Around 1700, in the Prussian province of Halle, August Hermann Francke began a project of reformation that remains singular to this day in its international reception and influence. His globally pertinent vision for reform in education, social welfare and society was not merely theoretical, but also tangibly grounded and aimed at nothing less than making the world a better place. This goal was and, still today, is manifested through the construction of the architecturally impressive and exemplary school campus with its celebrated orphanage, which is today a candidate for the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. Francke’s work became global, though, through the transmission and transplantation of his ideas and concepts throughout Europe (Russia, Scandinavia, southern Europe, Great Britain) as well as to India and North America. It is a project of reformation with worldwide dimensions, which transported ideas and established cultural contacts as early as the 1700s.
On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Francke Foundations we must ask ourselves how to proceed with this heritage of ideals and what its consequences are for our contemporary globalized world. What can Francke’s strategies mean today for a universal education, for the betterment of the world through the universal transmission of education? Where, today, are certainties and visions to be found, which might serve as a basis for the betterment of global living conditions? Do these certainties, do these visions still exist, or are we living in a time of deterioration and relativization?
To this end we have risked an experiment and posed these questions anew with the help of internationally active artists. Here, certainty and vision are the fundamental concepts for an engagement with history and a challenge to seek and reflect upon their relevance today. In times of great societal upheaval and unrest involving entire nations and cultures and creating uncertainty for the future of millions, and in a long-term global structural crisis of the capitalist economic system, the historic occasion of the Francke anniversary seems to us a fitting moment for this project based upon Francke’s thought and beliefs, his education and globally impactful charitable work as well as his potential significance for the present day.
Fundamental questions have come into play since the collapse of the socialist systems in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, the questioning of traditional societal structures in the most densely populated Arab nations and, most clearly, in key Middle Eastern nations like Turkey, or in a social affront in the economically most important country in Latin America, Brazil. We are all affected, throughout the world, when populous countries like Syria or Egypt descend into lasting chaos and civil war. And thus it becomes ever more pertinent to ask what concepts like »certainty« and »vision« might look like today or what they might mean for the further development of civilization.
Here, Francke is intended to be the impetus that will allow a group of globally aware and globally active artists, scientists and scholars working on questions of universal significance collectively to reflect upon and to invite a broader audience to a reconsider these same questions through this exhibition. In collaboration with the curators of this exhibition and scholars from the Francke Foundations these artists will address these themes through on-site projects and presentations. These range from a photography installation by the Russian artist Sergey Bratkov on his childhood in his hometown of Kharkiv to an installation of thousands of small, red foam figures by the New York-based Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya, titled »Proletarians of the World …«, to a chrome-plated boulder on a black pentagram in front of the Francke Foundations and opposite the German Federal Cultural Foundation by the Dutch artist Marc Bijl. Alongside all of this, films are an important part of the exhibition. »The Disintegration Loops 1.1« by New York sound artist William Basinski is an extraordinary work on the subject of 9/11; a video by the Prague-based artist Adela Babanova, »Return to Adrianopel«, takes up an incredible vision from Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, the construction of a tunnel to the Adriatic Sea. In his short and compelling videos, Christian Niccoli asks universal questions of collectivity, balance and threat through images. In his sound installation, constituting a forest of loudspeakers, Via Lewandowsky deals with the relationship between music, singing and the brain. In October 2013 the Halle-based artist and club manager Gabriel Machemer will set up a portrait studio in the centre of Halle, near the marketsquare, to be run continuously during business hours like any other exhibition, shop or gallery space. During this time, fictive portraits of former students of the Francke Foundations will be created, based on the »The Orphanage Album of the Francke Foundations, 1695 – 1749«. This publication contains poignant psychological notes on the background, development and biography of these children.
This exhibition aspires to make the contemporary dimension of a historical idea visible to a broad – and especially to a young – audience through the strategies of contemporary artists and through extensive interviews with scientists and scholars who can be listened to on DJ turntables in an installation by Moritz Götze. It is in this way that our recourse to cultural history can enable and sharpen a critical view of the present and the future.