‘Monumental Shadows: Rethinking Heritage’ at SAVVY Contemporary, Germany

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 the 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 the 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 honouring 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 moulds 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 the 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.

The project was initiated by the artist duo Various & Gould and is developed in collaboration with Colonial Neighbours, a long-term project of SAVVY Contemporary.

SHADOW#1
Performative process: paper moulding of the Bismarck statue
02.-21.08.2021 daily 9:00–17:00

Bismarck Momument in Tiergarten, Berlin
Using a technique related to paper-mâché, the artists duo Various & Gould temporarily conceals and moulds the Bismarck Monument (1901 by Reinhold Begas) with multiple layers of paper.

Bismarck knocked off his pedestal
21.08.2021 ca.10:00–16:00
Bismarck Momument in Tiergarten, Berlin
Various & Gould’s working process will be accompanied by an artistic intervention by Daniela Medina Poch and Juan Pablo García Sosa.
On the last day of work at the statue, the paper form will be opened and taken down from the pedestal. You are very welcome to visit us during this process: Come by, have a look at the work, exchange ideas with us about these interventions and ways on how to approach colonial heritage!

SHADOW#2
Open Monument Day
11.09.2021 16:00-19:00
Performance with the paper cast
Nettelbeckplatz, Reinickendorfer Str. 110, 13347 Berlin
On Open Monument Day, we invite you to an urban performance in which the paper cast of the monument will be transformed. The site of the performance is another public square that carries a history of violence in its name: Nettelbeckplatz, which commemorates the colonial propagandist and slave trader Joachim Nettelbeck.

SHADOW#3
September-October 2021
Workshops with schools
In artistic and creative workshops, we will work with pupils on remembering, history, colonialism and racism.

SHADOW#4
29.10.2021 19:00

”A Place in the Sun” & its long shadows | Closing Event


SAVVY Contemporary, Reinickendorfer Str. 17, 13347 Berlin

To close the Berlin chapter, we invite you to exchange with performances, lectures and conversations about interdisciplinary experiences and strategies in dealing with colonial heritage.