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Gate 27, farklı pratiklerin araştırma ve üretim süreçlerini desteklemek ve disiplinlerarası etkileşime zemin yaratmak amacıyla 2019’da kurulmuş bir uluslararası konuk sanatçı programıdır.

You can watch the event as of 10 AM (UTC+3) Monday, May 6, 2024 with English transcription.

Ahu Antmen (AA): So I’m very happy to be here in the third and last talk with Dominique. These talks have been interesting for me because… we do get in-depth information, I believe, about how a feminist attitude can actually determine the subjects, not only the subjects, rather, but also the forms that artists delve into experiment within their work. 

So I think for Dominique also her feminist attitude is very much a determining factor and we’ll go into that as we look through her work. I’d like to start with a question relating to actually again the last two talks with Maja Bekan and Nour Shantout, you probably know them as the previous residents, but when we compare them, they’re quite different in terms of their methodologies, but there are also some points, especially in terms of relating to art as a form of research. 

You know art as a form of research. Of course, we know that this is- this has been a growing  trend in the last two decades, maybe, but we can talk, start talking about how you know how you decided or how you were geared towards this idea of art as a form of research rather than art as a mere object. How did that happen for you?  

Dominique Hurth (DH): I will try not to laugh because of this microphone… Thank you for your question. Just wanted to say I will show some images that sometimes will purely work as visual metaphors and sometimes actually, I’m going to talk more about what is going to be projected, but I just thought it’s important to actually say that. And also, because at the end of the day I’m a visual artist with everything that it means in terms of visual language.   

I’m extremely allergic to the term research more and more probably because I’m part of those people who’ve been making this happen over the past -for me, not 20 years but 15 years. I’ve been practicing as an artist for 15 years now and I do believe that it’s a trend that is extremely problematic actually because it also puts suddenly or it puts the practices actually in a place where it can easily be misunderstood. I come really from a conceptual art practice so whereas the professors I am studying with, the artists I am studying with, and the peers I am studying with, is a very conceptual practice and I am saying I’m allergic to the term “research” but you will see how I’ll contradict myself in a few [minutes]. 

I do strongly believe that we did not have to wait the nineties or even conceptual art from the sixties for artists to start researching. I think artists always researched and the trend is to my eyes, commodification and also an economical commodification that we can perhaps talk later in a discussion.  

Yeah, but yes, I do work very clearly with research and my work is informed by research. I think that’s where I started over the years defining my practice differently is that it is not artistic research. It is not research based, but it’s informed by research and by saying this I mean extremely classical ways that I spend years, months, days, depending on which work I’m developing in historical archives doing the work of research that many historians are not doing. 

So in that regard, I’m like very classically researching, but yet my position as an artist is not an empirical academic position and it is much more about actually production of knowledge about actually also I think I come from this tradition of artists as well, who’ve decided we have something to say as well with the work and at the end of the days the work is very easy in terms of methodology of research that I start being fascinated and obsessed by something that is historical.  

So the starting point of the work is always historical event; history that is also not necessarily an easy story to deal with or histories that I find actually puzzling and then from that actually develop a form.  

I’m a very classical studio artist at the same time than a very classical research-based artist, so I spend if no more time in the studio trying to translate what I’ve been looking at in the archives into a form and into material.  

AA: That’s very interesting actually you know with the first generation let’s say of conceptual artists in the sixties. There’s this questioning of what art is or what art is not. Whereas in a later generations and your generation, it’s no more about what art is but really researching a certain specific subject. That is what probably makes it quite different from the earlier generation in which form didn’t have any value almost, if it had form there was a problem there.  

So it’s interesting that you talk about how concerned you are in terms of what your work looks like and that I find quite interesting and I think we can go into that as we look into the work because the work is very allusive, very difficult to understand and personally, I haven’t experienced the work itself, you know only from images and perhaps the experience of the work makes it easier. But I still find it very difficult unless we are not aware of the kind of research that goes into it. Whereas with the earlier generation of conceptual artists, that kind of information is not there, and maybe we can touch on that.  

Maybe we can move on to, you know, in one of your earlier installations…  

DH: I will come to it, as well. 

AA: Yeah, maybe we can look at that you use light to project on certain images that you took from newspapers so she is interested in journalistic research; journalistic information is a part of her work, so taking in her earlier work taking images from print magazines, newspapers, drawing them in watercolor, recreating them in watercolor.  

