Dierk Schmidt: The Division of the Earth

Tableaux on the Legal Synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference

Lotte Arndt, Clemens Krümmel, Dierk Schmidt, Hemma Schmutz, Diethelm Stoller, Ulf Wuggenig (Hg.)
Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2010

Based on the series of images by Dierk Schmidt shown at documenta 12 in Kassel, this volume documents a project that is based on years of research and does not stop at the documentary “visualization” of the subject matter: At the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/85, the European powers and the United States met to prepare the partition of an entire continent in the form of what was then called an “international” legal act. Schmidt poses the urgent question: can one respond to the brutality with which colonial demarcations were imposed on existing societies with a representation through which such legal abstractions become comprehensible as a historical product of both political and aesthetic modernity in Europe? The Division of the Earth is a book that argues both pictorially and textually. Its documentation includes a research project accompanied by seminars and interdisciplinary conferences, as well as a collection of sources and other original contributions. From the point of view of today’s possibilities for action, it takes up aesthetic-political, art-historical, and current legal facets (such as reparations) of the growing international, postcolonial discussion.

The publication documents and expands the exhibition project The Division of the Earth, shown at the Salzburger Kunstverein, Kunstraum Leuphana Universität Lüneburg and documenta 12, Kassel.