© Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo | Design: Boy Vereecken

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow Exhibition

An exhibition on the future of the past
Nov. 28, 2019 until Oct. 18, 2020

About the exhibition

“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” (James Baldwin)

The exhibition titled Tell me about yesterday tomorrow opens up a dialogue between contemporary art and the remembrance work performed by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. Works by over 40 international artists explore how to interpret the past and its links to the present day against the background of the historical exhibition. These works, most of them new, invite viewers to consider global realities of life while supplementing German History with international perspectives and creating polyphonic narratives of the past and future. Through the media of painting, photography, installation, video, and performance, artists from different generations, from the Nazi period to the present day, convey many-sided images of history, recounting individual experiences while also highlighting structural connections. The exhibition features selected works of art from the Nazi period and recent decades alongside new works created specifically for this context. 

Historian John Henrik Clarke observed how important history is to our present and future: “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are, and what they are. Most important, history tells people where they still must go, what they still must be.” (John Henrik Clarke, 1996)

Historical events and our knowledge about them shape our understanding of our world today and our notions of what may lie ahead. Collective remembrance is closely linked with our experiences of the present day. This makes it impossible to draw a final conclusion. Instead, history must be reexamined and recontextualized in an ongoing process. It is also important to consider who interprets the past, and based on what experiences. Which stories are told, and whose stories are heard – or end up being suppressed, consciously or unconsciously? How do we deal with different voices and ambivalence?

The works of art collected in Tell me about yesterday tomorrow are dedicated to a number of different topics: the resurgence of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism; the violent exploitation of humans and the natural world; the cultural and political impact of war, suppression, and trauma; and how national myths are depicted. They testify to how emotions are used to mobilize groups within society, by conjuring up fears and desires and how people are stigmatized as “the Others” while collective narratives are pressed into the service of political ideologies. The exhibition’s international perspective reflects the global dimensions of these critical occurrences.

Fostering a culture of remembrance is crucial to the future of our democracies. It creates awareness not only of the historical conditions that have led to exclusion, degradation, and destruction, but also of our responsibility for ensuring that these processes – created and influenced by people – do not repeat themselves. Now, with right-wing populism and autocratic and fascist tendencies once more on the rise worldwide, reflecting on history is more important than ever. The goal is to develop visions of an open, social way of coexisting based on historical experiences while pointing to the positive values that have arisen since the dictatorship was overthrown – a type of potential that Hannah Arendt called the greatest and most fundamental human capacity: the ability to reconsider, rethink, and create something that has never been before.

Rooted in close cooperation between the fields of art and history, Tell me about yesterday tomorrow addresses the complexity of historiography and offers an opportunity to consider Germany’s past in the context of international developments. As one avenue of political thinking, art supplements historical remembrance work and offers reflections on the meaning and future of shared international remembrance.

Looking back becomes a way of looking ahead. This approach points to what once was and to what may yet be – not to create a simplistic equivalence between historical and current events, but instead to foster awareness of where the similarities lie and what we can learn from historical experience. Thus the exhibition does not offer a self-contained, linear treatment of its subject, but rather draws a complex picture of past and present realities. It also invites viewers to sense the ambivalences present in human actions, along with diffuse tendencies that do not yet have a clear name. Tell me about yesterday tomorrow creates connections between the past, present, and future to remind us that history has an ongoing impact and we should stay aware so that we can recognize similarities before terrible events can recur.

Project team

Director Mirjam Zadoff
Artistic Director Nicolaus Schafhausen
Assistant Curator Juliane Bischoff
Project Manager Anke Hoffsten
Project Organisation Sonja Eschenbach
Production und Technics Michael Busam, Joseph Köttl, Jürgen Goligowski, Ibrahim Özcan
Architecture Buero Kofink Schels: Simon Jüttner, Sebastian Kofink, Markus Stolz
Design Boy Vereecken and Antoine Begon
Press and public relations Kirstin Frieden, Ilona Holzmeier, Thomas Zörr
Education Nathalie Jacobsen, Dirk Riedel, Thomas Rink, Elisabeth Schulte
Audioguide Nils Emmerichs, Bernhard Jugel
Contributors Nils Emmerichs, Andreas Eichmüller
Media partner Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Partners Benediktinerabtei St. Bonifaz München, Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, Programm „Kunst im öffentlichen Raum“, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München

Acknowledgments We thank all artists, partners, lenders, and supporters who contributed to the success of the project through their creative involvement and generous support.


