THE DREAM KEEPER: CECILIA GERMAIN
Botkyrka Konsthall, Sweden
(Mar – Aug 2021)
This exhibition draws on a long history of Black radical thought and practice, in order to produce a multidimensional space for “borderless being”. It features a newly commissioned body of works about sleep and its many functions: as a health practice, a political stance against unfair power structures, and as a gateway to access other realms within.
In a series of photos under the collective title Rest and Recovery / Silent Resistance, Cecilia Germain invites us to enter the sleep-world, not as a passive escape, but as a mode of activism and survival technique for combatting the effects of ongoing racialised trauma, in the world, and here in Sweden. Sleep and dreaming are proposed as liminal and borderless experiences that provide access to ancestral wisdom, as well as intuition and other dimensions of meaning. Responding to growing planetary and social uncertainties, Germain’s work explores the possibilities for using artistic practices as both medium and methodology for different modes of healing, as well as imagining alternative futures.
The Dream Keeper opens up a multisensory art experience that moves between different image worlds and plant environments. It is a meeting place for ethnobotanical stories but can also serve as a therapeutic landscape for wayfinding back to inner radical knowledge. It will include photographic works, graphic prints, water colours, video work, artist books, olfactory pieces and a living plant installation. A sacred sleep object from the Etnografiska Museet collection will be included in the space as an entity that carries further histories, biographical memory maps, and domains of knowledge. There will also be a community herbarium that gathers plant wisdom from the local Fittja community, and thus serves as a “living” situated ethnobotanical archive.
The opening of the exhibition in March will be the starting point for engagement with other collaborators and the local community, who will extend and reflect on the themes of the exhibition, through public programming which will take place online, in the art space and outdoors. We would like everyone to enjoy a safe art experience and are only admitting 5 visitors at the time and are providing facemasks and hand sanitizer.
Center for Art on Migration Politics (CAMP), Copenhagen (Oct – Dec 2019)
What is happening at the thresholds of migration experiences? Where is the place of belonging? When and how will things change?
Threshold(s) is a group exhibition, that explores experiences of displacement and exile by considering how people and their memories “crossover” and then inhabit land, culture, identities, structures, and even language. We engage with current immigration tensions and structural practices, but with a particular focus on the “inbetweenness” of movement as a state of being, which produces critical knowledge. The artists represented in Threshold(s) all have layered practices, including deep memory work as well as participatory and performative elements. Situated in Nordic countries, they confront the geopolitical bordering impulse poetically, by exploring tipping points in their personal biographies that converge with wider political and historical contexts. Through them the threshold emerges as a ‘third place’, a site of/for transgression, a turning point, a leap, an ending, a beginning.
Threshold(s) features the work of: Pia Arke, Michelle Eistrup, Yong Sun Gullach, Luanda Carneiro Jacoel, and Saba Bereket Persson.
Threshold(s) is the third exhibition in CAMP’s new 2-year exhibition program State of Integration: Artistic analyses of the challenges of coexistence, in which some of the most visionary curators and artists of today will examine why immigration poses such a major challenge to the West, and how refugees, immigrants, and diaspora populations experience demands of integration or assimilation into the majority culture. Threshold(s) is supported by The Obel Family Foundation, William Demant Foundation, Grosserer L.F. Foghts Fond, and The Danish Arts Foundation. The exhibition guide program is supported by The European Cultural Foundation.
A film programme in response to the exhibition Phoebe Boswell: Here
Göteborgs Konsthall (Feb-April 2019)
What does it mean to know and experience the world in (under) a “black light”? This exhibition film programme engaged themes of presence, absence, memory and illumination through African and African diasporic filmmaking. The moving images presented explored blackness conceptually in the way Édouard Glissant describes as ‘a knowledge becoming’; travelling along deep historical pathways, moving through and between embodied realities, and even reimagined in dreams. The images were sensitive, bold, and heartfelt. Truth and fiction woven into stories. Stories offered points of connection.
The term black light also referred to a lamp used for emitting UV rays in order to observe fluorescence. Black light thus becomes blue light, revealing what is hidden from the human eye. In this programme new and established black filmmakers showed incisive and affecting visions that transform the conversation about what it means to be, and to be here now, at this moment in history.
Black Memorabilia (2018), by Chico Colvard
Yellow Fever (2012), by Ng’endo Mukii
Flight of the Swan (1992), by Ngozi Onwurah
I love JaNY (2010), by Sasha Huber
KBELA (2015), by Yasmin Thayná
Sometimes it was beautiful (2018), by Christian Nyampeta
WHAT LIES UNSPOKEN: SOUNDING THE COLONIAL ARCHIVE
Statens Museum for Kunst (06 May 2017 – 30 December 2017)
Royal Library of Denmark (19 May 2017 – 19 February 2018)
What Lies Unspoken is a participatory sound intervention developed in collaboration collaboration with the Royal Library of Denmark and Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), as part of my research at the Living Archives Research Project.
This intervention is a response to the silences and discomfort surrounding colonial history in Danish museums and public debate. It has used artefacts currently housed in both collections to facilitate dialogue about colonialism and its cultural legacies.
