Ancient Myths – Grimms’ Legends - Digital Storytelling

Temporary exhibition for the whole family from December 1st, 2017 to May 27th, 2018

A new temporary exhibition in the GRIMM WORLD for the 200th anniversary of the “German Legends” draws the visitors’ attention to the Grimm brothers’ second large collection of texts. For it is not widely known that, apart from their well-known collection of fairy tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published a comprehensive anthology of legends. In the GRIMM WORLD these two volumes that appeared in 1816 and 1818 form the starting point from which both adults and children can go on a search for traces.

The exhibition, which was curated by Susanne Völker and illustrated by numerous artists, centres on the “German Legends” of the Brothers Grimm, but ranges from the very origins of the narrative form, the ancient myths, to the modern-day forms of legend such as “fake news”.

The exhibition is divided into four areas which present various types of narration, a fundamental constant of human behaviour; the title “HörenSAGEN” (HearSAY) is at the same time a play on words to indicate how legendary stories and interpretations originated: until the 18th century, “sagas” or legends were mainly passed on by word of mouth. They changed from one speaker to the next. A "kernel of truth" surrounded by imaginative embellishment continues to be a popular and everyday narrative form.

HearSAY: With this installation by Ole Werner one can see and hear how legends were traditionally passed on by word of mouth. © GRIMMWELT Kassel, Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

"The exhibition starts with the Grimms’ legends, but it does not remain fixed in the historical context," says Susanne Völker, director of the GRIMM WORLD and head of the Office for Cultural Affairs in Kassel. "Based on the Grimm's legends, it casts a light on their references to antiquity, but also looks ahead to the present age and today’s forms of narrative and storytelling. It is precisely this constant change in the way stories are told and passed on – whether by oral tradition or by the social media – that continues to be an essential feature of myths and legends."

As soon as they enter the exhibition, the visitors can create their own stories in an installation designed by Ole Werner. They cannot tell who is listening at the other end of the speaking tube and will pass the story on. Or else they can go to the wall with pictures by Michael Meier, an illustrator from Kassel, and try to assign persons and objects to well-known legends and myths. They are very welcome to invent new combinations here.

Grimms’ legends
This area shows how the Brothers Grimm collected legends and did research on them. They were the first to record legends systematically and to assign to them the meaning which is still valid today – as narratives handed down orally, containing more truth than that of fairy tales. Among others, they included in their collection the legends of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, of Eginhard and Emma, and numerous stories about the devil and the world of dwarfs. There were also five legends concerning Mother Hulda – who is given a prominent place in the exhibition with a paper-cut installation by the Berlin artist Katrin Binder. Valuable first editions of the two volumes of German Legends published in 1816 and 1818 are on view here.

Grimms’ Legends: Not only the original editions of the Grimm brothers’ “German Legends” are on display, but also regional and local collections of legends. © GRIMMWELT Kassel, Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Ancient myths
In all cultures, myths are dedicated to the great themes of humanity: creation, love and death, and the emergence of good and evil. Originally, myths were used to explain natural phenomena and interpret the world. Many have left lasting traces on cultural history, on our civilization and on our use of language: Narcissus' self-love, the Sisyphus task, or Prometheus, who brought both fire and civilization to mankind, are just a few examples. The exhibition shows how myths are transformed and newly interpreted by artists over the course of time, with etchings, paintings and drawings by Ludwig Emil Grimm, Heinrich Friedrich Füger, Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder and others.

Ancient Myths: In all cultures, myths deal with the great themes of humanity: creation, love and death, and the origins of good and evil. An example is this depiction of Narcissus by Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder. © GRIMMWELT Kassel, Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Digital storytelling
An area designed by the "Studio TheGreenEyl" (Berlin) deals with the present day, when stories are passed on at breakneck speed by digital and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Anyone can take an active part in the democratic narrative structures thus created, but they also present challenges in assessing the truth content. The number of storytellers is practically endless – and not all of them are human in this system. The exhibition demonstrates to visitors how interferences take place, leading to unexpected results and distortion of the stories: whether consciously or unconsciously, the veracity of many assertions is influenced. As a result, reports are falsified, or "fake news" is deliberately construed.

Digital Storytelling: In the area on the modern age, "TheGreenEyl Studio" shows how stories are told, changed and distributed today. © GRIMMWELT Kassel, Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Artists and designers

The following artists and designers worked on the new temporary exhibition:

Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Katrin Binder, born in 1975, studied at the School of Art and Design in Kassel from 1999 to 2006, and from 2003 to 2005 at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing, China. Her intensive research into Chinese ink painting and the contact with Daoist philosophies continue to influence her artistic work down to the present. Her raw material is always paper, which she not only treats with different techniques but cuts and slits in many cases. These frail papercuts, with their time-consuming production, are particularly suited to represent temporality and fragility. Katrin Binder lives and works in Berlin. Her works are regularly shown at exhibitions. www.katrin-binder.de

Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Rita Fürstenau works as a freelance illustrator and designer in the areas of book design and surface patterns. She moved to Kassel in 2001, where she studied illustration at the School of Art and Design as well as primary school teaching and educational science at the University. In addition to her artistic work,  she runs the publishing house Rotopol which she co-founded in 2007 for graphic storytelling with an integrated art gallery in Kassel. Her own works published by Rotopol include books and comics, but also paper games, postcards, hand-made sketch booklets and textiles. www.rita-fuerstenau.de


Michael Meier has been living and working in Kassel for over 10 years as a freelance illustrator and comic artist. He studied there at the Kunsthochschule (School of Art and Design) and was a master student under Hendrik Dorgathen. His work, which he produces for international clients, ranges from illustrations for children, for newspapers, periodicals and books to animation and character design. In addition, Michael Meier worked for eight years as a publisher and curator. www.mrmeier.com

Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Daniel Stieglitz is an illustrator, author and filmmaker. In addition to producing illustrations for children's books, newspapers, television and advertising, he also does live caricature portraits or graphic recordings at events. He completed his studies of film, animation and illustration at the Kunsthochschule (School of Art and Design) in Kassel, where he lives with his family and is currently working on his second novel. https://danikaturen.wordpress.com


Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Studio TheGreenEyl designs extensive installations and exhibitions that translate complex themes and content into sensual and spatial experiences. The aesthetic potential of new and established technologies plays an outstanding role in each project. Through research, experiment and cooperation with various disciplines the studio creates radically new formats in the field of exhibitions. www.thegreeneyl.com


Photo: Tanja Jürgensen

Ole Werner studied furniture and exhibition design at the Kunsthochschule (School of Art and Design) in Kassel and at Ravensbourne in London. Since 2003 he has worked as a freelance exhibition designer for clients in Germany and abroad, developing, producing and implementing exhibits and installations that enhance complex topics with interest and impact – whether static models or interactive, multimedia experience.