The 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels
On 28 November 1820 Friedrich Engels was born in Wuppertal-Barmen. We celebrate this incredibly special 200th birthday with different kinds of virtual content.
Greeting by the Minister President of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet
Friedrich Engels was one of the seminal figures of his era and far beyond. Born 200 years ago in Barmen, he witnessed during his lifetime fundamental economic, political and social upheavals in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Engels began early on to advocate for the men, women and even children who had to toil in mines and factories under inhumane conditions. Yet Engels himself was the son of a wealthy industrialist, and a successful entrepreneur in his own right. Although he therefore personally profited from industrialisation, he nonetheless joined Karl Marx in developing the ideology of communism as a response to its ills. What the two could not foresee was that communism in its various guises would go on to foster not liberation but further oppression, leading to the exploitation and death of millions upon millions of people around the world.
The year 2020, the 200th anniversary of Engels’s birth, is therefore an occasion to think back on these historical consequences. And it should serve as a warning to take history’s lessons to heart and do everything in our power to ensure that our modern society aspires not to blindly follow an ideology but to safeguard human dignity by maintaining peace, freedom and human rights. In this, the 30th year after German reunification, we must remember that for 40 years the doctrines of Marx and Engels were invoked in former East Germany to deny the people those very values. But to hold Engels, a child of his time, responsible for this fails to do justice to him and his role in world history. Rather, we must continue to critically reflect upon his teachings, his convictions, his thoughts and deeds. We can then discover, for example, that, and how, upholding honourable aims and ideals can lead to the exact opposite.
The Engels-Haus in Wuppertal is an ideal spot for such reflection. My sincere thanks to all those who, with their great commitment, have made its reopening possible. I hope all those who come here are able to gain productive insights into Engels the man, the entrepreneur, the revolutionary and the communist, as a way of better understanding his age and the course of history in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Video message: Uwe Schneidewind, Lord Mayor of Wuppertal and Dr. Lars Bluma, head of Zentrum für Stadtgeschichte und Industriekultur
In conversation with Dr. Lars Bluma, head of the Engels-Haus, Uwe Schneidewind, Lord Mayor of Wuppertal describes the multi-faceted personality of Friedrich Engels and why the presence of Engels is still being discussed controversially.
A first impression: A virtual tour of the newly renovated Engels-Haus
It is one of the most important buildings of Wuppertal: the landmarked Engels-Haus. In view of the importance of this building, in November 2016 an extensive architectural research was carried out – the first of its kind in Wuppertal. The architectural research showed that since its establishment in 1775 and up to the point of its registration in the city’s list of protected monuments 1992 the Engels-Haus has survived several partially extensive phases of rebuilding. Since the Engels-Haus is a typical example of an upper-class half-timbered residence from Bergische late Baroque the orientation of the renovation and restoration aimed at the status after the first great rebuilding in 1800.
International art project "INSIDE OUT ENGELS“ – 200 messages from citizens of Wuppertal
The participatory art project "INSIDE OUT ENGELS" can be visited only virtually: By clicking the banner below you will find yourself on a website with 200 portraits in black and white of people from Wuppertal. Behind any of the 200 photos is a birthday greeting and a personal message of the photographed person to Friedrich Engels – clicking on the portrait you view the corresponding photograph. The messages will be in German.
INSIDE OUT ENGELS
Ranging from the high culture (kick-off event) to science (congress “Die Akualität eines Klassikers – The Timeliness of a Historic Figure” of the Bergische Universität Wuppertal) and literature (book presentation “Arbeiten am Widerspruch – Friedrich Engels zum 200. Geburtstag”) to the independent scene (“Rote Socken”): Right at the beginning of the Engels year the formats from various cultural areas were represented. The diversity of each of the formats of the Engels2020-events is provided by a trailer which instils a desire for more.
Documentary „Engels Weltbild“
A series of three large house fronts was designed by Martin Heuwold and Kolja Kunstreich with the aim to the public interest of young and old. Thereby the observer shall deal with Engels for the first or second time. In the documentary “Engels Weltbild” Heuwold and Kunstreich as well as other participants discuss the idea behind the project.
28 young people together with professional filmic support created a documentary on the topic work. Therefore, people from Wuppertal with various jobs at different phases of life have been portrayed. While young people were monitored at entering the job market, older people were monitored before the entry into retirement. The film can be watched in full length on YouTube.
