Impressions from our Special Exhibition about the Berlin of the twenties as reflected in the arts
Dancing on the Volcano
“Dancing on the Volcano” is more than just the title of a Berlin film production from 1938. “Dancing on the volcano” also describes, as no other phrase can, the mood and social climate in the 1920s, particularly in the pulsating metropolis of Berlin. It was a tumultuous period between monarchy and dictatorship, between luxury and misery, between war and peace. Driven by the social and political upheaval of the Weimar Republic, it was also a period of diversity in every area of culture that is almost unparalleled in history, as the exhibition at the Ephraim-Palais shows.
A top-class, comprehensive look
The effects of the November Revolution and the crises of the Weimar Republic allowed a hedonistic, fast-paced and often frenzied lifestyle to emerge as the twenties began. It was expressed in the pursuit of entertainment, the grotesque dance steps of the Charleston, the exhibitionism of burlesque, the jeering cabaret numbers, the colourful line-ups at the variety theatres and in the provocative styling of the “new woman” – in short: in the proverbial hustle and bustle of big-city life. Berlin was suddenly the centre of the avant-garde in every area of visual, applied and performing arts.
Until now, there has been no comprehensive overview of the creative activities of this period. For this reason, the exhibition takes a sophisticated look at the epoch of the not-always “golden” twenties with 500 works by around 200 painters, graphic artists, photographers, artisans and fashion designers. It gives visitors a feeling for the zeitgeist of the era and an idea of the losses that cultural life suffered through the despotism of the National Socialists.
On view are works by well-known artists such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Beckmann and Wilhelm Lehmbruck. There are also many new works to discover, such as the traumatic depictions of riots, rape and murder by the graphic artist Bruno Böttger-Steglitz and the breathtaking commercial photography of Max Grünthal, alias Mac Walten.
Diverse accompanying programme
To this day, the twenties have an irresistible allure, often for young people – whether it be art enthusiasts, music lovers or film buffs. Paintings, sculptures and collages attract visitors to the museums, singers interpreting old hits and chansons fill the halls, publishers reprint literature from the twenties and filmmakers even make new silent films. The twenties are reflected in the subculture as well: in major cities, people throw twenties parties and dress up in period clothing to role play or have murder-mystery dinners in the style of the 1920s.
Our programme about “dancing on the volcano” is as diverse as these cultural expressions.
- The special exhibition IA – scent presents a perfume that was popular during the period, and its authentic fragrance has been specially recreated for the occasion.
- City tours will take you on a journey of discovery to famous streets, squares and districts from the twenties.
- A guided murder-mystery tour through the Ephraim-Palais will tell the story of safe-crackers, gangsters and widows' balls.
- A symposium will offer an entertaining approach to major questions about the twenties using examples from film, radio and dance.
- A silent film night at Brotfabrik will present the cinema of the twenties.
- A radio play night in the Ephraim-Palais will provide an opportunity to revel in the spoken word.
The exhibition covers two storeys of the Ephraim-Palais. The parallel exhibition "IA-scent | Schwarzlose & the Perfume of Berlin" on the 3rd floor of the Ephraim-Palais will be presenting the luxurious side of the twenties.