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Love at First Fight – Queer Movements in Germany since Stonewall

10. September 2021 – 21. February 2022

LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT! Queer Movements in Germany since Stonewall

From September 10, 2021 until February 21, 2022
From July 19, 2019 until November 30, 2020

Vernissage: July 18th, 2019, from 7pm 

On the night of June 27th 1969, police stormed into New York’s Stonewall Inn once again. But on this occasion, it was one time too many: Stonewall’s queer patrons defended themselves against routine harassment. Decades of pent up anger then erupted in a days-long uprising on Christopher Street, setting the tone for queer emancipation in many parts of the world.

This day has often been narrated as a gay success story with a happy ending: civic recognition. But for many, the fight never stopped. “Love at First Fight” at the Schwules Museum opens up new paths and perspectives on (more than) 50 years of queer resistance in the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, and finally in a reunited Germany.

Demonstration gegen § 218, Westberlin, um 1974, Foto: Anke-Rixa Hansen (Vedant)
Demonstration against § 218, Westberlin, 1974, Photo: Anke-Rixa Hansen

The exhibition, in cooperation with the Goethe Institut and the Federal Agency for Political Education, and curated by Schwules Museum’s Birgit Bosold and Carina Klugbauer, takes form as a traveling exhibition with over 100 objects to be shown around the world. ‘Resistance manifested’ will be on display: posters, flyers, printed calls for protest, underground fanzines, and pamphlets. The exhibition explores the spaces where conflict transformed into something new and exciting: from the early meet-ups of the leather scene in Kreuzberg, to the legendary drag queen struggle of the left-wing gays, the so called ‘witch trials’ of Itzehoe, the founding of a network of black women in Germany, and today’s trans* movement protests.

As part of the multimedia project Queer as German Folk, the exhibition will first be shown in several Goethe Institutes across North and Central America: New York, Toronto, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Mexico City and Guadalajara. It will finally be on display at the Schwules Museum for at least a year starting July 19th, 2019. “Our goal was to create an experience space,” says Georg Blochmann, head of the New York Goethe Institute and co-initiator of “Queer as German Folk”. “We want to make it possible to experience the history and current state of the movement in completely new ways.”

Flyer der Gruppe Act-Up Deutschland zum Marlboro Boykott 1990 1991, (c) Schwules Museum
Flyer from Act-Up Germany for the Marlboro Boycott, 1990 1991, (c) Schwules Museum

Love at first fight! is an exhibition “on demand” – it exists in a completely digital format and can be easily set up anywhere in the world. The exhibition architecture, designed by the renowned Berlin agency chezweitz, is as sophisticated as it is simple. The exhibits can be printed on carriers such as canvases, posters, T-shirts, flyers or adhesive tapes and then installed on mobile stands in a room. “We decided against simply hanging something on the walls,” says Birgit Bosold, who curated the highly acclaimed exhibition “Homosexuality(-ies)” in 2015. “Our exhibition aims to create its own space and create a mood that reflects the keynote of our narrative.”

This means a lust for the wild, the chaotic. The exhibition organisers would like to suggest, rather than prescribe to their audience, how the exhibits should be arranged. “We also do not show the one chronological story that claims the claim to sole, objective historical fact,” says co-curator Carina Klugbauer. “We focus on various conflicts and interventions in the history of the movement, including within the movement itself, and on the debates that have been conducted or need to be continued, sometimes in a harsh tone. And that debate should be found in the exhibition too.”