Performative Conference
16 NOV 2014
Ethnological Museum Berlin

With Ulf Aminde & Shi-Wei Lu, Yael Bartana, deufert&plischke, Maria Gaida, Richard Haas, Ant Hampton & Britt Hatzius, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Kapwani Kiwanga, Siegmar Nahser & Alexandra Pirici

Curated by Florian Malzacher

We need a history that does not save in any sense of the word; we need a history that performs. Jane Blocker

Appropriation (Aneignung), including cultural appropriation, is always a violent act. The (direct or structural) violence with which many objects of ethnological collections were appropriated is repeated in the ever new appropriations of these objects through interpretation and contextualisation. But appropriation also always implies an approximation that does not leave those who appropriate unchanged. The German word Aneignung functions in this regard like a picture puzzle: Depending on the focus it emphasizes either the negative aspect of possessing and taking away or the positive aspect of learning and wanting to understand.

The performative conference Appropriations as well as its remains in the permanent exhibition afterwards reflected on the possibilities of appropriating knowledge and cultures foreign to the West by investigating the concepts of reenactment and performative reconstruction as well as the resistance of the objects.

While the concept of reenactment commonly designates the restaging of historical events in a way that seems to be as true-to-life as possible, a different discourserevolving around this concept has emerged in the performing arts in the past years. In dance and performance, it mainly describes the critical dealing with the possibility of reconstructing or reinterpreting central choreographic works of modernism. What is always at issue is the difference, the incomprehensible, the not-knowing.

Hence, Appropriations navigates between appropriation, reconstruction, reformulation, temporary addition and critical speculation. For the performativity of many of the objects in the collection lies in their potential use – whether in a ritual, in art or in everyday actions. In the language of performance theory they could be considered “performance remains.” Other objects give insights into the kinds of applied knowledge that have been lost: depictions and inscriptions serve as direct or indirect documentations or potential notations. How can one approach such lost acts in an artistic way, reconstruct or even reenact them?

Such approaches are by no means soft; they are not necessarily obliged to an alleged historical or cultural truth. They appropriate what is past and distant in order to simultaneously lend it a voice in the present and question it. The conflict and contradictoriness of appropriation is neither played down nor shunned.

Appropriations took place within an agonistic field of various artistic positions. The participants moved from lecture performances by Dorothea von Hantelmann, Ulf Aminde & Shi-Wei Lu, and Kapwani Kiwanga, through Alexandra Pirici’s immaterial addition to the collection, to the theatrical installation by Ant Hampton and Britt Hatzius, were confronted with famous forgeries in the collections depot, accompanied Yael Bartana on a trip to the Amazon and were themselves cast as performers with the choreography of deufert&plischke.

Production management Appropriations: Syelle Hase, Pamela Schlewinski
Managing Director Humboldt: Agnes Wegner
Thanks to Elena Agudio, Ulrike Folie, Romy Köhler, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung

A production by Humboldt Lab Dahlem


16.11.2014.Berlin Humboldt Lab Dahlem "Appropriations - A performative conference"