NATIONAL TRAITORS. Photo exhibition Unword of the year 2016

March 3 to 26, 2017

The Unword exhibition 2017 takes place in the exhibition hall of the Kunstforum der TU Darmstadt and thus for the first time on the terrain of the TU, where also the Unword of the year is announced by TU-Professor Nina Janich.

Un|word that; ugly, unwanted word (see Duden)

Already in the dictionary of the Brothers Grimm was a “unword” described as a “bad, insulting word”. There are no “bad words” per se.

But there are attitudes, intentions and situations that weigh on one word. Anyone who criticizes the language and spares the speakers, also beats only the sack instead of the donkey. It is the attitude that produces a “nonsense”. This is characterized by gross distortion of reality and possibly even by violation of human dignity.

Quotes from Germanistikprofessor Horst Dieter Schlosser, Stern Online on 01/08/2005


Every January, the tensions are rising in the meantime ten photographers from Darmstadt, because then the lingo of the previous year is selected by linguists. What is meant, as defined by the official definition, are “words and phrases from the public language that are grossly inappropriate and may even violate human dignity.”

So it's not sloppy language, it's about our society, which reveals itself through language. But if this unword unmasked circumstances, it must also, so the eight Darmstädter, map well.

And so, every year, a photo exhibition on a given topic is created anew. Independent from the Unword jury, donors or media. Each photographer presents two works that he or she uses to visualize the nonsense of the year.


On the day of the announcement (beginning of January), the photographers meet to make a common group picture “suitable” for the new topic. The own work will then be shown about 6 weeks later in the at least 4-day exhibition. Each photographer makes a picture pair, which is presented in light boxes.

Unword of the year 2016: National traitors

National traitor (dt. Volksverräter) is a nonsense in the sense of our criteria, because it is a typical legacy of dictatorships, including the Nazis. As a reproach to politicians, the word is undifferentiated and defamatory in such a way that such a usage of language stifles the serious conversation and thus the necessary discussions in society for democracy. The verbal element “Volk”, as it is used in the last year in the public discussion brought words of folk or ethnic replacement, it stands, as in the National Socialism not for the state people as a whole, but for an ethnic category that excludes parts of the population. Thus, the term is also anti-democratic, because – to quote a submission – “denies the validity of the fundamental rights for all people in the territory of the Federal Republic”.

The action “Unword of the year” sees itself as a linguistically critical initiative which, at a time when the social consensus on the basic principles of democracy seems to be in danger, should admonish the limits of what is publicly proclaimed in our society. It is not about an attempt of censorship or language control, but about pleading for more attentiveness in public dealings. No other nonsense was therefore nominated this year in order to give more weight to the criticism expressed by the election regarding the increasing use of fascist and xenophobic language in social networks, but also in politics.

Mehr erfahren

Th, 02.03.2017, 7 p.m.

Vernissage of the exhibition in the exhibition hall of the Kunstforum of the TU Darmstadt, Hochschulstraße 1, 2nd floor.

Su., 19.03.2017, 5 p.m.

Guided tour through the exhibition “Unwort der Jahres” in the Kunstforum of the TU Darmstadt.

Su., 26.03.2018, 5 p.m.

Guided tour through the exhibition “Unwort der Jahres” in the Kunstforum of the TU Darmstadt.