NEH Summer Institute and Public Film and Lecture Series Examine Culture in the Cold War

East German Art, Music and Film Showcased June 17 to July 14
'Culture in the Cold War: East German Art, Music and Film'

AMHERST, Mass. – Twenty-five summer scholars will join seven international faculty members on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus for a four-week Summer Institute for College and University Teachers funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Directed by UMass Amherst faculty members Skyler Arndt-Briggs and Barton Byg, the NEH Summer Institute breaks new ground in the study of socialist modernity and culture during the Cold War, applying a sustained interdisciplinary examination into the role of arts and artists to the case of East German society. Drawing on the latest research in art history, musicology, film studies, history and German studies, it seeks to reevaluate debates about artistic freedom and censorship; consider relations between high and low as well as official and alternative arts cultures, and establish the importance and timeliness of revisiting this period of recent history in today’s college classrooms.

The four-week Public Film and Lecture Series, taking place at UMass Amherst and Amherst Cinema, presents materials that will be at the core of institute workshop discussions. Running from June 17 to July 12, the series features six faculty lectures, an exhibition and final panel discussion, and 52 documentary and feature film screenings—many of which are North American premieres and will screen with English subtitles for the first time. For details, see https://cultureinthecoldwar.com/public-film-and-lecture-series/.

Among the wealth of presentations on classical and modern composers, painters and other artists, not-to-be-missed highlights include:

  • The North American premiere and DVD release of Dusk: 1950s East Berlin Bohemia (1993), on the arts scene surrounding Bertolt Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble before the Berlin Wall

  • Four feature film screenings at the Amherst Cinema Arts Center (28 Amity Street): Marriage in the Shadows (June 19), Midnight Revue (June 28), The Naked Man on the Sports Field (July 3) and whisper & SHOUT (July 10)

  • A special, one-time-only showing of I’m a Negro, I’m an American (1989), an East German documentary about the American legend Paul Robeson (June 25)

  • An exhibition of graphic artworks, Mutterkuchen: Selected Works of Anke Feuchtenberger (June 26 to July 13; opening June 26), at the John W. Olver Design Building, UMass Amherst

  • Lectures by institute faculty on: Five Myths about East German Visual Art (June 18, April Eisman, Iowa State University); Sounding Utopia in the GDR (June 26, Elaine Kelly, University of Edinburgh); Music, Modernity and International Solidarity (June 29, Johanna Yunker, UMass Amherst); Opera on Film, DEFA Style (July 2, Joy Calico, Vanderbilt University); Artists on Film: Art for Art’s Sake (July 3, Seán Allan, University of St. Andrews); and Painting Women: Women Artists in the GDR (July 5, April Eisman, Iowa State University)

  • A final panel discussion on Post-Unification Debates on GDR Art (July 11)

The institute and accompanying public film and lecture series are organized and hosted by the DEFA Film Library and German and Scandinavian studies at UMass Amherst. Major sponsors include the National Endowment for the Humanities, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, DEFA Film Library and German and Scandinavian studies at UMass Amherst, and the DEFA Stiftung in Berlin.

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