Home  Lenbachhaus Radio-Activity

New exhibition

February 18  until August 23, 2020

Taking its cue from Bertolt Brecht's theory of radio, the exhibition Radio-Activity turns the spotlight on aesthetic-political collectives that launched their own publications and charted new channels of communication. "It is a very bad thing," Brecht said in 1932 about the radio of his time. "It was suddenly possible to say everything to everybody but, when one thought about it, one had nothing to say." Ten years after the first public radio broadcasts, a disillusioned Brecht proposed repurposing the new medium, transforming an apparatus of distribution into one of communication. Instead of merely broadcasting a single feed, it was to receive as well; more than making hearers listen, it would empower them as speakers and producers. Brecht's ideas for an "uprising of the listeners" came at the exact moment when radio broadcasting in Germany was brought under state control and increasingly taken into service as an instrument of propaganda.
Starting in the late 1960s, Brecht's theory of radio sparked a vigorous debate. The concern at the heart of his critique had lost none of its urgency: Who determines how a society makes sense of the world? Who speaks, and who is spoken to? The utopian vision of boundless communication untainted by relations of power was electrifying. The exhibition puts the focus on projects from the 1920s-30s and the 1960s-70s, when various collectives emerged that, instead of accepting language as a given, aimed to rethink it and pioneer forms of anti-national and international communication. 

fig.: Wilhelm Heise, Withering Spring – Self Portrait as a Radio Tinkerer, 1926, Lenbachhaus Munich, Photo: Lenbachhaus © Wilhelm Heise or legal sucession


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