. These are the moments when the exhibition becomes tangible. We are on the threshold. Despite the fact that we have been researching the achievements of so many personalities, so many role models, we are reminded once more that we’ve always been present. We are always going to be present. We have left our mark on society. WE ARE PART OF CULTURE.