Utopia

Revisiting a German State in America

A Traveling Exhibition

In 1834 five-hundred Germans emigrated to the United States, with an intention to establish their own state. Decades of revolutionary struggles had failed, convincing them that the power of their rulers could not be broken, for the time being. Yet, as passionate democrats, they were determined to establish a new German Republic – in North America. This bold, now almost forgotten, venture of the Giessen Emigration Society, was an event much-discussed at that time.

The Society’s founders were unable to achieve their goal they had stated. However they did find the conditions right to contribute to the strong democratic beliefs they found in the fertile United States. Settling in Missouri, they led the hard life of farmers, and began to create a lively intellectual center that exists even to this day. They led in the struggles against religious intolerance, and fought to abolish slavery during the Civil War. They promoted the State’s rich viticultural assets, and encouraged further emigration, ultimately achieving a State rich with German heritage, that still exists today.

Beginning on November 1st 2013, the Exhibition opens in the city of Giessen (Germany) which will tour along the route of the former emigrants – from Germany to America: the St. Stephens Cultural Church in Bremen, the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. and then complete its tour in Missouri, in a location in the fall of 2014.

The innovative exhibition Utopia provides a thought provoking exhibit that encourages discussion of this story and provides a new narrative for future generations. Their founder’s ideal was a Utopia. The exhibit’s narrative will provide “branches” opening new avenues of thought, giving us courage to look beyond the original plan. Democratic societies need Utopias and the public discourse, in order to initiate changes for tomorrow, today. The Utopia exhibit will be an opportunity to open that discourse.

The exhibit, Utopia has a narrative space at its center with the public Archives and Utopia Library. Exhibits are surrounding this “knowledge core” within a second circle: video installations, audio stations, text panels, large photographs, historical objects unfold the story further. Events form the third circle, the outer space. We invite you to travel with us and the exhibition container to unfold the exhibit items in Missouri!

The book, Utopia is a comprehensive bilingual publication that both enlarges and deepens the viewers understanding of the exhibit’s content and ensures the experience of the topic. For those unable to experience the exhibition, the book will provide an excellent understanding of the history, complete with photos and maps found in the exhibit.

The accompanying documentary, Utopia provides a visual opportunity to experience the history, with interviews, and visits to the original sites. Filmed in both Germany and the U.S., it is both an audio and visual tour, to enhance the experience of the Exhibition.

The Traveling Summer Republic – a free association of artists and scholars from all over Germany and in the United States, has been researching this unique chapter of the German emigrant’s movement, and is interested in the connection of this story to today’s societal, cultural and political issues. In 2005 the Sommer-Republik launched their project with their “Island Conference” on the island of Harriersand near Bremen, where a portion of the Giessen Emigration Society had to endure a horrific layover awaiting passage to the U.S.. Since then, there has been a broad variety of events and conferences and they have established a large research archives.

Organizers: Municipality of Giessen with local partners. Project Director: Dr. Ludwig Brake, City Archives Giessen. Project Manager U.S.: Dorris Keeven-Franke. Artistic Directors: Oliver Behnecke (Director and Exhibition Producer) and Peter Roloff (Film Director and Producer). Scientific and artistic realization: team of Traveling Summer Republic. Project partners (as of October 2012): German-American Heritage Foundation, Washington D.C.; Goethe-Institut Washington D.C.; University of Giessen; Heinrich Böll Foundation Bremen; Cultural Church St. Stephen, Bremen; Chamber of Labour Bremen; Film Office Bremen e.V.; Jonas Publishing House, Marburg; and others.

Contacts & Info:
Dorris Keeven Franke | dorris@keeven-franke.com

www.mo-germans.com

Peter Roloff | peter.roloff@sommer-republik.de

www.sommer-republik.de

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