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Ludwig Wittgenstein. Contextualizations of a Genius

18. March 2011 – 13. June 2011

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (24 April, 1889 – 29 April, 1951) is considered amongst the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His great fame is due in part to his charismatic character, and the intense interest his character aroused can be understood in light of the late 19th century idea of a genius. It was precisely the radicality of his personal decisions, as well as of his philosophical views, which made him a controversial and enigmatic figure during his lifetime. To mark the 60th anniversary of the day of his death, the Schwules Museum will present his life and work in a comprehensive cultural and historical exhibition. The exhibition will both contain original documents and also work with room settings and media installations to make philosophy tangible as a living process.

This exhibition seeks to “contextualize” Wittgenstein from a variety of perspectives. First of all, we consider his position in the history of European culture and liberal arts, with its highly varied currents from the Viennese fin de siècle to the elite circles at Cambridge. The approach to “contextualization” can just as well be understood in a geographic sense. Wittgenstein was constantly changing residences, moving back and forth from his birthplace Vienna, his academic activities in Cambridge, as well as his place of refuge at Skjolden in Norway. Characteristic of Wittgenstein was a constant struggle for sincerity and clarity – his search for the “real life”. Two sets of paired opposites, “Sensuality and Asceticism” and “Speech and Silence”, thus form important leitmotifs in the course of the exhibition. There is almost no document of Wittgenstein’s homosexuality. He never expressed himself explicitly on the topic of sexuality, and his friendships with mostly younger men never became the objects of public discussion. His contemplation of the poles of sensuality and asceticism, guilt and atonement will also be examined. This exhibition is presented in co-operation with the Wittgenstein Archive in Cambridge and the Brenner-Archiv in Innsbruck. Many of the documents are being exhibited publicly for the first time.

Curators: Jan Drehmel, Kristina Jaspers