Johannes Ebert am 31. Januar 2017
Ausstellung und Konferenz „Collecting Europe“

Grußwort von Johannes Ebert bei der Eröffnung der Ausstellung und Konferenz „Collecting Europe“ in London

Dear Tim Reeve, dear artists, dear friends, colleagues and guests:

I am so pleased to be here to open the Collecting Europe festival together with all of you tonight.

Collecting Europe is a collaboration of the Goethe-Institut London with the V&A and the British Council. When we came up with the idea for Collecting Europe two years ago, we were very happy that the two renowned and unique organisations were delighted to join.

The cooperation could hardly have come at a better time: Right now, much of what we have taken for granted is being called into question in this country, in Europe, and in the world.

For decades, Europe was a continent that relied on active exchange and cooperation based on common values. Today, the very idea of Europe is a subject of contention. Countries, institutions, but also each one of us is called upon to respond to the challenge and put forward answers. But what kind of a Europe will emerge from this, is currently utterly uncertain. 

As Germany’s cultural institute with a global reach, the Goethe-Institut has worked for years to strengthen Europe and its defining feature: collaboration. Together with our partners, we invite dialogue and create spaces for frank discussion – discussion that can be controversial at times.

But if anything has become clear recently, it is that debate is urgently needed and dissenting voices need to be heard. Most important for us is that dialogue does not die down! For this we aim to reach young people in particular, to hear their voices and visions. To listen, not to lecture.

Moreover, we rely very much on partners in the many countries we work in, to ensure the projects we develop with them are relevant to the local context.

The catalyst for Collecting Europe was the then forthcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. However, it was clear to all of us from the beginning that Europe would in fact gain, not lose, relevance following the referendum, whatever the outcome.

For this project we were lucky to work with two exceptional partners: Our neighbour, the V&A and our longstanding partner, the British Council. We are also very grateful for the support of the Finnish Institute, the Italian Cultural Institute and Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture.

Together, we invited international artists to travel through time to the year 4017. We asked them to look back on the world of today and pose the question ‘What is Europe now? What might be left or remembered of it in 2000 years?’

The result, as you might expect, is a diversity of responses - stories that are individual and culturally distinct, but connected by a playful creativity. On the small tour through the museum it was wonderful to see how these contemporary works interact with the historic and classical artefacts in the museum, giving us an idea about the historical context of Europe as well as motivation the debate on challenges and perspectives of Europe’s future.

The Europe you are about to encounter through these 12 commissions is multifaceted and amusing, it will hopefully make you contemplate and also disagree, while at the same time opening new perspectives.
I think visitors of Collecting Europe in these wonderful galleries will be inspired to develop their own stories and ideas for the future of Europe. The V&A is really the perfect place for this: a place for everybody, a museum that looks to the future as much as it looks to the past, a place for experimentation and innovation.

So a particular thanks is due to the V&A, Tim Reeve and his team, as well as my colleagues at the Goethe-Institut.

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort!