Anti-Social Art: Experimental Practices in Late East Germany

Jan 6, 2022

Exhibit at the Tweed Museum of Art ‘a first’ in the U.S.

The Tweed Museum of Art is featuring the work of several dozen independent artists working in the final decades of  East Germany. Anti-Social Art: Experimental Practices in Late East Germany opens at the Tweed on January 18 through May 15, 2022. The Tweed Museum of Art is on UMD’s campus, 1201 Ordean Court.

Experimental Forms and New Networks 

This is a first of its kind exhibit in the United States. “The Tweed is in a really interesting position to be at the forefront of a new wave of exhibitions on this topic,” says Sara Blaylock, assistant professor of Art History and one of the exhibit's curators.

The exhibition concentrates on one of the Cold War East’s most contentious contexts: East Germany in its final decades. “From photography to performance art, independent films to independent publications, artworks from this period reveal the core disjunctions between state power and citizen agency,” Blaylock explains. “Importantly, artists created a social sphere that was both independent of and entangled within official culture.”

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and Guillermo Deisler, Mail Art Collaborations, 19
Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt and Guillermo Deisler, Mail Art Collaborations, 1987, copyright courtesy of the Artist and ChertLüdde, Berlin

These artists come from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds. They towed the line between state supported experimentation and projects that challenged the well-known cultural strictures held in place in communist East Germany. A core focus is on independent publications, and other forms of printed matter that brought people far and wide together, including Mail Art. 

Expertise Exported into an Exhibit 

Curators Sara Blaylock and Sarah James, a Gerda Henkel Fellow based in Frankfurt am Main, are leading experts in the study of the art of East Germany, especially the fields of experimental and independent art. 

This March, they are both publishing  books focused on experimental art from the German Democratic Republic, and this new research frames the show. “Putting these ideas into conversation with each other and transforming them into the material form of an exhibition has been a brilliant experience,” says James. “We hope the exhibition is research-led but very accessible and speaks to our present as much as the specific past of the former East Germany.”

More Details

Curated by Sara Blaylock and Sarah James with support from a “Grant-in-Aid” from the University of Minnesota. Blaylock, author of the book Parallel Public: Experimental Art in Late East Germany (MIT Press, 2022), is Assistant Professor of Art History at UMD. James, author of Paper Revolutions: An Invisible Avant-Garde (MIT Press, 2022) and Common Ground: Germanic Photographic Cultures Across the Iron Curtain (Yale, 2013), is a Gerda Henkel Professorial Fellow.

Related Publication

Copies of a one-of-a-kind zine designed by the exhibition curators will be available free of charge in the exhibition space. The publication features texts by Sara Blaylock (University of Minnesota Duluth), Seth Howes (University of Missouri), Sarah James (Gerda Henkel ProfessorialFellow, Frankfurt am Main), and Briana J. Smith (Harvard University), as well as original artwork by Olivia Cordray (University of Missouri).

Related Events

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Follow the hashtags: #tweedmuseumofart #eastgermanyantisocialart

Note from the exhibit organizers: This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of the Tweed curator Dr. Karissa White Isaacs, whose early and enthusiastic support helped to shape its foundation. Thank you, Karissa.

About the Museum

The Tweed Museum of Art is a collecting art museum that holds in trust a historical and contemporary art collection of over 11,000 artworks on behalf of the University of Minnesota and the people of Duluth and the outlying regions. The museum is located on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Hours and directions can be found at or by calling 218-726-8222.

Hours: Tuesdays from 10 AM until 7 PM, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 AM until 3:30 PM. 

Location: University of Minnesota Duluth campus,1201 Ordean Court, Duluth, MN 55812.

The exhibition is supported by a Grant-in-Aid from the University of Minnesota.