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In the Spotlight of the Night – Cities never Sleep


Exhibition: October 25, 2019 to February 9, 2020

Curator: Julia Höner

Though the night descends upon all places, it is particularly in urban space that the full array of its meanings is released. The focus of the exhibition In the Spotlight of the Night – Cities never Sleep consequently lies on the nightlife of the city. Together with the participating artists, we gain insight into urban spaces shaped by the night, where fundamental humanist principles tend to become porous, where the proximity of humans to aspects of the creature-like, the artificial, the hybrid and the shady come to the fore. Clearly defined social, moral or aesthetic differences as seen in the cold light of the day will lose their rigid contours under the cover of a nocturnal semi-darkness. The city at night comes across as a realm of transformation and excess, an ideal breeding ground for the development and acting out of alternative life scripts, for modes of thinking directed against the stream of standard political or societal values and rules. 

The exhibition focusses on a social dimension of night manifesting in the form of a precarious atmosphere and ambivalent mood underlying the artificial nocturnal world. In a time that is increasingly perceived as politically instable – in which also technological transformations or the loss of entire ecosystems are experienced as a threat – the night likewise serves as a real or imaginary place of refuge, where existential insecurities can be suppressed, for a while at least.

The show also highlights the vital role that artificial light plays in the unfolding of such a nocturnal counterworld. Dioramas from the 18th and 19th century underscore the fascination of the masses in the face of artificial light and, at the same time, interact with the artistic works of the present.

The shady life of an unbounded night takes centre stage of this exhibition, which is shown at two venues at once – KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION in Düsseldorf and Museum Marta Herford – and is devoted to revealing the many facets of a highly intriguing theme.

Supported by

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The exhibition and catalogue are a cooperation between
KAI 10 | ARTHENA FOUNDATION, Düsseldorf, and the Marta Herford Museum.

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Accompanying program

, 7 pm

In the Spotlight of the Night – Cities never Sleep: Opening

Monika Schnetkamp / Chairwoman Arthena Foundation
Dr. Stephan Muschick / Managing Director innogy Foundation
Julia Höner / Curator of the exhibition

, 4 pm

Tandem tour | "In the Spotlight of the Night – Cities never Sleep"

Tandem tour through the exhibition with Friederike Fast, curator at Marta, and Julia Höner.

, 7 pm

Lecture | LET THERE BE DARKNESS! | Elisabeth Bronfen

In the course of the 19th century major cities in Europe were increasingly pervaded by artificial light. The nocturnal semi-darkness of the cities provided an ideal breeding ground for all kinds of amusement and excesses. Here, diverse ways of life beyond political, aesthetic or social rules and regulations of daytime were able to thrive. It was the figure of the night roamer that from then on became the paragon of modern, urban identity. Many visual artists, authors and filmmakers have created works honouring the nocturnal flâneur as a distinct societal character. In her lecture, Elisabeth Bronfen portrays the nocturnal city and its protagonists of a time that shows quite a few parallels to the non-stop frenzy of activity of our present day, likewise marked by fundamental societal and extensive technical changes.

Elisabeth Bronfen is Professor of English and American Studies at the University of Zurich and, since 2007, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. She did her PhD at the University of Munich, on literary space in the work of Dorothy M. Richardson’s novel sequence Pilgrimage, as well as her habilitation, five years later, on representations of femininity and death. A specialist in the 19th and 20th century literature, she has also written articles and books in the area of gender studies, psychoanalysis, film, cultural theory and visual culture – amongst them Night Passages. Philosophy, Literature and Film (2013). She is a frequent contributor for local and international news publications and broadcasts, serving as an expert on culture as well as American politics.

Public guided tours

Public guided tours | 3 pm: 27.10.2019, 10.11.2019, 24.11.2019, 8.12.2019, 22.12.2019, 5.1.2020, 19.1.2020, 2.2.2020

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