focus on art/research projects

Artist’s talk in the frame of the project “The Division of the World”
June 28th, 2007

Ute Klissenbauer und Dierk Schmidt diskutieren mit Ulrich Lölke spezifische Herausforderungen für ihre Projekte UFO UNO und “Die Teilung der Erde” an der Schnittstelle zwischen Wissenschaft, Kunst und Politik.

Ute Klissenbauer (freelance curator, Frankfurt am Main) talks about the genesis and perspective of an art/research project on the thematic complex of the United Nations (
In November 2006, the conference project “UFO UNO - United Nations, Public and Art” took place as a guest project at the Frankfurter Kunstverein. An interdisciplinary project on the UN was presented, which attempted to interlock politics, science and art in a new way. The spheres of political practice, theory and aesthetics met to inform and challenge each other with regard to the common subject of the UN. The conference was divided into three interlocking parts, which dealt with the representation of the UN as a global institutional, social and aesthetic representation in a comprehensive and still rather abstract approach. The conference project also had an experimental character because artistic conference contributions complemented the discursive program of political scientists, international law scholars, and cultural and media theorists. The short lecture will present results of this conference and give an outlook on the project as a forum for the public mediation of scientific and artistic research on the United Nations.

Since the beginning of 2006, the artist Dierk Schmidt (Berlin) has been developing the project “‘Die Teilung der Erde’ - Tableaux zu juristischen Synopsen der Berliner Afrika-Konferenz” (The Division of the Earth - Tableaux on Juridical Synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference) in cooperation with the Kunstraum of Leuphana University Lüneburg. The title refers to a newspaper article on the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/85, which led to the forced colonization of Africa. At the same time, current developments are brought into focus: in 2001, the Ovaherero (today’s Namibia) demanded compensation from the Federal Republic of Germany for the genocidal war of extermination of 1904.
“After years of researching contemporary possibilities of the genre of history painting as well as the political lines of tradition in modern painting, Dierk Schmidt has most recently turned his attention to the role of the German Empire in the history of colonialism. At the Africa Conference, which took place in Berlin in 1884-85, fourteen participating states agreed on the so-called ‘Acte général’. This prohibited continental slave trade, but also led to a struggle for political and economic spheres of influence, in which Bismarck succeeded in securing for the German Empire an equal role among the colonial states of the time. The conference gave decisive impetus to colonization, which by 1902 had extended to 90 percent of the African continent.
Although illustrations of the event were found in the press at the time, it is still hardly possible to get an adequate idea of the details of the historical colonization process. This is where Dierk Schmidt’s critical concept of the historical image comes in to examine political-historical potential and current implications for international law: In the series, the current state of which is shown here [at documenta 12], Schmidt approaches the historical complex with the development of pictorial semiotics that have their sources in the traditions of schematic-statistical representation as well as in (abstract) modernist painting. With this - and with the conflictual encounter of artistic and juridical forms of language - he also articulates a fundamental irreconcilability. For his approach cannot be about resolution, but only about the representation of a historical problem of non-representability. Only at this point can this initially ‘merely’ aesthetic approach also prove to be a bridge to today’s postcolonial debates about compensation.” (Clemens Krümmel, documenta XII catalog)

Dr. Ulrich Lölke (Hamburg) studied philosophy, art history, theology and liberal arts in Berlin, Frankfurt a. M., Hamburg and New Jersey (USA). In 1999 he received his PhD from the University of Düsseldorf with a thesis on philosophy in postcolonial Africa. Since then he has worked as a research assistant in philosophy and cultural theory at the Universities of Hanover and Lüneburg. In 1996, he worked as a visiting scholar at the University of Ghana in Legon. His research focuses on the transformation processes of knowledge systems in colonial and postcolonial Africa.