Othering Displayed: Racialized Spacemaking of German Exhibitions

Lecture in the context of the lecture series “Designed Orders”, LOEWE Project Architectures of Order, Goethe University Frankfurt, Campus Westend, HZ 8, 2 February 2023, 6.00 pm, Dr. Regine Hess

World and national exhibitions have been a phenomenon of modernity since the end of the 18th century, not only in France and Great Britain, but also in the German countries. The exhibition of the products of national and imperial industries represent not only the economic and social order at that time, but even more the self-conception of the organizing states. This motivation increasingly shaped the great exhibitions in the course of the 19th century and differentiated their architectural programmes. In this process, patterns of spatial formation can be discerned that both ‘exhibited’ imperialism and colonialism and developed national narratives. This becomes evident not only in exhibition palaces, villages, nation pavilions, multifunctional prefabricated buildings, and their arrangement on the site, but also in the actors: people from many parts of the world worked at large exhibitions and were assigned, sometimes forcibly, to those spaces they were supposed to represent.
The lecture examines the making of space in large exhibitions and its architectural shaping in the perspective of the ‘own’ and the ‘other’. It attempts to show racism and its traces in the history of exhibitions as part of the history of architecture.