The professional portraits cover the entire spectrum of the job market: From workers to employees and self-employed workers each with a different income level. The portraits illustrate the diversity of the job market also by showing people with disabilities and unemployed people.
Exhibition "Vision und Schrecken der Moderne – Industrie und künstlerischer Aufbruch"
As a contribution to the anniversary year„Engels 2020” the exhibition “Vision und Schrecken der Moderne – Industrie und künstlerischer Aufbruch“ at the Von der Heydt-Museum examines the question how cultural and social aspects of the industrialisation had an impact on art, staring in the 19th Century to the present day. The economic system of capitalism created during the industrial revolution and whose basics were critically analysed by Marx and Engels has not only led to technological progress and cultural advancement but also to serious social conflicts that are reflected by Fine Arts.
Olaf Reitz reads the „Manifest der kommunistischen Partei“
„Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa“: These are the introductory words to the “Manifest der kommunistischen Partei“ published by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. For Engels2020 , the actor, speaker, and director in Wuppertal Olaf Reitz has been spoken this indicatory text on the stage of the Wuppertaler Opernhaus. During the performance without an audience the voice of Reitz was echoing through the empty performance space and thereby giving the performance a striking and almost private touch. The “kommunistische Manifest” is the most influential and political document since the human rights declaration of the French revolution. It is of highest value literary and still offers thrilling insights. The reading is in German language.
"Engels2020” – light installation by Gregor Eisenmann at the kick-off event
Those who could not make it to the Engels2020-kick-off event on February 15, 2020 but want to reminisce: The YouTube channel of the Wuppertaler Stadtwerke offers a video of the outdoor lightshow by Gregor Eisenmann. On this evening, the artist of Wuppertal the façade of the Opernhaus and the Engelsgarten with the help of five large-format projection, 1800 LEDS and 60 headlights. Thereby Engels was illustrated in various epochs both in a large format and in an endless loop.
Get in closer touch with Engels – YouTube videos of the MIK Museum Industriekultur Wuppertal
Friedrich Engels as comic character: Video insights into the graphic novel “Engels – Unternehmer und Revolutionär”
The graphic novel „Engels – Unternehmer und Revolutionär“ portraits the life of the socialist and entrepreneur Friedrich Engels. In the biographic historical comic, Engels is shown with all his contradictions as character, forward thinker and child of his time.
The book released by Wuppertal publisher „Edition 52” addresses the results of Engels´ philosophy and his until today relevant principles of exploitation and class war. The readers of the graphic novel “Engels – Unternehmer und Revolutionär” accompany Engels through the social and politic focal points of his time and through his life.
First insights into the graphic novel can be found on the same-named YouTube channel “Engels – Unternehmer und Revolutionär”:
Discussion platform „Arbeit in der Krise“: Online lectures and discourses
The growing gap between poor and rich, the accelerated change in climate and most recently the COVID-19 crisis leave no doubt on the urgent need for profound social and economic changes. On the discussion platform „Arbeit in der Krise“ artists, theorists and activists are looking for answers to fundamental questions – and thereby focus on what can be learnt from artistic processes about the nature of production and work for today.
„Nach dem Beaufsichtigen der Maschinen: Künstlerische Positionen im öffentlichen Raum in Engelskirchen“ as well as the discussion platform „Arbeit in der Krise“ refers to the activities offered by the LVR-Industriemuseum Kraftwerk Ermen & Engels (Engelskirchen) and the NRW KULTURsekretariat (Wuppertal) on the occasion of the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels.
Online panel discussion: „Die soziale Frage in der Krise!? 200 Jahre Friedrich Engels“
An online panel discussion commemorating the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels with Manfred Rekowski, praeses of the Protestant Church of the Rhineland, Dr. Lars Bluma (Museum für Industrie Kultur Wuppertal) and Dr. Natalie Grimm (Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut Göttingen): Friedrich Engels was a famous and communist revolutionary, a successful entrepreneur, a Pietist and a critic of religion. During the industrial revolution with his analyses, he drew a precise picture of the society in its period of transition. Social issues were at the centre of his political work. The panel discussion contrasts his analysis with the current situation. Are we able to articulate the social issues as clear as Friedrich Engels once did? The panellists investigated this question from a social-ethical, historical and sociological perspective and thereby referred to the thoughts and writings of Friedrich Engels who was born on November 28, 1820 in Barmen – what today is a district of Wuppertal and a territory of Protestant church in Rhineland.
The online panel discussion was recorded on October 28, 2020 as a cooperation event of the Protestant academy, Rhineland and the Forum of Protestant, Bonn.
