Panel Discussion + Web Project Launch Culture with a Capital C: The Intersection of Popular Culture and the Fine Arts

The Elite and the Popular in the Arts © Goethe-Institut

Tue, 05/14/2019

Goethe-Institut Washington

1990 K St. NW (Entrance on 20th St., lower level)
Washington, DC 20006

Educational elites, business elites, scientific elites, political elites – the elite always seems to be a topic of conversation. Historically, elitism and popular culture have often been viewed as diametrically opposed, as though elitism co-opts and looks down upon the popular culture that initially contributed to it.

But perhaps the relationship between the two is more complex than this. To what extent do elite culture and popular culture inform each other and shape one another? How do elements of culture shift back and forth between elite and popular? At what point did jazz music, for instance, cross over from a niche genre of popular music into a sophisticated and smart form of "high art"? How did comics transform from fleeting entertainment printed onto throwaway newspapers into an art form used for advanced narrative storytelling? When did the making and consumption of beer transition from unremarkable everyday routine to a “craft” as cosmopolitan as viticulture? How, why, and when does “culture” with a lowercase C become “Culture” with a capital C?

On May 14, the Goethe-Institut Washington and the Bertelsmann Foundation present their new web project, The Elite and the Popular in the Arts, which opens up astonishing and provocative perspectives on how art has evolved between the tensions of the elite and the popular.

The evening begins with a short presentation of the new web project, and continues with a discussion between Princeton scholar Jan-Werner Muller and George Washington University art historian Bibiana Obler. Following the panel will be an opportunity to explore jazz with pianist Jon Ozment, the world of graphic novels with writer and publisher Bill Campbell, and craft beer culture with one of DC’s great new breweries. This will serve as an opportunity to experience firsthand examples of the elite and the popular, and how they are intertwined with culture we enjoy daily.

Jan-Werner Muller is the author of numerous books, including What Is Populism? Bibiana Obler is a curator and author of Intimate Collaborations: Kandinsky and Münter, Arp and Taeuber. Their conversation will be moderated by Andreas Ströhl, the director of the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC.
RSVP Culture with a Capital C opens a series of three events that examine the powers driving art to change, the catalysts for new expression forms and styles, and what brings the new into the world.

The second event in the Elites series, scheduled for late May, will be a walking tour of modern architecture in Washington, DC. In particular, the tour will feature buildings with glass facades throughout the city and analyze the design philosophies behind these architectural choices.

The third event in the series, scheduled for mid-June, will focus on a single figure who straddled the worlds of popular and elite culture: Bertolt Brecht. The evening will feature excerpts from his theater work, the music that accompanied his words, and the poetry that he published to wide acclaim.

This series is presented in partnership with the Bertelsmann Foundation.