“deconstructing the foreign view” is a joint research-based project by Swiss-German artist duo Florian Götte and Sebastian Hirn in collaboration with DECON/DECOL, an artist collective that deals with colonial monuments and memory culture in Namibia. The project aims to shed light on the role of Switzerland in the colonisation of Namibia. Based on the investigation of the travel diary and the ethnological photographs of the Zurich botanist Hans Schinz, the question of the “scientific view” on a “foreign world“ is pursued and the role of mission and science as the motor of taking possession of a foreign world is critically and artistically questioned.
The project emerges from several intersecting research-based projects by Florian and Sebastian examining Germany’s imperial and colonial past in “German South West Africa”. In April 2023 Florian was supported by Pro Helvetia to accompany Sebastian on a research trip in Namibia for their project “traces of memory” where they began working with the DECON/DECOL artist collective. Together they have developed the project “unwritten archives – (re)constructing the past”, a performance video installation that engages with the genocide of Herero and Nama people and themes of trauma and inherited trauma. In parallel, “deconstructing the foreign view”, expands the group’s research to focus on the role of Switzerland in the colonial project through missionary activity, the financing of business and participation in ethnographic “exploration” expeditions.
In 1884, the Zurich botanist Hans Schinz accompanied the Bremen merchant Adolf Lüderitz on a trip to explore “German South West Africa”. A unique travelogue was created from his four-year expedition. He travelled with a camera and documented flora, fauna and indigenous people he met and accumulated a collect of cultural objects.
In September 2023, the group will undertake research together in various Swiss archives and locations. They wish to engage with the numerous unpublished photographs and “scientific” records of the collecting activities of Hans Schinz housed in the Ethnological Museum in Zurich, and visit the Zurich Botanical Garden which has many plants that were brought back by Schinz. In Basel they will visit the Rhenish Mission archive and Basler Afrika Bibliographien, with its extensive archive of Namibia and southern African music, photographs, decolonial periodicals and newspapers.
The group will document all their research and discussions. Working from Florian’s studio at G5 in Zurich, they will interrogate and respond to the archive material artistically in visual and musical formats. The documentation will be presented in a digital publication towards the end of 2023.
DECON/DECOL (Deconstructing and Decolonizing Monuments) is a collective of Namibian artists (Hildegard Titus, Muningandu Hoveka and Gift Uzera ) that deal with colonial monuments and memory culture in Namibia. Hildegard Titus is a decolonial activist, curator, filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist who works on themes of race, gender and identity. Muningandu Hoveka is a multidisciplinary artist who works in visual and performance art on feminist movement and decolonization. Gift Uzera is a performance artist who works with decolonial and queer activist themes. As a group, they interrogate landscapes, history and monuments across Namibia through a decolonial lens. Their practice of music, dance, theatre, performance art, visual art and film allows them to explore these complex intersections of history in Namibia.
Florian Götte & Sebastian Hirn are an artist duo that have been dealing with experimental formats for many years. Their work utilises space, language, sound and the body to push beyond classical boundaries of presentation. In their expansive interventions, the theoretical becomes a sensual, visual-acoustic immersive experience. Their research-based work avoids didactic narratives, instead allowing viewers to form their own interpretations.