Rilke and Russia

Museum of Modern Literature (Marbach/Germany), Strauhof (Zurich/Switzerland), Suisse Literatur Archive (Bern), State Literature Museum of Russia (Mocow)/2016 – 2018

The travelling exhibition »Rilke and Russia« shows the literary historical significance of Rainer Maria Rilke’s nearly 30-years long relation with Russia. The exhibition is a cooperation between the German Literature Archive Marbach, the Swiss Literature Archive Berne, the Strauhof Zurich and the National Literature Museum of the Russian Federation Moscow. It will be shown in all of those places.

Rilke’s inspirational and emotional orientation results primarily from his experience of nature, his search for spirituality and a strongly rooted, never fulfilled desire. Accordingly, the first picture of the exhibition is a birch forest that, at a second glance, turns out to be a penetration of landscape and poetry. Birch trees, the main voice of the opening, appear several times during the exhibition as a counterpoint. With its collaged tableaux the exhibition design encourages associative connections and free movement in the space. This way various bridges are generated in the course of the exhibition.

The precisely placed display cases, their constantly changing cut-outs and openings, and not least the arrangement of the exhibits create an interaction of presence and absence, division and union, obviousness and omission. With this, the exhibition’s design takes up the spiritual search and the motif of desire that drove Rilke again and again – spiritually as well as actually – to Russia. Content and design join and lead the visitor into the often torn but always productive relationship that Rilke had with Russia and his Russian acquaintances. Alignment and superposition of perspectives dominate the exhibition spaces that permit references to trends of Russian contemporary art.