But the way that you exhibit it is by projecting the light on it as if you want us to look at it. I don’t know at this stage if you were very interested in how communication is created, how communication happens, how knowledge is created, and so on. 

We’ll also come to that, but maybe we can move from here because you say you have an iconographical database where you set off from.

DH: Just perhaps I wanted to add one more thing towards the researching because it then makes those kind of images that is being projected perhaps more understood is that, I always refuse to show the research material I’ve been looking at in my work, which makes it more difficult.  

AA: Exactly! 

DH: I think this is exactly where plasticity starts from. The images I showed before that are very formal works and sculptural works like they’re all informed by hardcore years of research about topics. I’m an expert on topics you have no idea but yet I refuse to show that research. and I think that’s what makes me also a bit of a different actor within this research-based practice that I’m not interested in showing the research. I’m interested in actually making something with it. It was interesting for me that you looked at this work, which is an ongoing series of watercolors that I’ve been doing since 2006 and 2007. And it’s actually a studio routine that I have, it’s one of the first thing I do wherever I am, it is actually making them and they’re based on the simple things that I collect images from newspaper. At that time, I didn’t have a smartphone, so things also changed now. Actually, those images were really newspaper clips that I was collecting from my everyday life from the trips that I was undertaking as well, as now, they are actually just cut shots exactly.  

It was really cutting and I was putting them aside and one of the first things that I was doing with them was actually to reproduce them because it was all about looking at the image in depth. I was always suspicious about every single image that was actually published in a newspaper, and if you actually start looking at specific days, you realize the same image is being used, but the caption is different so this is where actually it started. You know to think; “well the caption is different. I’m going to look at the image a bit more and in order to look at it more as the best ways to actually reproduce it per hand. Meaning actually a watercolor way and those images that I’ve been doing them. I have about 3000 of them. I’ve never showed them fully very, very rarely showed them but they are or they became a starting point for many of my installations and many of my works that is very much focused on the form. So I guess there was a moment as well where I was looking so much at the image and then the image disappears and its sculptural form, it’s a form, it’s an installation. It is an object, but it’s informed by image as a database.  

In 2012, I actually published my first artists book from several in which I edited some of those images that were the backdrop of my installations that I realized between 2007-2012 and yes, they do create basically my own database of images that I decided very subjectively to choose. I choose them because they all refer to something that’s happening in the world at the moment I cut them. Or they refer to something that happened in the past in which I have a lot of questions in which a lot of things that have not been talked about spoken about.  

AA: She is moving from exhibition space to the space of the book. The book becomes exhibition space just like the exhibition space sometimes somehow becomes like a book, so there’s the come and go between these places, let’s say the places that you create through your work, but again with the books.  

Also, it’s not a book where you can read about what this research material is; it’s just imagery from here and there, here and there. It comes together randomly, so it’s almost like you’re asking the audience to do some research to go and find out what’s there. What the image is about. Are you asking the audience to do that?  

DH: I’m asking the audience to just look a bit more closely at what information we’re getting across the world every day and those images you know, I mean some of them the one you see here are very much embedded into a specific part of the century, so it is perhaps different compared to the one I’ve been collecting. Recently it’s very much about asking what kind of official narratives we are given to already at that time questioning. You know, by questioning the caption is really questioning is not part of the historiography is very much about questioning who wrote the caption. What is being said? I’ve seen images of things that are not what the image is but used in terms of informing something about an event, and I mean we’re now living in a world of social media of political turmoil so we know exactly what it is. This was a bit earlier in that time. The time of use of image making. I don’t think art should be an easy thing. On the other hand, it’s a book of images you know, and it functions as a book of images, it’s about images that’s also still, actually is about images that one can dive into and there are many other layers.  

