CAN I MAKE A PHOTO WITH YOU? (2)
Installation, Multimedia: Photography, Photosculpture and Video. @2017-2019
CAN I MAKE A PHOTO WITH YOU? (2)
The montage series „Can I make a photo with you? (2)“ is based on black and white photographs from the colonial period in Africa, taken from the archive of the German National Library in Frankfurt and Leipzig. In my work I use this historical self-portrayal of colonial rulers with their colonized African subjects together with pictures of my self-stagings and portraits of superstars such as Madonna, Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, who are involved publicly with Africa today, and drawing media attention.
The photo montages thus ask about the relationship of historical colonialism and the relations between Western and African states in the current situation, using the self-portrayals of helping celebrities and entrepreneurs in Africa, who in turn are a model for self-image, travel projects and engagement of the western middle classes in Africa. What is the relationship between the two types of western self-staging: at the time of colonialism and in the period of today’s continued economic exploitation?
Does the engagement of Westerners in Africa show a sincere attempt to act against existing
inequalities, no matter how weakly effective it actually might be, or is it more producing a
hierarchical image that works non-violently, in which African-people become the exotic accessories for Westerners who are superior, but sensitive and feel morally committed to development aid?
My work addresses the issue of colonialism today and the phenomenon of representation of aid and commitment as an image represented by celebrities, as well as by the exceptional activism of Westerners with an ordinary work biography on their vacation. Is this really about the other person, who you want to help, or is it about producing an image of yourself and „us“ as good people and heroes, selflessly sacrificing themselves in their free time? Isn’t it obscured, that whites who stage themselves as helping, or who actually help regarding single cases, can do so only because they come from societies whose prosperity is based on the exploitation of the former colonial relationship and continuing economic dependence? Shouldn’t that be at least an issue to discuss? Shouldn’t one try to escape the banality of the sentimentality, which, as pornography of misery, uses the same image of the weak and needy other in order to elevate oneself? And wouldn’t it be necessary to create a discourse, that does not show the observed misery as immutable, but as produced by certain structures and only to be changed through political influence on these structures?
Of course, these questions apply as well to me and my attempt to make contact with people from African societies, to cooperate with them and to support them in their situations.
My attempt, of course, takes place on a smaller scale and is not designed to represent
development aid in mass media, but it also enters the difficult field of interaction between unequal societies and partners, and it also ultimately results in an artistic work, even though it tries to produce non-hierarchical images. That‘s why it‘s important to have a certain distance via staging and a certain humour in the work: a comedy that is produced by assembling the various pictures, in which celebrities and I are also time travellers who may only have to look at the pictures from the colonial era once more in order to question their own present-day roles and to admit that in all well-intended gestures a final settlement and development of the formerly colonized societies is only possible, if one terminates their economic exploitation and is respecting them (eg. by returning looted cultural evidence and
works), and their identity.
In my work I try to process and reflect, that political engagement, coupled with humility, selfcriticism and a critical awareness of one‘s own privileges, is a precious resource, if it’s taken into account, that actual changes in the existing relationships – rather than self-representation as a morally flawless ideal – should be one’s aim.
Exhibition views "CAN I MAKE A PHOTO WITH YOU 1+2, Stadtmuseum Cologne 2019