From stone tools to atomic bombs: A brief history of humankind | Arts | DW | 25.11.2016
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From stone tools to atomic bombs: A brief history of humankind

Is mankind really the be-all and end-all of creation? Bonn's Bundeskunsthalle museum tackles the question in a new exhibition, telling a tale of 100,000 years of evolution from stone tools to PlayStations.

A new exhibition at Bonn's Bundeskunsthalle museum, on show until March 26, is based on the best-seller "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari.

Harari tries the impossible, taking a look at what's been happening on our planet since the Big Bang 13.5 million years ago. A tour through the Bonn exhibition starts with the creation of the universe, as imagined by artists. Another room shows a sunset, or is it a sunrise? Video artist Paul Pfeiffer has merged day and night and raises a central question: what is real, what is illusion?

Supremacy by fire

The exhibition takes visitors though the millennia in three chapters. In all three, survival and extinction are inextricably linked as both the advantages and disadvantages of evolution become clear.

The cognitive revolution sets out with communication - and fire as a major turning point. The oldest hearth is 1.5 million years old and was found in East Africa.

At the start of the next chapter, the agricultural revolution, Homo sapiens has already successfully wiped out big mammals. A stuffed polar bear on a wooden transport box - a sculpture by American artist Mark Dion - symbolizes mankind's destructive zeal.

Hand ax, stone tools, a Gutenberg bible and models of houses encourage visitors to ponder. Where do I come from, where am I headed? Who survives, who vanishes?

Prehistoric artifacts, contemporary art

Chapter three: the scientific revolution and the present. A video wall shows atomic bomb testing in the Bikini Atoll in stark black and white.

Adorning the walls are Harari quotes lamenting the loss of "authentic cultures," professing that "money is the only thing in the world everyone trusts."

Many of the key exhibits are on loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which developed the exhibition to mark its 50th anniversary in 2015.

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