On April 1, the special exhibition un_endlich. Living with Death at the Humboldt Forum. Staged as a drama in five acts, the exhibition highlights various aspects of dying and dealing with death – from individual, personal facets to global viewpoints. The opening of the exhibition also marks the beginning of the multifaceted program of education and events. Highlights include the Easter concert by the Resident Music Collective and the Día de los Muertos.
Fig. above : Prologue – Cosmos: In the end, we are all stardust.
Copyright: © RFK Architects & Tom Piper / Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, Photo: Alexander Schippe
Dealing with dying, death and mourning is as diverse as people themselves. The Humboldt Forum Foundation is dedicating the program un_endlich. Living with Death: With a special exhibition, a program of events, and an educational program, it presents many-voiced perspectives and ideas, different experiential knowledge, and scientific findings on dying and death.
Hartmut Dorgerloh, General Director of the Humboldt Forum: “The certainty of death connects all people and is nevertheless one of the last great unknowns. In the program focus un_endlich. Living with Death, the Humboldt Forum is dedicating the next eight months to one of the great universal themes and offering visitors the opportunity to pause, immerse themselves in experiential spaces, enter into exchange and take a stand.”
How do we live with death? What is a good death? What will remain of us? The Swiss curator Detlef Vögeli conceived the exhibition as a drama in five acts: “The basic dramaturgical idea was to address the visitors directly as mortals and actors. To create spaces as stages for the visitors, where they are confronted with different ideas and questions about dying and death, which often remain hidden behind the curtain of everyday life.”
The design, created by British set designer Tom Piper, plays with the theatrical metaphor and realizes the drama as an atmospherically dense composition. Tom Piper: “Just as Shakespeare tries to deal with death in Hamlet, we want to encourage people to come to terms with their own finitude. I think that’s a main goal of the show: not to be afraid of death, but to see it as part of our lives – as the theater of life.”
For the exhibition, Piper has developed scenographies in collaboration with architect Alan Farlie, which, in the interplay of videos, sounds, voices, and installations, become moments of intense spatial experience. Alan Farlie: “The exhibition focuses on the overall emotional experience. You share the space, you share the experience. You always kind of walk through an exhibition alone, even if you’re accompanied. We, on the other hand, strive to develop a kind of movement: from one act to the next, from one space to the next.”
On their tour, visitors enter the stage of finitude and explore scenes and questions of death. The exhibition shows perspectives from diverse urban societies, experiential knowledge from death care professionals from twelve countries, a non-religious and an Islamic corpse washing as well as scientific approaches to the topic. The exhibition expands the personal perspective with a global and planetary view. It shows the unequal living and dying conditions of global society, the responsibility for the nameless dead – and that of humans for life itself, against the background of climate change and species extinction.
Guided tours and workshops
The educational program ranges from individual existential aspects to aspects of society as a whole. With the question “How do we live with death?” adults and students from the 7th grade can discover, discuss, and question the exhibition together, and make connections to the presentations in the Humboldt Forum. The guided tours and workshops are designed to be dialogical and participatory. They were developed in cooperation with the Björn Schulz Foundation, which provides professional support for children with life-shortening illnesses and their families. Further training for educators and multipliers is also offered.
At the center of the event program is the examination of death in its global contexts across genres, genres and generations. Voices from cultural and religious communities have their say, experts share their (experiential) knowledge of end-of-life care, funeral practice and the culture of remembrance. On the weekends, there will be consultation hours with a pathologist, a funeral speaker, a policewoman, and many more. Storytelling programs for children and families, as well as for adults, address farewells. A film program focuses on the global south. Musically, the Resident Music Collective, among others, contributes: it plays contemporary and contemporary-interpreted pieces on the theme of death during the Easter weekend. The highlight at the end is the Mexican festival of the dead, Día de los muertos, on which the association Calaca e.V., active in Berlin for many years, invites to music, performance, family program and a decorated altar at the Humboldt Forum.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same name. It brings together the contributions from the exhibition in documentary form and supplements the perspectives with essays and artistic photo spreads. The book spans from the individual understanding of our own and cultural image of death to the scientifically and medially present scenarios of dying and extinction in the age of the Anthropocene. With contributions by Stephen Cave, Cristina Cattaneo, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, among others.
Stiftung Humboldt Forum at Berliner Schloss
Exhibition date: Saturday 1.April bis Sunday, 26.November 2023. Día de los muertos: 1.-5. November 2023
Exhibition prices: 12 / 6 Euro