The Anthropocene Series // After Year Zero, Geographies of Collaboration Since 1945

Article by Jazmina Figueroa // Oct. 04, 2013

The Anthropocene Series looks at shows in the two year project launched by Haus der Kulturen der Welt, from January 2013 to December 2014. Through a series of comprehensive exhibitions, the Anthropocene Project investigates a paradigm shift in the natural sciences toward a human-centred understanding of nature and provides new models for culture, politics, and everyday life.

The current exhibition, After Year Zero – Geographies of Collaboration Since 1945, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt consists of a collection of footage, texts, and collected information based on global decolonisation with universal themes relating to post colonialism after the second world war. The artists’ pieces within the exhibition work as a collaborative response to opinions of independence and power relations between post conflict societies and Europe. With the work and supporting information sectioned into vitrines, the focus of the exhibition is to bring forward issues around current African or Pan African conditions of independence from European occupation.

John Akomfrah’s award winning The Unfinished Conversation (2012) felt particularly relevant to current issues of identity within western societies, particularly those that have experienced a heavy flow of immigration over the last sixty years. This three-channel installation combines found archival footage with Akomfrah’s documentary work. The piece creates a narrative following the life of political activist and intellectual, Stuart Hall, using his voice to state ideas, philosophies and memories. Originally from the Caribbean, Stuart Hall immigrated to the UK in the 1950’s. In the film Hall is portrayed through many layers incorporating his political views, personal history, and overall public influence. The work links the life of Hall to racial tensions and political movements within post war Europe providing a historical insight into the ambiguity of identity.

Kader Attia’s new work Dispossesion is a double slide projection of collected documentation of African artefacts and ‘tribal art’ that now sit in the Vatican archive. The memetic objects are placed within the institution to create a historical narrative of acquiring these objects. The slides also become a comparison between the way different cultures translate value through depictive importance, say, a mother and child. The display of these items brings forward questions of property within Ethnological and missionary practice, and the broader ethics of colonialism. The artistic practice of appropriating material correspondingly contemplates the question of property and who owns what.

The Year of The Quiet Sun (2013) is a piece that establishes the postal network as a symbol of global infrastructure and political power alongside cultural identity. The filmic essay by The Otolith Group, created by artists Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, sorts postage stamps within a political calendar to represent iconography of Pan-African imagery within Ghana after gaining independence from the British Empire in the late 1950’s. The postage stamps are the only remaining images of the visual culture during Kwame Nkrumah’s dictatorial control after independence. The postage stamp is an example of cultural elements that continue to circulate even when a country is inactive because of conflict. The video essay focuses on particular features of a Pan-African aesthetic and underlines the subjectivity of historical experience.

The work of documentary filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri is dedicated to the network of balance and power throughout the postcolonial world. Her films seek to illustrate the state of independence after decolonisation and the emergence of independence within African and Arab regions. El-Tahri’s work involves separate video montages and film screenings that focus on how networks of independent struggle affect clashes between modernity and tradition. For example The Price of Aid (2009) is a single channel video installation that looks into how modern domination of Africa by Europe and the USA occurs through aid, ultimately making the American and European economies richer.

Glass displays with supporting information such as photographs, news articles, recorded speeches, and music are situated alongside these works and the works of other artists, filmmakers and theoreticians. As a whole After Year Zero functions as an in-depth depiction of current postcolonial environments and creates discourse around ways identity is influenced by the balance of power. The show specifically addresses Pan-African connections to the Western world with a concentration on past historical developments, societal conflict, or the emergence and results of independence.


Additional Information

“After Year Zero” – GROUP SHOW
Exhibition: Sep. 19 – Nov. 24, 2013
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10 (click here for map)


Jazmina Figueroa is an artist and writer based in Berlin.

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