2015 Type: Archive Matter

The term “gender” was introduced in the 1980s to distinguish between biological and social sexuality. It questioned the idea of a pre-determined sexual identity and drew attention to people who are trans-sexual or who have sex changes. Making queer life blueprints visible has been an important goal for numerous nGbK working groups since the early 1990s. Closely related to the question of sexual identity is that of sexual desire. Various exhibitions and event formats with artistic perspectives on love and desire, trans-sexuality and inter-sexuality, on gender roles and identities, demanded and encouraged debate on these issues, which often fail to attract public attention. The aim was to highlight, challenge and destabilise established sexual norms.

The 1993 exhibition Sie nennen es Liebe by RealismusStudio pursued the goal of “tracing various forms of love in contemporary art” which moved in areas beyond “cliché and kitsch” and “explode the classical discourse of desire”. 1 The core of this thematic exhibition was formed by the broad spectrum of works addressing, among other things, motherly love as a foil for patriarchy, erotic associations of the androgynous and the difference between the sexes. 2

The photography exhibition Transsexuelle Menschen in Deutschland. Im falschen Körper (1997) also tried to avoid “clichéd images” and “superficial voyeurism”. The exhibition, which was invited to Berlin, was accompanied by an additional framework programme addressing questions such as: “Is a person’s gender largely determined by normal social gender roles in society? Will the borders between the sexes continue to disappear or is this merely a temporary cultural projection?” 3

In the year 2000, Martin Conrads, writing for Zitty attributed the exhibition Rosa für Jungs. Hellblau für Mädchen (1999) to a series of different Berlin exhibitions “which – sometimes in a discursive-political manner, sometimes by accentuating artistic production on the topic of ‘gender’ – could examine, address, or, in the best possible case, advance the post-feminist debate of the 1990s.” 4 The nGbK’s exhibition-makers were interested in investigating “how artists crack the still dominant binary code of the sexes, and what critical potential their works harboured.” 5 Central to this was the “demonstration of the construction of identity as a fragile entity within normative boundaries.” 6

“We are here, and you have to take us seriously!” 7 demanded the working group 1-0-1 intersex, which brought forth an exhibition, an archive and a series of events on inter-sexuality in 2005. The curators made clear what the exhibition was not, or what it did not want to be, but what it aimed for instead: “1-0-1 intersex is not an exhibition about intersexuality, nor is it an exhibition about hybrids/hermaphrodites. Inter-sexual people rightly resist “objectification”, be it by medical or medial players or even by right-minded critics of the static order of sexes. Instead, 1-0-1 intersex was an exhibition about society’s treatment of and approach to inter-sexuality.” 8 Sensitisation for the topic and the demand that the binarity of man and woman be overcome on a linguistic level, too, were also directed at the nGbK itself. A concrete result of 1-0-1 was the introduction of “the underscore spelling method” at nGbK [translator’s note: to avoid clearly masculine or feminine designations].

While 1-0-1 was about how society approached inter-sexuality, BOSSING IMAGES. Macht der Bilder, queere Kunst und Politik concentrated on the obstinate (pictorial) practices that undermine hetero-normativity. The project was conceived in 2012 as an event series and set itself the goal of “determining balances of power and the related joys and nuisances associated with the production, reception and circulation of visual material, especially art.” 9 The focus was on pictures “that make the sexes appear ambivalent, desire queer and bodies freaky or which otherwise challenge normative notions and horizons of expectation.” 10 In interactive events, power and hierarchies between artists, audiences, curators and critics in the field of art were always thematised and undermined.

Finally, the exhibition What is queer today is not queer tomorrow (2014) took a complex approach to negotiating past and present discourses within the queer scene. One press review said “the concept of queerness puts everything into question – heteronormativity, gender images, social structures and power structures.” 11 Just such multi-facetted aspects were addressed by different projects in subsequent years: in her exhibition Superego (2015) Toni Schmale presented sculptures that oscillated between fetish and sports equipment and hence “crossed” common ideas of sexuality and gender and caused unease. Fatherfigures are hard to find (2016) consternated that the traditional image of the father, along with the patriarchal canon of art history, is in crisis, which led the working group to seek new father figures, queer genealogies an artistic appropriations of paternal prerogatives and their remnants. contesting/contexting SPORT 2016, in turn, was devoted to the sports field and exposes discrimination there from a feminist and queer perspective.


Irene Hilden and Anna-Lena Wenzel, 2015, revised 2019

  1. See Press release, NGBK, 1993.
  2. See ibid.
  3. See Press release, NGBK, 1997.
  4. Conrads, Martin: Frau ohne Geschlecht. Die Gender-Debatte im Postfeminismus: Ausstellung „cross female“ im Künstlerhaus Bethanien, in: Zitty, September 5, 2000.
  5. Kohlhoff, Kolja: Das Spiel mit den Farben und den Fummeln, in: Rosa für Jungs. Hellblau für Mädchen, NGBK, Berlin 1999, p. 43
  6. See Press release, NGBK, 1999.
  7. AG 1-0-1 intersex: Fragebogen, in: 1-0-1 (one ‘o one) intersex. Das Zwei-Geschlechter-System als Menschenrechtsverletzung, NGBK, Berlin 2005, p. 14.
  8. Ibid.: introduction, p. 9.
  9. Dorrance, Jess; Engel, Antke: Es macht dir Spaß, Boss zu sein, oder?, in: Bossing Images. Macht der Bilder, queere Kunst und Politik, NGBK, Berlin 2012, p. 4.
  10., accessed February 28, 2020.
  11. Ippolito, Enrico: Ein wuchtiger Aufruhr, taz, June 20, 2014.