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The Division of the Earth – Tableaux on the Legal Synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference
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Edited by Lotte Arndt, Clemens Krümmel, Dierk Schmidt, Hemma Schmutz, Diethelm Stoller, Ulf Wuggenig
At the Berlin Africa Conference held in 1884/85, the European powers and the United States gathered to prepare the division of an entire continent in the form of a legal act already termed ‘international’ at the time. Based on two picture series by artist Dierk Schmidt exhibited at Salzburger Kunstverein and documenta 12 in Kassel, this book documents a project underpinned by long-term research, and therefore cannot leave it at a documentary ‘visualisation.’ With a clear sense of urgency, Schmidt raises the question how one can respond to the brutality with which colonial border-drawing was imposed upon then-existing societies. Is there a ‘pictorial language’ able to convey a juridical abstraction of this sort as the historical by-product of Europe's political and aesthetic modernity?
‘The Division of the Earth’ is a book arguing on both the pictorial and textual level: in addition to Schmidt's picture series, its documen-tation includes a research project complemented by two visits to Namibia and by university seminars, an interdisciplinary conference at the Kunstraum of the University of Lüneburg, as well as a collection of sources and further contributions published for the first time here that address aesthetic political, art-historical, and current legal aspects of postcolonial debates from the perspective of possible actions that can be taken today. The potentials of the politics of remembrance, reparation, and correction, which in the postcolonial present raise objections against the continuing effects of historical violence, are here of pivotal importance.