Contesting the Colonial Spatial Divide of the Humboldt Forum & Following Entangled Trajectories

Anna Lauenstein
Contesting the Colonial Spatial Divide of the Humboldt Forum & Following Entangled Trajectories

Online seminar, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Tuesdays, 16-18 h, weekly, starting 20.4.2021

The Ethnological Museum is a place where the colonial spatial division of the "West" and the "Rest" as well as the colonial gaze manifest itself. Once again, this is the case today with the relocation of the Ethnological Museum as part of the “Preußischer Kulturbesitz” (Prussian Cultural Heritage), whose objects were largely collected and often looted during the German colonial period, to the Humboldt Forum/Berlin Palace and thus behind Prussian facades. The neo-imperial facades are said to "restore“ and "heal the previously wounded“ city center but the Humboldt Forum continues and reinforces once again the "savage slot“ (Trouillot) and it erases the socialist past in public space. In the seminar we want to reflect the project’s inherent orders of knowledge, the construction of the "Primitive“ and the "Other“, the inherent power asymmetries, forms of representations and displays of the Ethnological Museum as well as restitutions. We will try to invert the gaze by reading theoretical texts and discuss artistic positions on it’s "coloniality“ (Quijano). We will gain an insight into the changes of public debate that have emerged since the much-discussed report by Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr at the end of 2018 on the "Restitution of African Cultural Heritage”. We want to do an excursion and welcome 1-2 guests. In this context you could develop your own sketch of artistic research. With what artistic (un)knowledge could one intervene in a seemingly cemented reality in order to keep other future possibilities awake?

Besides reflecting the colonial spatial divide created and reinforced once again through the Humboldt Forum, one way might be to examine and research artistically how the European Self has been formed by histories of entanglements and how it is itself built by the supposed Other. Frantz Fanon wrote 1961: “Europe is literally the creation of the Third World.” At the same time of reflecting power asymmetries one could try to trace entangled narratives to cross the seemingly fixed orders of "Self" and "Other" as well as national containers. Or: The sketches of artistic research may try to develop scenarios for the place of the Humboldt Forum in 2040 presuming all looted objects are given back. As the "West" depends on the "Rest" - what would happen if this powerful binary illusion dissolves? We will get to know and experiment with artistic strategies that work with archives, that reflect on the display within the Ethnological Museum and that form counter-narratives. The sketches of own artistic research might be in a form of a sound walk, a public tour or a film sketch. We will form a kind of laboratory and facilitate a regular exchange about the development of the individual or interdisciplinary projects.

Artistic & Activist Positions: Kader Attia,, Camille Henrot, CCWAH, Hannah Höch, Artefakte//anti-humboldt, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, Chris Marker & Alain Resnais, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Olu Oguibe, Lisl Ponger, Andreas Siekmann, AFROTAK TV, Fred Wilson

AfricAvenir International: No Humboldt 21! Dekoloniale Einwände gegen das Humboldt-Forum (2014).
bell hooks: Oppositional Gaze. Black Female Spectators (1992).
Leeb, Susanne: Asynchronous Objects (2013).
Sarr, Felwine & Savoy, Bénédicte: The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics (2018).

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: Regelmäßige, aktive Teilnahme & Skizze einer künstlerischen Recherche / Regular, active participation and a sketch of an artistic research.

Anna Lauenstein, who grew up in Chemnitz and Leipzig, lives and works as an artist and filmmaker in Berlin. She is part of the Studium Generale team as an artistic and scientific assistant. Before she studied Fine Arts with a focus on New Media at the University of the Arts (Berlin) with Prof. Jimmy Robert, Prof. Ming Wong and as „Meisterschülerin“ with Prof. Hito Steyerl. In her exchange semester she was at the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens. She also studied Cultural Anthropology at the Humboldt University (Berlin) and the University of Leipzig. In her artistic research she combines artistic as well as cultural anthropological methods. She works within the tensions between (un-)knowledge, poetics and politics, - whereby she focuses on a decolonial perspective on "Europe“ and non-imperial imaginations. Her works have been shown e. g. at Kunstquartier Bethanien, the Museum of Photography, Berlin and the BWA Gallery, Wrocław. She was nominated for the President's Fine Arts Award of UdK and she was awarded the NaFöG fellowship.