On the Trail of Exploitation

January 16th to February 13th 2022

Students of Leuphana University work with the “Principio Potosí” Archive of Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann

With contributions by Lilly Berlt, Helen Bortels, Clara Breyther, Simon Göbel, Mateo Hoyos Storjohann, Helena Hüppe, Sara Kanarski, Thea Kohrt, Tessa Reinhardt, Nell Scheffler, Lina-Marie Schulz, Katharina Tamm, Sophie Toups Christiane Worthmann, Adriana Zafiris

Artworks by Sonia Abian, Christian von Borries, Harun Farocki, Maria Galindo / Mujeres Creando, Konstanze Schmitt / Territorio Doméstico und Mirjam Thomann

The archive of the 2010 exhibition “Principio Potosí”, curated by Alice Creischer, Max Jorge Hinderer and Andreas Siekmann, is on display at the Kunstraum of Leuphana University. It consists of 36 booklets that can be worked with in the exhibition.

Students of Leuphana University have responded to selected booklets of the archive with their own images, texts, interviews and films, created as part of a previous seminar. They have contacted individual artists and authors from the respective booklets and are exhibiting their work.

The film “The Silver and the Cross” (2010), produced by Harun Farocki for the exhibition “The Potosí Principle”, introduces the history of the city of Potosí.

The curators on their “Principio Potosí” Archive:

“In October 2010, the exhibition “The Potosí Principle” was held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. It was previously on view at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and then went on to the Museo Nacional de Arte and the MUSEF (Museo Nacional de Etnografia y Folklore) in La Paz, Bolivia. The starting point of the project was Potosí, a mining town in Bolivia that is said to have been larger and more magnificent than London and Paris in the 16th century. It has been said in a contemporary source that the looted silver could be used to build a bridge across the Atlantic to the port of Cadiz, Spain. However, the Spanish king was so much in debt that the silver had to be transferred to ships directed to stock exchanges all over Europe before it reached the port. The silver created a decisive dynamic in the historical development of industry, banking, colonial trading companies and their warships and slave ships, as well as in the agricultural industry. The new, immense wealth caused the displacement, impoverishment and availability of people as labor – in Europe and in the colonies. This was the beginning of a principle that has always acted globally. The exhibition project has circled around visualizations of the fact that modern European society and its economic system can never be thought without its colonial preconditions and its crimes – and that this conditionality continues until now and everywhere. – The dynamics described above simultaneously unleashed a production and circulation of images that were first shipped to the colonies, only to generate their own images there again. In the exhibition, some of these works were shown as witnesses to the fact that cultural hegemony is not a symbolic quantity, but a multitude of acts of violence. Artists working today were invited to respond to the baroque images from Potosí from precisely that perspective. – Eleven years later, an archive on the Potosí project has been created. This archive consists of 36 booklets divided into four chapters. The booklets were created in collaboration with the artists and authors of the Potosí Project. They address, among other topics, extractivism, labor, debt, inquisitions, machine capitalism, and decolonization practices. The archive was exhibited in Berlin at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in May 2021.”

(Alice Creischer, Andreas Siekmann)

Lina-Marie Schulz and Sophie Toups have taken a closer look at the artist Sonia Abian (in the issue “The Useless Mouths”). They exhibit her work “Bell Tower / The Useless Mouths” and, drawing from the issue, exhibit a molehill in reference to Potosí Mountain, the site of exploitation.

Christiane Worthmann reacts to the booklet “1000 Dreams” by Matthijs de Bruijne (2/19) and to the model of the “Bauernsäule” by Albrecht Dürer, a subject in booklet 1/1b. She conducted two interviews with farmers and their families, in which they talk about their dreams, their lived traditions, and their economic reality. Dürer’s design of a “Farmer’s Column” is linked to current headlines of the worldwide economic struggle for survival that farmers are fighting today.

Sara Kanarski, Katharina Tamm and Adriana Zafiris respond to the booklet titled “Debts” (3/3a). They have a conversation with artist Margarita Tsomou on issues related to documenta 14 and its connection to Greece’s financial crisis. Furthermore, they show “Banknotes as Debts” and images of a graffito from Athens (2017). Complementary to this, a statistic is shown that puts Potosí’s exploitation through silver mining in relation to Latin America’s debt (1/1d).

Simon Göbel responds to Christian von Borries’s booklet “Looks Like” (2 / 32) on artificial intelligence and smart cities with questions for Apple’s speech software Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface), written as an endless line of text on the walls of the exhibition space. Christian von Borries’ film “IPHONE China” (2012) will also be presented.

Thea Kohrt, Lilly Berlt, Nell Scheffler and Clara Breyther respond to booklet no. 1a by discussing a theatrical performance by the group Territorio Doméstico, presented together with Konstanze Schmitt and Stephan Dillemuth. In it, they advocated for the rights of domestic workers. The central object of this performance was a triumphal wagon. The film “Triumph of the Domestic Workers” (Konstanze Schmitt, Territorio Doméstico and Stephan Dillemuth, 2010) is shown, contents from it were integrated by them into their wall designs. In doing so, they also draw inspiration from a series of drawings by Sonia Abian from the same issue. In the form of posters in Abian’s style, they take on the theme of illegal domestic labor and attempt to visualize aspects of the exploitation involved. Complementing this, the model of Konstanze Schmitt’s triumphal wagon is also shown.

Tessa Reinhardt, Helen Bortels, Mateo Hoyos Storjohann and Helena Hüppe respond to the booklet “La Jaula Invisible” by Maria Galindo (2/13). They translate Galindo’s speech from their performance to expose “Human Rights” as a European value model as a graphic design. Complementing this is the film “Ave Maria, llena eres rebeldía,” produced by Maria Galindo and the group Mujeres Creando in La Paz in 2010.

The group of works titled “Window” and “Frame” that Mirjam Thoman has produced in 2021 for the previous Kunstraum exhibition “Tribunalism” will be incorporated into this archival exhibition and continue to be used. “Frame” is modeled on a witness stand; Thomann was inspired by the basic patterns of a juridical room. For this work – that is there to establish a visual contextualization with another “Frame” sculpture originally placed outside – a hole was also sawn into the outer wall of the art room, the material of which now in turn serves as a base for the object.

In the meantime, a second hole has been added to the gray wall belonging to an earlier room design by architect Markus Miessen, reminiscent of a horizontally rotated dollar sign symbol. Coin scholars say that the two strokes of the dollar sign, indicated in this exhibition by the remains of a window outline, were formed from the columns of Hercules, which were minted on the “Peso al ocho” as a Spanish emblem. This coin was produced in Potosí and served as international reserve currency until the middle of the 18th century. The columns were accompanied by a banner with the motto: “Plus Ultra” (“Always onward”). The banner became the S of the dollar sign.