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Expressionism: Emotions Unchained festival

Saturday, March 12

Expressionism is one of the most intense and influential movements in art. Its defining characteristic is the artistic interpretation of the emotions that arise from experiencing daily realities, rather than a portrayal of the realities themselves.

Visual art

In visual art, Expressionism arose in Germany around the time of WWI, growing in response to the dehumanising effects of the war and the increasing industrialisation and depersonalisation of society. No longer interested in producing aesthetically pleasing impressions of artistic subject matter, leading Expressionist painters, including Egon Schiele and Ernst Kirchner portrayed vivid emotional reactions through dynamic structural composition and powerful juxtapositions of shapes and colours.


Expressionism in music arose slightly earlier than in visual art. The increasing harmonic complexity of late Brahms, Wagner, and early Scriabin had resulted in tonal ambiguity, and ultimately a breakdown of traditional tonal hierarchy and expectations. With the creation of his ‘mystic chord’ in 1908, Alexander Scriabin ushered in the vibrant, highly charged, often self-referential world of musical Expressionism. Shortly after, in response to Scriabin, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern – the Second Viennese School – extended musical architecture, and therefore audiences’ musical experiences, by creating daring compositions of heightened Expressionist intensity that stretched contextual and structural musical relationships in deeply expressive ways.


The ban on foreign films enacted by Germany in 1916 led to a rapid increase of domestic filmmaking. However, limited budgets and creative planning resulted in set designs with walls and floors painted to give the illusion of light and shadow, intentionally resulting in non-realistic, often jarring, backgrounds. Rather than adventure or romantic films, the experiences of WW1 were portrayed – betrayal, madness, dystopia – with directors such as Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang creating subjective emotional realities through distortions in expression. Expressionist film subsequently influenced directors of film noir, including Alfred Hitchcock, Werner Herzog, and Tim Burton.

Our festival Expressionism: Emotions Unchained offers a unique integration of pivotal music, visual art, and film of this energetic and vibrant artistic era of unbounded influence. You are invited to join us for four extraordinary evenings with world-leading artists.

12 – 19 March 2022

Information and tickets HERE.

12 March – Concert: Scriabin and Schönberg

14 March – Metropolis

16 March – Visual Art and Music

19 March – Concert: Schönberg, Berg, and Webern

Upcoming events

Thursday, February 29
At The Box Plymouth this winter season
Thursday, February 29
Untitled design (45)
Jonathan Glazer (Birth, Under the Skin) offers his most ambitious film yet, displacing the usual tropes of the Holocaust drama to depict the pampered life of executioners.
Thursday, February 29
Untitled design (46)
Discover how early twentieth century artists designed and cultivated their own gardens to explore contemporary utopian ideas and motifs of colour and form.
Thursday, February 29
Untitled design (14)
Experience the UK premiere of a major new multi-screen film commission by visionary artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah.

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