AA: And I mean it’s easy and hard at the same time. Yeah, so the audience can feel left out but also an interested audience, an interested viewer let’s say, can really find something there to look at. But like you said, I mean, I come from journalism. I know about captions. You know, the stories that one can make up to the same photograph. You know, I have been shocked myself during my journalism days, so can we talk a little bit about how this focus on research? You are not the traditional research artist, not one of those trendy research artists, of course, I really understand and get that, believe me. But there’s still this focus on research. How much does this have to do with your art education in the 2000s, being educated as an artist in the 2000s, you know, having received a fine arts education? Is it because of your art education in the 2000s and something that has happened to art education during this time in London or Paris, these major centers, of course, in relation to art practice? Or, is it despite this art education? Because I remember reading in an interview where you talk about yourself as a child, going to exhibitions and always focusing on exhibitions and seeing that as your art history, as a certain kind of personal art history. So how do you bring that together? Can you talk about that?  

DH: I will put a mixtape as a background. I found the question quite interesting because it made me think a lot again about my…You know, preparing a bit of questions this morning I was thinking I’m a typical French kid born in the mid-eighties and with saying this, I mean I benefited from access to culture from a socialist government, actually is the last time we had a socialist government in France, meaning that access to art and culture was part of everyday life and everyday life for every for every kind of person. I ended up as a kid seeing lots of shows, you know, going to big museums. smaller museums. There was really this thing of art is accessible, art is democratic. No matter where you come from, you have access to it and this was very important for the government, in the schools, and educational system. It was very important for my parents. I think they were clearly introducing this, I realized I was interested in art. I expressed very young that I wanted to be an artist, but I also come from a background in which art didn’t mean anything for them.  

My parents understood it was important to have access to culture, but there are people who jump social classes who did not understand what art actually is. You know you had to work hard, that’s a thing. That’s the thing, I actually grew up with and that I brought with me in my work as well; the notion of class was extremely important for me when I studied. I’m saying this because I think definitely that some exhibitions that I visited as a child where very important to me in terms of what do I look at, what do I watch which I remember shows as a seven-year-old, eight-year-old that were incredible, and I know that they marked me in my decision of I want to make art. I don’t know what it means. I don’t know what it means to be an artist. No one knows in my family what art; artist be an artist actually requires means and so on. But this is what I want and then I graduated very young. I was 22 and was caught up very early into an art world. My first museum show was 25 years old, and very early, I stepped into an international career. At a time when it was easy to travel. Things were very different in those regards.  

And yes, this notion of class was still there in terms of what where my references who are my references and then as I grew up as an adult, not as a child anymore. But as an adult, I think there was this entire notion of… There is actually hardly any woman I’ve been taught about at school the art school, you know in art school like in London and Paris, very big schools, you know very known, and yet it seems like I had to create my own references as well. So, it was kind of like doubling from a child to an adult as a little girl to a woman and very different things then sexuality, actually as a child, a class was a thing.  And as an adult, a gender became more present.  

AA: Right, well actually was gender perhaps the defining factor that led your practice to research or vice versa? I know it’s from today’s perspective, maybe researching, you become interested in these gender issues. But now that you talk about where you come from in terms of this awareness of class and so on, it seems like this awareness of gender actually leads you to research from an early age. Is that maybe… 

DH: To be honest, when I was studying and the first work I showed outside the work I was doing at that time was focusing on technology, representation of image really is kind of newspaper clipping what I was mentioning earlier on. Gender, I mean, I knew I was a woman, and coming from a background that was not common in the art world, we’re still talking about, still very much a question yet.  But the gender issue, to be honest, as a gender question, came the more I worked, the more I worked and started actually showing, and the more you realize I’m the only woman in the show. Oh I’m the only woman in the residency program. I’m the only woman this and that…I started actually showing abroad in important places. I started teaching mostly to young women and then realized that from a group of 20 students, you have 18 women, and 17 women will disappear after graduation. Why?  

Because of the systemics of the art world, economics, not thinking about family…Things like this are things that I although, I mean, as I grew as an artist, actually, I think the gender became more present around me more than the form of the work.  And then it was just automatic to say, “Okay, this is what I need to work on.” That in a way, you know, but it was not… I just got fed up with it, and then I was disgusted by it. I’m still then like okay, I have a voice now I have an agency; I’m going to start using it. It is still an issue. It’s still a problem and it’s still important to make to think about parity in terms of numbers. How many women are being shown… 

AA: I mean we don’t want to remember those numbers. The problem has not gone away. There’s only, you know, there are these waves and trends and today we seem to be on this higher trend. 

DH: But this will go as well… 

AA: It will go away though it certainly will go away with all these you know; women, retrospective exhibitions and everything.  

