• ArtistDierk Schmidt
  • TitleThe Division of the Earth (Kasseler Serie / Kassel Series)
  • Year of Origin2005
  • GenreInstallation
  • Technique and DimensionAcrylic, silicone on canvas, oil on canvas, three engravings, table with accompanying text materials on which the tableaux are based, historical documents and legal material, dimensions variable
  • Technique and Duration13:16 Min.
  • Erwerbungsjahr2019

© Dierk Schmidt, Die Teilung der Erde (Salzburger Serie), Ausstellungsansicht, Hello World. Revision einer Sammlung, 2018

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.

Orange paintings depict the French language agreements of the Acte Général and the process of disenfranchisement of the African population. In contrast, white paintings illustrate the resistance and the legal arguments in the concrete case of the Herero and Nama representatives. An official apology from the Federal Republic of Germany is still pending. Finally, a table placed in the space behind the paintings gathers the historical sources as well as political and legal documents to which the paintings refer.

Through the reduction of color and motif, The Division of the Earth opens up a pictorial space in which the structural violence of colonialism is revealed. In addition, the paintings make it clear how legal strategies of empowerment could be created out of a (in)legal system, which are still implicit in it today.

A later version of the work, Die Teilung der Erde / The Division of the Earth (Kasseler Serie / Kassel Series), 2007, was shown as part of the exhibition Hello World. Revision of a Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin.