Screening this month at Berlinische Galerie’s IBB Video Space is Katrin Winkler’s newest filmic artwork, ‘performing monuments’ (2018). Through conversations with the poet Nesindano “Khoes” Namises, Ester Utjiua Muinjangue, who chairs the Ovaherero Genocide Foundation, and the performer Cecilia Oletu Nghidengwa, the piece addresses the effects of colonialism and genocide as well as apartheid and racism in Namibia. In addition to documenting these conversations, Winkler attended and filmed events held in commemoration of the genocide of Herero and Nama by German colonial forces from 1904 to 1908 and celebrations of Namibia’s struggle for independence.
Although Winkler currently lives and works in Berlin, she previously spent time at the Katutura Community Art Centre in Windhoek, Namibia, and City Varsity in Cape Town, South Africa. During her time working in these two African cities, she applied her deep-rooted interest in the question of how historical events are anchored in public consciousness to the specific locales. Her chosen protagonists in ‘performing monuments,’ for example, speak to how colonialism leaves both visible and invisible traces in public space through things like physical monuments as well as oral histories. Namises, Muinjangue and Nghidengwa also consider alternative ways of writing history, and more specifically how female voices need to be heard.
Interspersed with the conversations is footage of telescopes that measure gamma radiation for international institutes. The presence of these devices acts as a poetic reflection on boundaries (or the lack thereof), ownership and the division of lands. Such themes resonate in many of Winkler’s films, which often deal with the consequences of historical events on the present moment and how certain events and discourses prevail while others do not. This work, among others, can certainly be characterized by intensive research—both archival and in the field.