Monumental Shadows – Rethinking Heritage
A project by Various & Gould in cooperation with Colonial Neighbours (SAVVY Contemporary)
Berlin | August – Oct 2021
A participatory project in public space knocking colonial figures off their pedestal and shifting the shadows of past and present.
Even though more and more European countries are beginning to come to terms with their colonial history, deep shadows dominate their commemorative culture. Formerly colonizing and colonized countries are linked by a complex, violent past that reverberates to the present day. The art project „Monumental Shadows“ explores commemorative culture and deals with artworks and monuments that continue to inscribe colonial history in public space.
In a combination of artistic collaboration, thematic debate, and public discussion, the project makes visible connection between colonialism and contemporary racism. Within the framework of „Monumental Shadows“, the artists are planning a series of seven artistic paper casts of monuments in Europe. Against the historical background of the Berlin „Congo Conference“ (1884/85), these monuments have a connection to European colonialism in Africa. Today they are located in countries that were significantly involved in the conference and continue to benefit from it to the present day. The selected monuments and the historical figures associated with them are still positively portrayed or even glorified in the historiography of their respective countries (and beyond). By honoring them through public monuments, the colonial exploitation and imperialist atrocities for which they are responsible are concealed, downplayed, or glossed over. On the one hand, their part in colonialism lies in the shadows for large sections of society, while on the other hand, their actions still cast a shadow over the lives of many people.
The aim of the project is to demonumentalize these monuments by symbolically knocking them off their pedestals and charging them with new meanings. In the visual design of the cover, we address the respective monument and its colonial history. Through the lightness and malleability of the paper, their transience becomes visible.
Subsequently, the resulting molds are performatively deformed in „Ver-Formances“ through which they become tangible. This shows: History is not static, and we are all part of it. Our concern is to break the power of white narrative on colonialism by proposing a change of perspective. In doing so, it is important to stop reproducing the Eurocentric views and narratives. It is long overdue to bring more light and attention to the historiographies and narratives of People of Color, which have often been silenced and ignored until now. A society critical of colonialism and racism can only emerge with their voices as integral parts of a collective commemorative culture.
First iteration: Berlin
In Berlin, the project will run from August to the end of October 2021 and is divided into four parts, so-called „Shadows“. In various formats, the participating artists and speakers will address the traces and effects of colonialism up to the present day.
Various & Gould
The Berlin based artist duo Various & Gould works in close collaboration since 2005. After studying at the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art (KHB), the artists graduated under the tutelage of Prof Alex Jordan (Grapus collective) in 2010. Various & Gould are known for constantly reinventing themselves. Whilst methods of screen-printing and collage are their speciality, their art can also emerge in a public performance or an installation as they like crossing borders and do not stick to a certain medium. Various & Gould often deal with socially prominent themes such as work, migration, gender, death, religion or the financial crisis in a playful, intuitive manner.
Colonial Neighbors is a long-term project by SAVVY Contemporary in Berlin. It is a participatory archive and research project which invites international artists, historians, cultural scholars, curators and other activists to engage with German colonial history and its aftermath in the present.
Artistic Direction: Various & Gould
Curation: Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock
Projekt Management: Britt Janina Heinker
Curatorial Assistance: Lili Somogyi, Antonio Pedro Mendes
Additional artistic intervention: Daniela Medina Poch & Juan Pablo García Sossa
Performance: Thomias Radin, Natisa Exocée Kasongo, Jumoke Adeyanju & Delawhere
Production Assistance: Billy Fowo, Sagal Farah, Jörg-Peter Schulze, Alina Kologriwaja, Ahmed Isam Aldin, Mohamedali Ltaief, Sh. M. Mudassir
Management: Lema Sikod
Communication: Anna Jäger
Accessibility: Annika Hirsekorn
Simple Language: Christina Stark
Design: Juan Pablo García Sossa
Photo Documentation: Raisa Galofre
Video Documentation: Frederic Leitzke (editude pictures), Florian Lampersberger
The project is funded by Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa des Landes Berlin and Berliner Projektfonds Urbane Praxis, with kind suppport by Zapf Umzüge.