The process began with a series of intimate workshops with artists, activists, scholars, curators and high school students. Here, we recorded conversations in front of a selection of artefacts. All the voices gathered have been edited into soundtracks that provide alternative perspectives on colonial imagery, and also express how this history still affects people emotionally.
In the soundtrack you will hear different people reacting to artefacts in the SMK, and in the exhibition Blind Spots: Images of the Danish West Indies Colony, at the Royal Library. We consider these perspectives an important source of knowledge that adds sensitivity and depth to traditional institutional data. The primary aim of this work has been to share interpretive power, allowing new ways of engaging the past to emerge.
MILK & HONEY
Botkyrka Konsthall, Tumba, Sweden (25 January – 19 February 2017)
Milk & Honey was a situated, mixed-media installation that explored how local heritage archives could activate global crosscurrents, through themes of memory, identity and belonging.
The focus of the installation was a photograph representing the performance artist Josephine Baker (1906-1975) milking cows at the farm Hamra Gård (Botkyrka municipality), in 1957. This archival document presented an alternative view of this well known Black personality, whilst raising questions about openness and inclusion in Sweden historically.
The installation comprised mixed media components: photography, video, and sound, in combination with physical artefacts. The sonic component was a recorded conversation I had with media and communications scholar Dr Ylva Habel.
The installation Milk & Honey was a research-based intervention produced as part of Residence Botkyrka’s programme ”Developing Nordic Cities” supported by Nordic Culture Point. It featured in the Övergångar / Transitions New Biennial for Art & Architecture.
EXHIBITION VIDEO HERE: https://vimeo.com/201753820
“Pionjär som både roade och gjorde motstånd” by Katarina Andersson in Stockholms Fria (Sweden), 17 February 2017.
POSSESSION: ART, POWER & BLACK WOMANHOOD
New Shelter Plan, Copenhagen, Denmark (06 June – 05 July 2014)
This exhibition showcased the work of 12 international Black women artists, whose work explores multiple concepts of being and belonging. Through deeply personal expressions these artists reflect on Black womanhood as a dynamic archive of knowledge, formed of flesh, spirit and memory. In mixed media practices and against the backdrop of their own biographies, they offer rare and beautiful insights into what it means to travel with this identity through public and private spaces, to dare to speak where voices are often subdued or silenced, and to honour ancestral inheritances as creators of art. Whilst clearly confronting the enduring legacies of slavery and colonialism experienced in their own lives, these artists also poetically demonstrate the healing and transformative power of sharing ones own story with a community of witnesses.
This exhibition was generously funded by The Danish Arts Foundation and Copenhagen City Council. Artist participation in the project was also supported by the following agencies: FRAME Finland for the inclusion of Sasha Huber, the Mondriaan Fund for the inclusion and production of works by Patricia Kaersenhout and the Danish Arts Council for the production of works by Michelle Eistrup.
“Besiddelsens betydninger” by Martina Antunovic on Kunsten.nu (Denmark), 29 June 2014.
“Bannerkunst fra Uganda får nyt liv i Carlsberg Byen” a report by the Center for Kultur og Udvikling (CKU, Denmark), June 2014.
“Art, Power & Black Womahood” by Morten Ranum on U-landsnyt.dk, 26 June 2014.
Kopenhagen Art Guide, June 2014.
A VISIBLE DIFFERENCE: SKIN, RACE & IDENTITY, 1720 – 1820
Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, London (03 July – 21 December 2007)
What do we see when we look at one another? What aspects of a person help us decide who they are? What assumptions do we make about identities based on colour and body image?
This exhibition is about visible differences. It explores the representations of African children and adults living with rare skin pigmentation conditions in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It uncovers their stories, looks at how their conditions were interpreted and the ways in which they were described and displayed.
Approaches to skin and body differences in the 18th century were varied. The medical community attempted to categorise people as specimens – examples of how human beings had deviated from what was considered normal. For the public, curiosity about body difference became a form of entertaining spectacle. People went to fairs and shows to view giants, dwarves, fat people, spotted children and black albinos, all of whom were considered wonders of nature.
How much of this has changed? Are we as curious about visible differences now as people were then? What is it like to live with similar conditions today? Through the stories presented here we can begin to explore these challenging concepts, and to make connections with our own experiences of living with a visible difference.
This exhibition was generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and John Lyons Charity.
Exhibition responses and editorial:
“Histories: Neither black nor white but both” by Stephanie Pain, New Scientist, 30 June 2007
“A Visible Difference: Skin, Race and Identity (1720-1820)” an exhibition report compiled for the AHRC funded research project 1807 Commemorated: The abolition of the slave trade – a partnership between the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and the Institute for Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) at the University of York.
“A Visible Difference: Images of Black African people with Albinism” in Charlotte Baker ed. Expressions of the Body: Representations in African Text and Image. Bern, Germany: Peter Lang, 2009.
THE IMAGE OF BLACK: DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN HISTORY
An arts and cultural website founded in 2005
In 2005 I founded a virtual resource for learning about and exploring history, identity, art and culture. Its focus is on signposting the historical representation and creative contributions of people of African descent around the world.