Nov. 28, 2019 until Oct. 18, 2020

Nicolaus Schafhausen, Juliane Bischoff and Mirjam Zadoff

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow. A Book about the Future of the Past

Social Media
#yesterday2morrow | @nsdoku

Funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes

The project was part of the culture program related to Canada’s Guest of Honour presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2020. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Government of Canada.

Trailer for the exhibition

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Artists & Artworks

Kader Attia

The Body’s Legacies, Part 1: The Objects, 2018
The Body’s Legacies, Part 2: The Postcolonial Body, 2018

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Sammy Baloji

Untitled #21, 2006
From the series Mémoire

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Brenda Draney

Tulip, 2019
Vacuum, 2019
Ingrid, 2019
Wake, 2019

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Aslan Ġoisum

People of No Consequence, 2016
Keicheyuhea, 2017

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Sebastian Jung

KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau am 9. August 2019
KZ-Gedenkstätte Buchenwald am 16. Oktober 2019
Besorgte Bürger
Rechtsextremer Anschlag in Halle am 9. Oktober 2019

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Annette Kelm

Travertine Columns, Recyclingpark Neckartal, 2019
Burned Books, 2019

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Baseera Khan

Nike ID #1, 2018
Purple Heart, 2017
I AM A BODY, 2018
iamuslima, 2018

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Ken Lum

Coming Soon, 2009

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Jumana Manna

A Magical Substance Flows Into Me, 2015

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Paula Markert

A Journey through Germany. The NSU Serial Murders, 2014 – 2017

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Michaela Meise

Antifaschistische Schlager und Chansons, 2019

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Artur (Stefan) Nacht-Samborski

Martwa Natura z Kwiatami w Wazonie (Still Life with Flowers in a Vase), 1950
Martwa Natura (Dzban Liliowy) (Still life [Lilly Vase]), undated

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Olaf Nicolai

Viele, die eine Ahnung haben...(Many People Who Are Aware...), 1999

(Many People Who Are Aware...)

Marcel Odenbach

Ordnung muß sein (Order must be), 2019
im Land der Dichter und Denker (in the Land of Poets and Thinkers), 2019
Das große Fenster – Einblick eines Ausblicks (The Big Window – Insight, Looking Out), 2001

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Emeka Ogboh

Sufferhead Original – Munich Edition, 2019

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Trevor Paglen

The Effect Was Almost Magical, 2019

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Harald Pickert

From the series Buboes of Europe. Nazi Terror in Concentration Camps, 1939-45

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Jon Rafman

Disasters Under The Sun, 2019

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Willem de Rooij

Proposal towards the Memorialization of ‘Asoziale’ and ‘Berufsverbrecher’, 2019

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Cemile Sahin

“i think reporter cemile sahin has not been to turkey for a long time”, 2017

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Gregor Schneider

Spooning Soup, Birthplace Joseph Goebbels), Odenkirchener Str. 202, Rheydt, 2014

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Hito Steyerl

The Empty Centre, 1998
Normality 1-X, 1999–2001

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Opening | Nov. 27, 2019


Under the title Long way to Laramie, Wyoming, the Polish art historian Anda Rottenberg held the keynote speech at the opening, after which the director of the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism, Mirjam Zadoff, and the curator of the exhibition, Nicolaus Schafhausen, gave an introduction to the exhibition.

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Tell me about yesterday tomorrow. A Book about the Future of the Past.

The approach of the book is interdisciplinary with contributions from authors spanning the fields of history, art, philosophy, journalism, poetry, gender, and urban studies. All of them examine the connection between past and future. The book was published at Hirmer Verlag in 2021.

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Projects as part of the exhibition

Digital Assembly

June 18 to 28, 2020

The centerpiece of the digital Assembly program in June 2020 was a podcast series titled History is not the Past, which offers thoughts and discussions about present-day issues and future scenarios at the intersection of history, society, and culture. As we look to shape society for the future, it is crucial to bear the past in mind, that without remembering, we will lose our future. The podcast series is mostly in German with some contributions in English. The podcast series was released with 11 episodes in all covering a broad range of topics with music by Dota Kehr, Michaela Meise and Maya Shenfeld.

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Frieze: Top 10 Shows in the EU of 2020
The creeping normalization of far-right thinking is an issue that can’t be addressed often enough.“ (Frieze Magazine)

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