DH: It’s just a crazy the amount of women that were discovered by the age of 85. Great! Finally, do we really have to wait that long to give an award to a woman? I mean it’s still crazy. Some of the artists are so old they cannot give the delivery speech, and they receive 10 000 euros. “Oh great! Thank you so much for your gesture.” it’s important, yet still, it’s a joke, and I think the art world still needs to look into that. And yeah, I think; I mean, sometimes I feel annoying for my male colleagues that we usually women and nonbinary always talk about gender. But I do think it’s still like in terms of systemics, you know, about being paid. The fact that many places do not support the fact of having children or bringing children when you install a work. Basics, you know. Still, I think this became part because I received visibility because people started supporting me, and then I said okay, I also have to, this is where I can contribute in a way politically, actively and especially within teaching as well.  

AA: Maybe at this point, we can look at works like the most important women series from 2008 because it’s directly linked to what you’re talking about. This work explores women from an East German encyclopaedia. So again, actually information-based and you’re looking at what makes women important within that regime maybe and you’re questioning that. And then maybe we can also move on in this context to works like “Fernanda Olga Lydia Dora Lily and 95 More Women”. The titles are wonderful, by the way, that is a later work of 2017, and there you explore women in the work of artists like Picasso and Matisse. So, these works are all about women being absent or present. Maybe we can talk about this, but would you also please touch on how, for example, a generation of earlier women artists, feminist artists in particular and the way that they go against convention? For example, they start to experiment beyond painting, beyond sculpture, which is what you are also doing so they look for other mediums and materials. So how much did this older generation affect you? Because also one of the works is actually a reference or maybe a quote of Adrian Piper. Yeah, so maybe you can walk us through the exhibition.  

DH: I haven’t looked at this work for a long time so thanks for bringing this back because that’s actually a work I started in 2007 and it’s a series of watercolors basically. I collect a lot of books. I was collecting a lot of books and I was relatively new in Germany, where I moved 2005 at that time, you could find many things at flea markets and bookshops, and I started collecting an encyclopaedia called “The Woman” which is something that was published from the fifties between the mid-seventies about how women should behave properly within a socialist government within a socialist doctrine. 

And also, here in one of the shows I showed for instance, the way how you should color-combine your clothes which I think is extremely beautiful and how your clothes should also subtly direct your kitchen interior. I mean, it is kind of you know you open this book and you’re like; every page is a source, a material. You know, you can do a lot of things with that, but of course it was interesting because you know, coming from France from a Western European context and how actually clearly a leftist background, feminist background as well through my mom and so on. But the way we’re looking at women from the East women from the eastern front from the eastern bloc, from it was always despite like a big international feminist network it was still always this thing of like a bit relatively seen. It was for me; I started collecting those different issues from different years , and I actually decided to focus on what was the chapter’s most important women, which were women. To honestly, 20 percent I knew and 80 percent I did not know.  

Women who were actually important for the German ideology coming from lots of different countries, I mean, mostly from communist countries, mostly coming within you know, friends of the Soviet Unions. But for me it was very much this question of women’s representation within the ideological context and what happens when you know each of them had a text and each of them was actually represented in those pictures. And I decided to actually focus merely on those images of them. So the series is basically a series of 50 pages, that one to one more or less reproduced, and there are these piles basically on the floor in which you can kind of walk through, and then those images actually of the women stayed alone with no information, with no title. You don’t know who they are, again the notion of caption, but as a notion of biographies, but also you know how these women are actually represented. And I did a couple of other works that were looking at this kind of things; like the role of women with a specific thing. And I’m going to go to this one because that’s where a Piper reference is. 

I was invited 10 years later, 2017 to a museum [Berggruen Museum] to make a work and they just opened a new exhibition about Picasso, Matisse and someone else I actually don’t remember. And I don’t want to remember. It was a very beautiful museum, Berggruen. If you ever go there, I mean and Berggruen was a very important art dealer in the thirties and forties in Europe. Extremely interesting, and they invited me and like “oh, we’d like you to make a work and we’d like to show the work and I actually refused to make a physical work.  

AA: Interesting that you were invited. Actually, I agree there is another issue itself. You know, being what’s the word, co-opted into this system.  

