A Solidarity Campaign Revisited
Everybody in Germany knows Angela Davis. At least in the GDR of the early 1970s. There, a state-organized solidarity campaign had called for the release of U.S. philosopher, feminist, and Black Power activist Angela Davis. In collaboration with the Albertinum of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) and the exhibition of the same name (until May 30, 2021), 1 Million Roses for Angela Davis U.S. Edition takes the postcard campaign as an opportunity to work with contemporary artists, curators, and scholars to take a look at a forgotten and often contradictory chapter of the relationship between Germany and the United States and to renegotiate questions about solidarity, activism, and ideology in changing times. Running from March to September 2021, the event series includes a reading group with texts on Angela Davis, a film program, an artistic lecture-performance, the digital exhibition of the postcard action, and several panel discussions, and a listening session.
Few East Germans over the age of fifty fail to remember the state-organized solidarity campaign calling for the release of the US philosopher, communist, and Black Power activist Angela Davis. “A million roses for Angela” was the motto of a postcard campaign in 1970-72 in support of Davis, who at the time was being held under terrorism charges. Millions of postcards were sent from the GDR to the court in California to support Angela Davis during her trial. Today these postcards are archived in the collections of Stanford University.
The large-scale campaign firmly anchored the activist within the cultural memory of the GDR, which — in this critical phase of the Cold War — sought to position itself by asserting its commitment to the comrade. In the GDR, the media spun Davis as the “heroine of the other America” and after her acquittal, she was welcomed as a state guest. For her part, Angela Davis had hoped for an internationalist movement promoting a socialist, feminist, and non-racist democracy — the antithesis of her experiences of violence and oppression in the USA. This moment of hope, utopia, and contradiction provides the historical starting point for the exhibition of the Albertinum (State Art Collections Dresden), which features contemporary works by international artists.
Artists focus on the issues that the now emeritus professor campaigned on at the time, which are still pressing today, and thereby initiate a discussion about the background, flaws, and unfulfilled potential of this unusual relationship between Davis and the GDR. In photographs, videos, sculptures, sound installations, and conceptual works a young generation of artists focuses attention both on Davis’ ongoing commitment to social justice and her struggle against racism and sexism, as well as on how her iconic image came to be inscribed within a global history of resistance.
In dialogue with archival materials, the exhibition opens an experimental space of encounters between the past and the present, linking the socialist internationalism of the GDR to the world-wider Black Lives Matter movement.
Angela Davis was and still is part of a global and entangled history of resistance. Through the program 1 Million Rosen for Angela Davis - U.S. Edition the Goethe-Institut and the Albertinum open up and widen the scope of the exhibition in Dresden and provide different opportunities to explore deeper this little-known chapter of relations between Germany and the US.
A project of the Albertinum (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) and the Goethe-Institut New York.
Organized by Kathleen Reinhardt and Deniz Sertkol
The exhibtiion is supported by Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, Outset_Germany Switzerland, Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, Stiftung Frauen in Europa, Tu Was Stiftung für Gemeinsinn, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
The catalog for the exhibition 1 Million Roses for Angela Davis at Albertinum (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) was published by Mousse Publishing and is available to order at your book dealer of choice (ISBN 978-88-6749-439-2).
Kathleen Reinhardt is an art and cultural historian and, since 2016, curator of contemporary art at the Albertinum in Dresden where she has curated the exhibitions Marlene Dumas: Skulls, Slavs and Tatars: Made in Dschermany, For Ruth, The Sky in Los Angeles: Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and David Horvitz and Demonstration Rooms: Céline Condorelli, Kapwani Kiwanga, Judy Radul (co-curated with Isabelle Busch). She received her doctorate from the Arts of Africa department of the Freie Universität Berlin in 2017 with a dissertation on contemporary African American art, for which she received a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission as a visiting researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has taught at Freie Universität Berlin and Technische Universität Dresden. Her writing has appeared in art catalogs as well as the magazines African Arts, Art Margins, Contemporary And, and Kaleidoscope, among other publications.
For more information:
Angela Davis Reading Group
Online | Reading Group
Postcards for Angela Davis
Goethe-Institut New York | Digital Exhibition
One Million Roses - Radio Talk & Listening Session
Online | Radio Talk & Listening Session
Ours To Heal
On Exhibiting Angela Davis - Curatorial Roundtable on Archives
Online | Roundtable Discussion