Neolithic Childhood. Art in a False Present, ca. 1930

Edited by Anselm Franke and Tom Holert
Haus der Kulturen der Welt / Diaphanes, 2018
460 pages, English
296 illustrations, of which 128 in color, bound
ISBN 978-3-0358-0106-4
Price: 50 €

Available at Haus der Kulturen der Welt and at bookstores, mail order buying / postal shopping via the webshop

Table of contents

Resonating at the heart of Neolithic Childhood. Art in a False Present, c. 1930 is the question whether art has present, past, and future functions. The modernist assertion of the autonomy of art was intended to render superfluous art’s social and religious functions. But what if the functionlessness of art comes under suspicion of being instrumentalized by bourgeois capitalism? This was an accusation that informed the anti-modernist critique of the avant-garde, and particularly of Surrealism. The objective throughout the crisis-ridden present of the 1920s to the 1940s was to reaffirm a once ubiquitous, but long-lost functionality—not only of art.

The publication accompanying the exhibition examines the strategies deployed in this reaffirmation. These include the surrealist Primitivism of an “Ethnology of the White Man” together with the excavation of the deep time of humanity—into the “Neolithic Childhood” mapped out by the notoriously anti-modernist Carl Einstein (1885-1940) as a hallucinatory retro-utopia. The volume brings together essays by the curators and academics involved in the project, primary texts by Carl Einstein and a comprehensive documentation of the exhibition including lists of works, texts on as well as images of numerous exhibits and finally installation views. At the center of the volume, a glossary discusses Carl Einstein’s own theoretical vocabulary as well as further associated terms, such as Autonomy, Formalism, Function, Gesture, Hallucination, Art, Metamorphosis, Primitivisms, Totality.

With contributions by: Irene Albers, Philipp Albers, Joyce S. Cheng, Rosa Eidelpes, Carl Einstein, Anselm Franke, Charles W. Haxthausen, Tom Holert, Sven Lütticken, Ulrike Müller, Jenny Nachtigall, David Quigley, Cornelius Reiber, Erhard Schüttpelz, Kerstin Stakemeier, Maria Stavrinaki, Elena Vogman, Zairong Xiang, Sebastian Zeidler

With reproductions of artworks by:
Jean (Hans) Arp, Willi Baumeister, Georges Braque, Brassaï, Claude Cahun, Lux T. Feininger, Max Ernst, Florence Henri, Barbara Hepworth, Hannah Höch, Heinrich Hoerle, Paul Klee, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, André Masson, Alexandra Povòrina, Gaston-Louis Roux, Kalifala Sidibé, Louis Soutter, Yves Tanguy, Toyen, Jindřich Štyrský, Raoul Ubac, Paule Vézelay und anderen.

Table of contents:

Bernd Scherer

Anselm Franke, Tom Holert

Editorial note

Handbook of Art
Carl Einstein


The Speckled Leopard of the Mixed Self: Chaos Theory, c. 1930
Tom Holert

Vitalism/“Living” Form
Jenny Nachtigall

After Cosmogony: Carl Einstein on Jean Arp
Sebastian Zeidler

Neolithic Childhood
Carl Einstein

Why Did the 1930s Identify with Prehistory?
Maria Stavrinaki

Russian and Non-Russian Proletkult
Kerstin Stakemeier

Flipping the Bird: Toyen
Ulrike Müller

Global Art 1929: Kalifala Sidibé
Irene Albers


Jenny Nachtigall

Tom Holert

Handbuch der Kunst
Charles W. Haxthausen

Autonomy I
Sven Lütticken

Tom Holert

Mimesis, Redoubled
Rosa Eidelpes

Sven Lütticken

Jenny Nachtigall

Tom Holert

Irene Albers

Chiara Marchini

Autonomy II
Kerstin Stakemeier

Joyce S. Cheng

The Training of Ecstasy
Irene Albers

Elena Vogman

Joyce S. Cheng

David Quigley

Tom Holert

David Quigley

Kerstin Stakemeier

Zairong Xiang

Boomerang Effect
Erhard Schüttpelz

The Anti-Colonialism of the Surrealists
Irene Albers

Ethnologie du blanc
Irene Albers

Archival Materials

Section A
The Impossible Expansion of History

The Crisis (of Everything)

Picture Atlas Projects of the 1920s (Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, Orbis Pictus,
Kulturen der Erde, Das Bild, and Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaft)

Art Historical Images of History and World Art Stories

From Ethnological Art History to the New Ethnographic Museums

Models of Temporality

Functions of the “Primitive”

The Art of the “Primitives”

The Precise Conditionality of Art

Carl Einstein, “Handbuch der Kunst”

“The Ethnological Study of Art”: African Sculpture

Archaeology as a Media Event

Prehistory in the Abyss of Time

The Prehistory of Art: Rock Drawings and Cave Painting

The Paleolithic/Neolithic Age: Mankind’s Childhood?

Fundamental Crisis: Ontological Revolution and Formalization

Section B
The S/O Function

The Present and Contemporary Art

Children’s Drawings and
Questions of Origins

The S/O Function



Automatism, Dream, Hallucination, Hypnosis

Image-Space of Biology

Artistic Research: Ethnology, Archaeology, Physics

Gesture—“a flash in slow motion through centuries of evolution”: Sergei Eisenstein’s Method

The Expedition as a Medium of the Avant-Garde (Dakar–Djibouti and Subsequent Missions)

Ethnology of the White Man?

Theories of Fascism in France

Fascist Anti-Primitivism. “Degenerate ‘Art,’” 1937

Braque/Einstein: World Condensation

The Two Lives of Myth

Ur-Communism, Expenditure, Proletarianization

Section C
Resistance and Lines of Flight

The “Exposition coloniale internationale” and the Anti-Colonialist Impulse

Afro-Modernism and “Self-Defense”

Kalifala Sidibé:
Colonial or Global Artist?

The Port: Contact Zone and Space of Mobilizations

Conversion into the Fight: The Spanish Civil War

Installation Views