DH: Co-opted, instrumentalized a new “We need a woman and we need a woman who works with women”. So I mean they can, “she’s going to do something”, you know. I don’t want to do anything, but I want to do a tour, so I developed this performance.  

Here you see me with, oh I don’t remember the name, oh Condo, George Condo was the other artist, the other male and I did this tour, which lasted an hour and a half in which I was basically placing myself in front of the paintings of Picasso, Matisse and Condo and sometimes taking some elements from the figures like the pose or like there is Picasso’s one painting of Dora she had like green nail polish. So I had green nail polish.  

Things like that and I was actually addressing the women who were represented. The fact is that Picasso, as well as most of the male artists are absolute misogynist and especially Picasso is perhaps more known nowadays. But it’s like someone who would literally step on every single wife that he had and make sure that he destroyed her.  

So, I actually wanted to give a voice to those women that were always represented. Because most of the exhibition was mostly about portraits. And so, this is like an excerpt of the script in which each chosen picture that I had was basically confronted with a quotation from either the voice of the woman who was represented or a woman from that time, but also some feminist writers who were very important to me from the first generation or second generation and then kind of put in relation to those images and Kim Kardashian also became important suddenly because she also said a lot of things about. 

AA: What did she say? 

DH: I cannot tell you now there it was about the model and a role model and I think it’s something you know even pop stars, even people who will say it’s not art whatever actually also do bring that it was also here, a way of… Actually, George Condo comes from a specific scene and at the same time that he was starting to become famous, there were Carolee Schneimann, Adrian Piper and lots of women who were actually making performance art.  

So I also wanted to give this because those works; I did not got introduced to them when I studied, I got introduced to them because I started working with women and other generation and we started exchanging so this is also where a quotation became important of… Like I’m going to quote a woman because, it is a pure basic feminist practice, right? We don’t know anything, so we’re going to start together and I know this artist and this artist and so I wanted to actually give a chance to Scottish name Jo Spence as well because there was lots of images of portrait with the breast and Jo Spence is an artists who worked a lot with a representations of breast cancer. Things like this to bring this into a museum that clearly decided not to show a single woman for about 25 years. 

AA: Yeah, unbelievable. I mean, I think this project could be you know, younger performance artists could actually perform this in different museums in different contexts with different artists. It’s almost like it has to be done more than just once. So, this issue of being co-opted. I mean okay, you know you did it in the end, I’m sure you were happy because you did it.  

Probably because of this instrumentalization of “the women artists”, but you know, it seems like this kind of performance, like mining the museum through this kind of performance, is absolutely necessary, almost like a feminist action. So where does, for example, if you define yourself as a feminist artist, where you know where is the line, you know, where is the line? Are you doing art? Are you doing activism? Do you sometimes question that?  

DH: No, no. I mean interestingly, you know this was like 90 minutes and it took me I think about one month to write almost full on. There is hardly any information about those women, so this is where the research becomes a tool as well. You know, in order to write and to talk about the women were represented, there is no encyclopaedia for them. There is no encyclopaedia of the wives of Picasso, yet who knows, probably going to happen soon, also research. But I also don’t necessarily label myself first hand as feminist, because I think I come from that. You know, I think it’s important to talk about women’s rights, and it’s important it’s still a big fight, and the art world usually has the worst of society, and when it comes to the rights of others, it is a place where it comes… But activism? No. I mean I’m clearly like I know where I stand politically and I do take a stance in the work as well.  

AA: That makes it feminist. 

DH: That makes it like I think a practice that can survive. 

AA: I would say there is a shying away from what’s called, you know. Sometimes we joke about the word about the “F” word in the art scene. Do you actually feel that when you say you are a feminist? When you define your work as feminist, that there is this attitude in the art world, that could be uncomfortable in some ways in some respects? 

DH: But that’s interesting because I actually don’t, usually I don’t label myself as feminist because I think it’s part of me. So I think it’s not even necessary to be highlighted because, I don’t think an artist, a women artist of my generation I mean, if she is not a feminist, I don’t know what she is. Honestly, I would really question, but yeah, we are a problem. Of course. That’s what I meant as well, in terms of systemics, you know, when you start looking at quotes, how many women are part of the collection, or they are much less paid.  

