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A Change of Scenery 2.04: A Historical Overview of Gay and Lesbian Movements in Germany

5. April 2018 – 1. July 2019

“I need a change of scenery, said the birch tree,” sang Hildegard Knef, and it was from that moment on that she started writing her own lyrics. In everyday life, one speaks of a “change of scenery” if the situation needs to be changed fundamentally. A change of scenery is more than whitewash or erasure, it is a drastic change giving a new background for the already existing inventory. It is a tool for interpretation, a different perspective, not only in everyday life, but also in terms of identity, theory and ideology. The exhibition A Change of Scenery remains flexible, constantly showcasing smaller, overlooked narratives within an ever-changing historical overview exhibition.

From this curatorial perspective, A Change of Scenery provides an overview of lesbian and gay movements in Germany starting with the persecution of “Sodomites” in the middle ages until the gay and lesbian liberation movements of the 1970’s and 80’s. The exhibition features an installation by Kurt Stark showcasing the history of §175, a law punishing homosexuality which existed in the German legal code in various forms for over 100 years. In relation to §175, the exhibition also highlights the life and work of German sexologist and human rights pioneer Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld as well as his Institute for Sexual Sciences in Berlin which was destroyed by Nazi’s in 1933. At the heart of the exhibition is a section memorializing the gay victims who were murdered at Sachsenhausen concentration camp just north of Berlin. This section shares the stories of gay and lesbians during the Third Reich, and of the lives of those men and women living in secrecy.

A Change of Scenery is curated by Schwules Museum co-founder Wolfgang Theis.