When the first post-war generation became teenagers, they created an awareness of how different phases of a person’s life affect his or her needs and desires. The student generation of the “68ers” was at the forefront of movements that formulated an interest in social cohesion deviating from that of the political classes. The disputes led, among other things, to a political examination of the topic of pedagogy. The establishment of the nGbK also saw the formation of a working group on the subject of Kunst und Erziehung, which propagated not just that young people and children had a right to be treated according to their own interests, but also investigated possible education subject matter and methods of teaching. In her text Anmerkung zu dem Problem ästhetischer Erziehung Wendula Dahle addressed the notion of how “[…] schoolchildren can be motivated to change existing conditions”. 1 Dahle saw creativity as a form of self-empowerment.
In response to a planned school reform in Berlin that would reduce the amount of artistic subjects on the curriculum, the working group Kunst und Erziehung organised a first protest event on 17 November 1971, during which arguments in favour of the importance of aesthetic education were developed, in solidarity with her representatives of the Deutscher Werkbund Berlin, the Berufsverband bildender Künstler and the Bund Deutscher Kunsterzieher. The aims and motives of cognitive development for young people were usually divided between the social interests of the adults and children’s own needs in the debate about didactics. Accordingly, the working group, in a self-critical motion, put forward this formulation: “We should not indulge ourselves in illusions of martyrdom: within the confines of system-conforming indoctrination, the evolvement of creativity, formal-aesthetic ability, problem-solving and critical faculties are important forces for overall social progress, whose development must also be in the interests of those economic powers which still prefer to remain in the background.”
The lives of children first became the focus of an exhibition with Die gesellschaftliche Wirklichkeit der Kinder in der Bildenden Kunst in 1980. The exhibition presented depictions and portraits of children from four centuries. In addition to Dutch genre painting and realist painting from the 19th century, the show also included child portraits of the successors-in-line to the thrones of European monarchies. The exhibition’s starting point was the resolution adopted by the UN in 1976 on the international year of the child, which is reprinted in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. The catalogue once again contains the demand to take measures against child poverty, misery and suffering. The exhibition-makers pursued the goal of enlightenment regarding the plight of children, because “[…] the discrepancy between economic wealth in our country and the conscious disadvantaging of children [has] not been reduced.” 3 In a later edition of the catalogue, the preface mentions that journalists and media workers criticised that the exhibition was set up as “a bourgeois and enjoyable experience” 4 . Accordingly, the editor of the catalogue, Jürgen Hoffmann, added to the second edition texts on the subject of housing and alcoholism.
In his article Kindheit als Phänomen for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Rosa für Jungs und Hellblau für Mädchen, Rainer Hörmann addresses the topic of the historical value of childhood by referring to the work of the French historian Philippe Ariès. The exhibition, created in conjunction with this discourse in 1999, in particular reflects the gender roles of boys and girls and their integrity with regard to sexuality.
Youth as an artistic practice was addressed by Martin Kippenberger, who prohibited himself from painting for his exhibition Lieber Maler, male mir… in the nGbK in 1981. He commissioned a panorama painter, whose forename Werner he also borrowed for signing the works. In the accompanying catalogue Durch Pubertät zum Erfolg
he mixed the private with the public and fiction with fact through formats such as newspaper clippings, poems and aphorisms. With his reputation as a teenager for life, he established a non-conforming attitude and rule-breaking as an artistic practice. With “Kippenberger”, the artist created an existential character considered by many to be a crude self-presentation and whose contrariness was a provocation. For Kippenberger, youth is a motif of independence from conformity and the associated aggression, but also a motif of vulnerability. Rudolf Augstein is quoted in a sentence on the book cover “Kippi is not even able to make himself a sandwich!”
Interest in the third stage of life also only received attention in the nGbK when the first post-war-generation entered the established class itself and became 68 for the second time. Awareness of the aggregate states of life and its third phase arrived late in comparison to the subject of youth, with the exhibition Ein Leben lang, which took place in 2008 and devoted itself to the “Art of Ageing”.
Sara Hillnhütter, 2015, revised 2019
Translation: Don Mac Coitir
- Ästhetische Erziehung, Dokumente und Argumente, Internes Arbeitspapier, Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kunst und Erziehung in der NGBK (ed.), Berlin 1971, p. 11.↩
- Ibid., p. 2.↩
- Preface, in: Die Gesellschaftliche Wirklichkeit der Kinder in der Bildenden Kunst, NGBK und Staatliche Kunsthalle, Elefanten Press, Berlin 1980, p. 8.↩
- Martin Kippenberger: Durch Pubertät zum Erfolg, NGBK, Berlin 1981.↩