There is one thing; I was looking at the number of children that the most known male artists have compared to the most known women artists have. When you realize each man actually have seven kids from different person and the women actually zero zero point one, you know. And so obviously there is a systemics are clearly not making it easy for us. We are being labelled difficult at the moment. Also even in this work you know, like the museum hated me for making that work.  

AA: Oh, they invited you and didn’t want you. 

DH: Yeah, I was the difficult woman here. Yeah it’s interesting. I was the other day a couple of days ago thinking, is it still important to make it such a big thing that as a women artist you actually have a different reality in the art world, and actually yes, we still have to make a point.  

AA: And yeah, well, we labelled this talk actually “Sculpting Presence”. Do you think it defines your practice somehow in terms of subject matter? But also, when I was looking at those images from you took from encyclopaedias also those watercolors without the captions, there’s always this absence there. 

There is a presence of an image, but there is also an absence, so maybe we can talk about that a little bit because there’s print watercolors, performance. I’m really very interested in how you know, trying to talk about these issues one is directed towards, that’s what I was trying to say. In the beginning one is directed towards very new forms, new ways of looking, telling the story in a way, with new formal languages.  

So maybe you could talk a little bit about this ‘sculpting presence through absence’ and how you know, in some of some of your works more specifically, some of your works more subtly. This play of absence-presence comes about.  

DH: I mean I do- I know how it sounds because I’ve been talking about images all the time until now-but actually I do see myself pretty much as a sculptor. So you know, I also studied with my professor Christian Boltanski, who was making installations and we would call him a painter. So I guess at some point it’s just about calling oneself the way we want to.  

But actual sculpting and sculptural gesture is completely the strategy and actually in terms of finding a form of what you are interested in. And of course, this notion of presence absence has been in some of the works. I mean, the absence of women in art history was at the core of several works of mine. So yes, in terms of absence becoming present in terms of becoming objects. Yes, most probably. 

I mean, I think you were also interested in this work. 

AA: Yes, for example, the other work was about the absence of women. The absence of women models the absence of the presence of women in men’s lives, men artist’s lives, let’s say. This one is about scientists, right? 

DH: So, I was invited a couple of years ago to create a piece for this quite interesting architecture, which is anatomical theater for vet students where animals would actually be shown and dissected at the late 19th century and it became an art space at the kind of between art and science, and I was invited to do a piece and to me it was very clear I could not just bring an artwork you know I could not just do “oh I’ve been doing this, I’m going to place it in that space. The site is too strong, and I wanted to react to the exhibition space and the history of the space, and I kind of automatically looked at who was not present on those benches when the anatomical theatre was actually being used, actively used as a place for teaching. And actually, the women were not allowed to sit there.   

Interestingly in Berlin, even though one believes this is a very progressive city, it was one of the cities that allowed the latest woman to study or have access to education. And then there are lots of different religious laws that actually occurred. So depending on your religion, you may or not have access to it. And this was you know, talking about like 1880, 1910 and so I went to some archives of the university because this building was part of the university and started looking at the hands behind the objects and looking at physics, especially and looking at who were actually the first woman to have entered that place. And I realized that most of them did not receive much attention so I brought together three different objects with three different women’s biography. The objects were reproduced in glass, enlarged and blown glass and three women biographies were actually one was Elsa Neumann, who was the first woman in Berlin who got the right to do a PhD in physics, of Lydia Rabinowitsch-Kempner, she actually is one of the women behind the research of tuberculosis, and Lisa Meitner, who we know for the atom fission and who didn’t receive the Nobel Prize because her assistant receives a novel prize later on. So actually, three women, all of them also Jewish. 

And I think that also there is another layer in that work that all of them actually got access to education yet could not practice of the basis of the gender and because they were also Jewish women. And I’ve decided to work on it. The work is actually a table. It’s been shown recently last week it opened in the space that is not original theater. It’s a glass table on which glass objects and ceramic objects are being reproduced and… I was interested in the glass because we believe that glass is very transparent but actually physically seen, the glass is not transparent. So what we believe is transparent in terms of visibility is actually if you put those objects into an X-ray, there would be opaque and I was interested in finding a material which was talking about speech and about the voices of women who were not finding echo in the history of science. So the blown glass is a process in which you really like you blow into the material. It’s really the beginning of almost creating a sentence, but then you seal it so there is each of the objects became a container if you want for speech to happen, and the work also includes a text, there is a performance, I mean, it says lots of different things, but at the end it’s very much about looking at those vessels and they also have something very gynecologically, they are phallic. 