Extracts of the international conference “Learned from Engels? Left utopias and emancipatory practice in Latin America”
On September 10 & 11, 2020, the international conference “Learned from Engels? Left utopias and emancipatory practice in Latin America” took place.
Sandra Ramos was among the speakers. The feminist, founding director and acting head of the workers union of female textile workers of Nicaragua and coordinator of female textile workers unions of middle America held a presentation on the labor conditions in the textile industry of Nicaragua and on union strategies.
The textile industry is of great importance especially for Wuppertal. The cradle of the early industrialization was created here with spinning, weaving, bleaching and dyeing. It was the driver for machines, coal and iron, streets and railroads, shipping and trading. The connected initial local exploitation of workers and nature was the origin of capitalism, but also of the labor movement and the scientific socialism – established by Friedrich Engels in Wuppertal among others. The shifting of the textile production to global supply chains, working conditions in the Maquila industry and union strategies are topics of Sandra Ramos.
Dancing at home with the “Roten Socken”
Physical exercise may do no harm – particularly in times of COVID 19! In a YouTube video the “Roten Socken” provide an insight into their choreography. The producer of the flash mob explains the different figures – a guidance to participate. The video hence ensures physical exercise at home and increases the anticipation of dancing together once the public life is back to normal.
Band festival „The revolt is art & needs music”
The band festival „The revolt is art & needs music” was hosted on September 25, 2020 by the „börse Wuppertal“. The performances were recorded and uploaded to the YouTube channel of the “börse”.
The focus of the music competition was on young bands and newcomers of the regional music scene. The bands were free to choose the songs as long as they fitted the topic: they were supposed to deal with the Engels year. The motto did not only include pure worker songs against capitalism, but was supposed to enable for a variety of topics so that various social critic topics of the present age could be addressed. At the band festival, all genres were allowed: from songwriters to Rock, Folk, Punk, Jazz, Pop and Rap.
The band festival „The revolt is art & needs music” is a project of the „börse“ in cooperattion with the Rock project Wuppertal e.V. within the scope of the Engels year 2020 with support of the city of Wuppertal, financed by the ministry for art and science North Rhine-Westphalia.
“when robots make art“
With these two trailers the sculptor Eckehard Lowisch provides a first insight into his project when robots make art”, where the artist of Wuppertal addresses the issue “Bildhauer 4.0” – the interaction of sculpture and the latest industrial manufacturing (videos: Ralf Silberkuhl).
Listen to the interview with Eckehard Lowish on YouTube:
Essay Competition: Friedrich Engels – the day before yesterday, yesterday, tomorrow?
The communication centre die börse, Wuppertal and the Literaturbüro NRW with the support of KARUSSELL had launched an Essay Competition regarding the topic: “Friedrich Engels – the day before yesterday, yesterday, tomorrow?”. The year 2020 will mark the 200th birthday of Friedrich Engels. The world famous historical figure is unknown to the younger generation and merely a name for history books – or do his life and work still carry a meaning for our present? The task in this competition was to answer this question in an essay. Today, the winners of the competition are known:
- In „Einen Widerspruch aushalten, ausleben, aufheben“ Josefine Berkholz (Berlin) spans an arch from Engels fury of reproduction work reproduction work to present welfare work in times of Corona crisis.
- In „161 Rue Saint-Honoré“ Paul Jennerjahn (Hamburg) set out on a literary quest in Paris where in 1844 Engels paid Marx a visit.
- In “Warum hast du keine Zukunft?“ Janina Makowe (Ulm) a fictious internet dialogue arises in which Engels is snatched from the claws of the generation of OK BOOMER.
- The three essays are written in German.
The three winners of the Jury Award - Josefine Berkholz, Paul Jennerjahn und Janina Makowe - in conversation about their and other essays:
Engels 2020 hotline on +49 202/251 858 18
Finally! After years of silence the famous thinker and doer and man of Wuppertal faces the public. On his 200th birthday Friedrich Engels is offering a listening ear for your sorrows, fears, and problems.
Ring him and immerse yourself in the world of the famous thinker and philosopher. Find support and advice in the revolutions’ counselling. Listen to his outpourings in the “Lese-Ecke”. Let yourself be taught and enchanted by his timeless theories and findings. Of course, Friedrich Engels is delighted about your personal message.
Do you have problems with your role in society? Are you looking for someone who is talking to you? Call +49 202/251 858 18. The hotline is in German.