Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021, marked the end of a carnival season that was different from any other we’ve previously seen. The events of the pandemic and the unpredictable ups and downs it has brought about have set the boundaries. A celebration, whose visitor numbers has exceeded a million, one that is characterised by proximity, singing, linking arms, anarchy and a lack of inhibitions, was forced to find new forms in light of the safety and hygiene measures put in place because of COVID-19.
The setbacks for this lively tradition have been more far-reaching on an economic, substantive and organisational level than almost any other since 1823: never before in its history of almost 200 years has the carnival in Cologne had to make way for a pandemic. Together with photographers from Cologne the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum checked out the locations and players of the 2020/2021 carnival season. The special exhibition ALAAF AUF ABSTAND. Bilder einer anderen Session (CARNIVAL AT A DISTANCE – Images of a Different Season) uses expressive photographs and powerful visual reports to depict intimate moments and spontaneous joy but also the underbelly of the carnival during the pandemic. Unusual moments that have no historical precedent and that make us think – a story of an immaterial cultural heritage that, on its path between tradition and modernity, was forced by a virus into a moment of stillness.
In the special digital exhibition “ALAAF AUF ABSTAND (Carnival at a distance)” (July 1 to October 3, 2021), these photographs were presented to the public for the first time. Now, after a new seasion in the shadow of the corona pandemic, we look back on this exceptional time for comparison!