I mean, you know one can understand them in lots of different ways as well, which I think is also part of it. But yes, that was very much about bringing those people those bodies present in that space, present in that in that space and then in that work. 

AA: I think in this work it’s very evident when you know you said in the beginning with this concern with form. There’s so much research there before you produce these objects and put them there, but the research is actually not something that is right in your face, there’s formal concerns there. What about maybe from this work, we can move on to a more recent work again, which has very much to do with absence-presence, gender, being seen, not seen, overseen, and also with how history is written, which is actually one of your main concerns. How, you know, information comes across, how we are told things just like you said there is visibility it seems, but there is also invisibility. So we talk about the uniforms, the installation in the Ravensbrück camp, it’s actually an artistic intervention into an already designed, quite a traditional exhibition space. So if you could tell us the whole story, because it’s very interesting.

DH: Perhaps I can just say some words about this place because we’re looking here at an image that is a house in which guards were living, guards of concentration camp which is an hour north of Berlin, and it was a woman’s concentration camp Ravensbrück, in which 120.000 women so it’s mostly a women camp even there was a small men camp. 120.000 women from 40 different places, nations were imprisoned between 1939 to 1945. Actually, some Turkish women were also there. Their stories are very interesting it’s something I will probably look into in some years and… It’s a place that is really dealing about history of violence inflicted to women but although inflicted to woman by woman because part of the concentrationary system was and that’s part of the Geneva Convention that was signed before the Second World War. If you imprison a woman, it has to be guarded by a woman so women where educated and trained to become guards, and guarded female prisoners, with what, you can imagine, specific degrees and exercise of violence from physical to emotional violence, psychological violence and actually Ravensbrück is a place that I’ve been connected to since 2005. And even before I did other projects there.  

The director of the memorial at that time, really believes that artists were important. [They hold] specific place as well within memorial politics. The fact that it’s a woman’s camp, means that woman history towards that camp. Also, as for many years not been properly funded, it’s mostly a group of women who’ve been behind the historical research, mostly a group of women who is working in the Memorial. So there’s a lot about gender specificity of that place.  

And she invited me 2017 to realize the work in this house, which is the house of the former guards. So you have eight houses in which the guards were living right next to the camp, right next to where those 100.000 of women were imprisoned and the idea was to have an artwork within a historical exhibition. I’ve decided to invite more artists because I did not feel I had a clue and the keys to actually look at perpetratorship at that time I felt that if one does a project an artistic intervention on the topic of perpetratorship one needs multi perspective, multi direction. One needs more people. One has to say that also like the female perpetrators, the female guards is something that has been for a long time completely not looked at and unlooked. Gender studies enabled to look at them and so several intervention were actually taking place in this one.  

AA: This is the one you exactly intervened. It’s also interesting that you know the museum director, you know who is, let’s say in charge of these of this camp area and who already organised a more conventional exhibition, and so they presented as a kind of memorial, it is a monument to those women who suffered during the Second World War. And then it’s interesting. I mean, it’s almost like visiting Auschwitz and questioning the visiting of Auschwitz. It’s also interesting that they would invite contemporary artists to question their way of representing history.  

DH: Well, she believes that artists can do things that historians are not able to. I mean, the memorial is a very politically driven place that every single move in the historical exhibition is, you know, every single sentence has been discussed for months by lots of different people to make sure that each victim is represented and so on and so forth. So it’s an extremely politically loaded place, a place of education where lots of kids lots of teenagers are going in order to learn about the camps about the Holocaust about the older victims that were there, and she believes in artists. 

But since the beginning, since the nineties, she actually felt that it was important and she was part of this group of women who were coming from gender studies, who were all feminist, all self-organized. Whereas the few women who were interested in the history of that specific place, I mean, we’re talking about 120.000 women, you know, coming from almost all around the world. And so, I think this is where feminist practices from another generation suddenly come into her own activities as a museum’s director. So she has invited lots of different artists throughout the years, and she wanted really to counteract specific expectations. She also really believes that art intervention in the historical context can actually sharpen details on things. It can put things in parallel to each other that are not possible for historians because history is about factual things.  

