About the Exhibition

How German is it?
30 Artists' Notion of Home

The German dictionary defines "Heimatkunde" as the study of a particular locality’s history, geography, and ecology. The word "Heimat" could be translated as "homeland," but it is a very specific and emotional concept that can mean many things: the place of one’s birth, country of origin, nation, language, religion. A familiar stretch of countryside; family and friends; knowing where the bakery or the doctor’s office or your favorite movie theater is—all these contribute to the feeling that Hannah Arendt, visiting Berlin immediately after the war, captured in the image of her feet knowing the way without being told. Familiarity and unquestioned belonging, but also the right to grumble and criticize, are the components that make up "home."

That feeling of being at home, of "Heimat," is not necessarily the same thing as the sense of nation: the narrative of nationhood goes far beyond the intimacy of our immediate environment. Descriptions of how the German nation came about often cite the paradigm of fragmentation, with the related longing for unity, political freedom, and collective heroism that found expression in megalomaniac fantasies and culminated in global wars, state crimes, and political divisions.

Now that the two German states are unified and the new Germany has finally conceded it is a land with a heterogeneous population, we ask how this society defines and endorses its collective existence. In the works gathered here, thirty artists from forty-two countries address key aspects of their perceptions of Germany and in Germany.