“Great emotions are currently in vogue”

Trump's rage: also an art object © Evan El-Amin (shutterstock)

The skinny torso of the dead Jesus – without a head and with dark holes instead of arms – or a snapshot with Trump's aggressive gestures: An exhibition explores the theme of art and feelings.

Who doesn't remember the scene when U.S. President Donald Trump appealed to the emotions of his supporters, claiming he could shoot someone in the middle of New York's Fifth Avenue and still not lose any voters? Martha Rosler's highly topical digital print "Point and shoot" captures the moment with Trump's aggressive gestures and facial expressions. The work can be found in the exhibition "Passion Passion. The Art of Great Feelings", with which Munster's Museum of Art and Culture, starting on Friday with 200 exhibits, will for the first time trace an arc to the present day – from the infanticide in Bethlehem to the propaganda of the U.S. president, which is based on instincts instead of arguments.

"Big feelings are in vogue right now, if you just think about the Corona deniers and conspiracy theorists," explained the director of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL), Mathias Lob, on Tuesday at the presentation of the show. "An exhibition theme could hardly be more topical."The LWL is the sponsor of the museum, which will be showing the exhibition until July 14. February 2021 shows.

Feelings determine life

Strong feelings are indeed as old as humanity itself. They determine life, influence thought and action. They are absolutely timeless and have also been depicted for centuries with the same stylistic devices. "Art is able to express passions most intensively," explains museum director Hermann Arnhold. "Therefore, we invite everyone to sympathize with what you see here."

In six chapters, the exhibition tells of joy and sorrow, devotion and fear, love and hate, and shows in exemplary fashion how these feelings are expressed in body language, i.e. in gestures and facial expressions. At the beginning, a copy of the Laocoon group is an eye-catcher. The sculpture in the Vatican Museums depicts the death throes of Laocoon and his sons, and has shaped the image of grief and pain in art for centuries. In the second part of the show, works of art from antiquity to the present are linked with source texts and related to art theories, with the reconstruction of an ancient theater mask attracting particular attention. The depiction of the Bethlehemite infanticide from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens also shows the visitor the full drama of human affects.

The joys and sorrows of love

The heart of the show is the third room on the joys and sorrows of love, which focuses on Eros and physical love, but also on jealousy, horror, despair and sexual violence. An exhibition on the theme of "Passion" would be incomplete, however, if it did not take into account the Passion of Jesus Christ and its echoes in art. The Pieta by the artist Berlinde de Bruyckere, created in 2007/2008, has a particularly blatant, even shocking and provocative effect, showing the naked, gaunt figure of the dead Jesus without a head and with dark holes instead of arms, completely lonely and abandoned on a soft feather pillow. Hardly less drastic and impressive is the "Christ at the Scourging Pillar," carved from linden wood and created in the Alpine region in 1697.

Room five explores the meaning of feelings in a political context, such as Willy Brandt's genuflection in the Warsaw Ghetto or the brotherly kiss of Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker. The last room brings together self-portraits of artists – mirrors of their own spiritual lives. At the same time, visitors can also examine their own feelings: The so-called "Passion Curve" asks whether love, hate, serenity or anger are predominant.

The facial recognition station at the end is thought-provoking: it uses a screen to analyze visitors' facial expressions and translates them into feelings. According to the exhibition's curator, Petra Marx, "Some people might find it quite frightening what the device brings to light."

Gerd Felder

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