I can talk about some things through materials so for instance here, I was looking at the interior design of the flats in which the guards were living because all of them were living in extremely comfortable life, an extremely cosy life and they decorated their flats that shows in that case, the curtains, the motives of the curtains, and I basically, we reproduced some curtains together with the weaver that were based on historical photographs, private photographs from the guards in their apartment and placed them in different parts of the building showing different views that you may have from looking out and some parts would look directly at the entry gate of the camp, the other of the road in which the prisoners would be walking every day and the other through a more idyllic setting. And also thinking about the notion of performative notion of the curtain. You close it, or you look through it or you don’t. And [there were] also I think different weaving folds and defolds. 

So this was like the first of a three part work and that was the first things where I started actually looking more into perpetrators. And then there was this object that was also shown in the exhibition in the historical exhibition and a uniform of a guard in which we didn’t know if it was a fake or not a fake. And it was shown in the exhibition and I had a lot of question again. It was not an image which was an object, but I had a lot of question towards the caption and started putting a lot of effort thinking about exercises of violence by those women wearing the uniform, gender stereotypes, eroticization, pornographization of the women in uniform, especially the Nazi female perpetrators.  

Where they were represented, the way they were not talked about those women where most of them about 3.300 women were guards, 98 percent of them went back to civil life. They were not prosecuted. There is this on one hand and on the other hand this is an entire like fetishization and fantasies that happened after the war towards them so again spending lots of time weaving but also looking at the textile productions that took place in Ravensbrück because it has uniform production and then one work also took place from that, looking at the guards on trials, it was on invitation of Sonia who is in here right now in the audience, in which in this work I looked at the guards being put to court between 1945 and 1948.  

Actually, immediately after the end of the Second World War and how some of them, what was the language that was used by justice by the British military to talk about the crimes of women were committed where did commit and how easier is the physics, like the beauty of the guard, the deviance of the guard would be the argument to talk about them. 

So, it became as well like this notion of looking, the guard becoming a tool and a vessel to look at lots of different ways of representation of perpetrators and how we don’t want to think about a female perpetrator. And it’s very complicated to think about female perpetrators. But also thinking about what kind of rhetoric in terms of gender stereotypes is being used when we look at a perpetrator. So of course if a woman is crazy or a beast, but yes, we’re never going to look at her as a human being to start with. Yeah, this is also what those works actually this series of work because it’s going and being made at the moment is looking at.  

AA: I think it’s very interesting in terms of the idea of counter monument as well. You know the monument not as a stable fixed thing, but something that through this questioning you really are looking into that history without monumentalizing but looking back and I’m going to ask one last question. Maybe the audience would like to ask some questions as well.  

A lot of these works are, this work and the ones that we have seen; and you’re a very productive artist. It really is all about knowledge production, how knowledge comes across, how it is communicated, and contemporary art practice defies this. It really is another way of telling, I mean modern art practice with its stress on form, maybe is not another way of telling. Maybe that is also its arguable. But contemporary art practice, especially the kind that is based on a certain kind of research, is really very political. Very aware that there is a chance to shift how the audience thinks. Do you actually believe that your installations, the print matter the images that you bring forth, because a lot of it is also quite difficult at the same time for the audience to relate. Does contemporary art have this value, meaning power, do you really believe in the power of art to do that? Obvious question, but I’m still going to ask.  

DH: I mean yes, it’s super complicated and I think honestly, the more I’ve been working on this uniform for instance, with the Memorial having a workplace outside of the art world of the art institution being put into a memorial exhibition into a historical exhibition, suddenly you know what has to think completely differently in terms of language and code. Despite of course the complexity of the work itself, but that for me suddenly became, or helped me put my practice or place my practice in a very clear political field. Here I’m just showing an image of my latest book artists books that looked at the taxonomy of museum making in the U.S. in Washington. And when I presented the book in New York last year, the museum director came and say, “Oh, we’re so grateful you’re making this book because no one actually looked at the history of a museum and we have no, we actually all you’ve gathered, we’ve never been able to put it together.” So yeah, I actually believe that there are some artists and practices can play a role. I think without naming it necessarily like political as first, but as one of the aspects that is being carried through the work. Yes, I believe so. I think this is where art should be fostered as well. I think this is exactly where we need art to be, especially today. And yes. 

AA: Yeah, I agree. Thank you very much.