31 March–24 September, 2023


Intervention Albertinum THE MISSED SEMINAR

Venue: Albertinum, Dresden

  • Tzschirnerpl. 2, 01067 Dresden, Deutschland


The Missed Seminar is a Vitrine-Intervention of the cross- collections research department in the Albertinum’s Expressionist Gallery of SKD providing insight into the international and transdisciplinary research project Decolonizing Socialism Entangled Internationalism. It takes the form of a multi-part installation that explores the media presence of the well-known actor and singer Paul Robeson and the feminist, photographer and an- thropologist Eslanda Robeson in the GDR. Both shaped the cultural landscape for generations: while Eslanda Robeson voiced a Black feminism that also became audible in the GDR, Paul Robeson connected the Black civil rights movement and the labor movement as an intertwined internationalism. Using artistic methods of archival research, this multi-part installation looks behind the writings, think- ing, and relationships of Eslanda Robeson and Paul Robeson. Starting from the friendship of them with the German-Jewish Marxist philosopher Franz Loeser as well as the TV teacher of the GDR television program “English for you,” Diana Loeser, and the joint encounters in East Berlin and Leipzig in 1963, the curatorial study asks:What if their exchange would have formed the framework for a seminar? What can we learn today from the friendship between Robesons and Loesers as an entanglement of struggles against fascism, colonialism and anti-Semitism? Part of The Missed Seminar at the Albertinum is a poster-to-take resulting from the collaboration with contemporary artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen. It is based on the large-scale audio-video installation End Credits (2012-22) as a haunting monument to the threat of postwar anti-communism by the U.S. and their allies. End Credits brings thousands of digitised files to a large-scale screen running for 12 hours and 54 minutes: the reading of file numbers, reports, dates, registration codes, some of which have been heavily edited or redacted, constitute 67 hours 4 minutes and 43 seconds of asynchronous audio recordings which evidence the decades-long state-surveillance of Eslanda and Paul Robeson by the FBI. It shows both the pathology of government surveillance, and the gaps, holes and ridiculousness as emblems of the Robesons’ resilience. The point of departure for the first showcase is the two-page manuscript of Eslanda Goode Robeson’s “Speech during the Rally Day for the Victims of Fascism” in East Berlin on 27 January 1963. Based on experiences of racism as a Black woman of the Har- lem Renaissance, Robeson reflects on the connection between fascism in Nazi Germany and racism in the segregated U.S.A. The unpublished manuscript “In the German Democratic Republic” from 1963, in which Eslanda Robeson reports on her activities in the GDR, is the starting point of a second showcase. The curtain, developed with the designer-artist Indre Klimaite, is a further iteration of the method of archival metabolism used in the project. Oscillating between flicker and recognisability, the curtain is based on a minor detail in a photograph by the GDR photo- reporter Eva Brüggmann: On 9 July 1963, she photo- graphed Eslanda Robeson and Franz Loeser as observ- ers of the trial of Hans Maria Globke, who under Hitler commented on the inhuman and anti-Semitic “Nurem- berg Laws” as an administrative lawyer, but remained First Secretary of State under the Adenauer govern- ment. This highly mediatised trial in the Supreme Court of the GDR, which was supposed to prove the continu- ity of fascism in West Germany, stands for the instru- mentalisation of denazification trials in the context of the Cold War after 1945. The curtain as an object takes the greatly enlarged writing hand of Eslanda Robeson as its starting point and imagines the transgeneration- ality and knowledge transfer of the substances con- tained in the photographic record of Eslanda Robeson and Franz Loeser for today’s questions. Part of the installation is also the print work “Harvest” (1964) by Charles White (1918-1979) from the Kupferstich-Kabinett of SKD. The work refers both to the appearance of White’s work in publications with Paul Robeson, and to White’s recurring presence in the GDR between 1951 and 1979.

Conceptualized by Doreen Mende in conversation with Avery F. GordonLama El KhatibAarti Sunder and Katharina Warda

Research Terms