In his multi-part cycle of paintings The Division of the Earth, Dierk Schmidt deals with historical guilt and its legal reappraisal using colonialism as an example. His point of departure is the Berlin Africa Conference of 1884/85, at which fourteen states from Europe and the United States met in Berlin to draw up a set of rules to govern their territorial interests on what they considered to be the largely unowned African continent. The general act signed there provided the basis for the subsequent occupation of the continent by the European imperial powers. This land grab, the consequences of which are still felt today, was linked to the exploitation of natural resources and the expropriation and subjugation of the local population. Between 1904 and 1908, military personnel of the German Empire committed genocide against the Herero and Nama in Namibia, whose recognition and associated reparations led to still open legal disputes between these groups and the Federal Republic. This case forms a center of Schmidt’s work.
In his pictures, the artist explores the question of how the relationship between the factual legal documents and their brutal consequences can be transferred to the visual realm. In order to distance himself from the colonial rhetoric of the texts, he developed his own two-part sign system for this purpose, in which the abstract language of laws is graphically transported into the abstraction of painting as well as the concretion of the painting material silicone used.