How to find us
April 2006 until the end of 2008
In cooperation with Dierk Schmidt, Berlin
Part 1 Conférence de Berlin
23 Nov. 2007 – 24 Jan. 08
Opening 23 Nov. 07 7 pm, Halle 25 (university campus)
Intermezzo – Conceptual Considerations on Images
25 Jan. 08 – 31 Jan. 08
Part 2 – Revocation
1 Feb. 08 – 8 Feb. 08
Closing 8 Feb. 08 7 pm, Halle 25 (university campus)
Return of the Colonial Ghosts in Congo-Brussels
a filmic commentary by "Remember Resistance"
(Jochen Becker, Julien Enoka-Ayemba, Sonja Hohenbild, Brigitta Kuster)
24 Jan. 2008
"Die Abstraktionen des Internationalen Rechts und abstrakte Bildsprachen in der Kunst"
9 Feb 2008, Part I 10am-1 pm, Part 2 2pm-5pm
After years of experimenting with today’s possibilities of the strongly tainted
artistic genre of historical painting and the traditions of modern painting, Dierk Schmidt has most
recently been dealing with the role which the German Reich played in the history of colonialism.
German involvement in colonialism and the mass murders of the population in then South–West Africa
have often disappeared behind the incomparable crimes later committed through the German politics of
extermination. This issue is now highly topical, for many ethnological and historical museums are
currently reformatting their sections dedicated to colonialism. In addition, many camps in the
political humanities are, often publicly, leading a debate on the way colonial history is to be
treated. This debate is situated between the danger of voluntarily or involuntarily relativizing
the Holocaust on the one side, as has already been the case in the context of the notorious
"Historians’ Dispute" in the 1980s, and the rejection to acknowledge colonial crimes as genocide on
Dierk Schmidt is interested in creating the pictorial and discursive possibilities of a meta–language
going beyond dull representationalism and symbolism. However, this should not be perceived as a specific
method, but as a constantly expanding set of instruments critical of images and language that deal with a
certain theme, while also thematizing itself as a method to be problematized. In the process, the
dialectical imponderables that have arisen during the course of European and non-European modernity come
to full fruition in aesthetic terms, as well, as an examination of modernist abstraction. What becomes
tangible in this way is perhaps a specific modernist entanglement of an aesthetics aimed at enlightening,
which both abstraction and historical painting claimed to be, in a logic of image–political force.
Closely linked to a seminar that Schmidt has been holding with students in the Kunstraum of the Leuphana
University of Lüneburg since 2006, the new exhibition presents the current state of the ongoing research
work. His point of departure is the Africa Conference held in Berlin in 1884/85, where the fourteen
participating states agreed upon the so-called "Acte Général", the paragraphs of which stipulated the
neutral status of the Congo Basin and guaranteed freedom of trade and navigation on the Congo River and
its branches. Even though continental slave trade was banned on this occasion, a battle for political
and economic spheres of influence ensued, in which Bismarck succeeded in securing the German Reich an
equal role among the colonial states at the time. The conference gave decisive impulses for a wave of
colonization that by 1902 covered 90% of the African continent.
Although the press did publish illustrations of these events, it is until today all but impossible to
adequately picture the details of this historical process of colonization. This is where Dierk Schmidt’s
critical concept of historical painting begins. His aim is to assess and convey politico–historical
potentials and present–day implications pertaining to international law. In the series "Die Teilung der
Erde (The Division of the World)", which after an initial phase in the Salzburger Kunstverein in 2005
was on view at this year’s documenta, Schmidt approaches the historical complex by developing different
pictorial semiotics that have their source in the traditions of diagrammatic–statistical and cartographic
representation, on the one hand, and modernist (abstract) painting, on the other.
In this manner – alongside the conflictual encounter of artistic and legal forms of language – he also
articulates a basic irreconcilability. For his approach is not about resolving but above all about
representing an historical problem of non–representability. Only in this respect can the at first "mere"
aesthetical approach also prove to be a bridge to the present-day, post-colonial debates on compensation
payments. Hence, not only abstraction in painting and the abstractions of international law confront each
other; at the same time, the unavoidable question is raised as to which – at least – symbolical forms of
a "reversal" of the social and economic effects of colonial times, which must be viewed in an
international context, are at all possible.
pictures (300 dpi)
"Berliner Afrika-Konferenz", "Legende No. 1", "Legende No. 2"
"Article 34, 35", "Article 1, 10, 13"
"Die Klage der HPRC"