Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City announce the fourth open call for the Dekoloniale Berlin Residency 2024 in collaboration with Contemporary And (C&). We invite artists, architects, designers, directors, photographers, fashion designers or urban practitioners to apply for a residency at Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City of Berlin.
As in the three previous editions, applicants are invited to uncover and transform historical colonial stratifications and dominant narratives in Berlin’s public space. In 2024, Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City will focus on Berlin’s historic center and adjacent North Side, thus examining in depth the city districts of Berlin-Mitte with an emphasis on the neighborhood of Berlin-Wedding.
Dekoloniale Berlin Residency 2024:
Colonial Ghosts – Resistant Spirits: Church, Colonialism and beyond
The European colonialism was strongly linked to the dogma of the Christian churches. The ideology of the superiority of Christianity over other creeds – especially over non-monotheistic, religious systems of the Global South – legitimized the political, military and epistemic subjugation of non-Christians worldwide as well as their conversion. European Christian military priests blessed the ships and armies that set sail for the Americas, Africa, Asia and Polynesia in order to enslave and / or subjugate people and appropriate their land and possessions. Christian missionaries usually led the colonial penetration together with traders and soldiers, before the colonial administrators and settlers were to follow.
In 1884/85, Germany occupied large territories in Africa in today’s Togo, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. In the late 1890s, possessions in East Asia and the Pacific were added. After those colonial empires of Britain, France, and the Netherlands, Germany was the fourth largest colonial empire at the time.
In 2024 Dekoloniale will closely collaborate with the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin (Berlin City Museum) as its institutional partner. The Berlin City Museum operates a number of museum sites in central Berlin – the Märkisches Museum (Museum of the Mark of Brandenburg) being its foundational museum – however, we opted for its Museum Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), Berlin’s oldest church building which now houses a museum as the focal site in the context of the Dekoloniale Berlin Residency 2024. From their exhibited works in this central exhibition site the three residents will draw the connecting lines to one of three location options, in Berlin-Mitte (Berlin-Center) where they will artistically intervene in the public sphere.
Themes / Sites of the Artist Residencies
1. The Nikolaikirche as central exhibition site of the Dekoloniale Berlin Residency 2024
The Nikolaikirche is located in the historic center of Berlin and dates back to the 13th century. The basement floors of the double tower are made of fieldstone and are considered to be the oldest preserved rooms in Berlin. The Nikolaikirche was not only a place of Christian faith and a burial place for rich and influential Berlin families. It was also a council church (the city’s main church) and the scene of historical events.
However, the history of the Nikolaikirche as a site of Prussian-Brandenburg colonialism and enslavement trade has been completely underrepresented and barely told. The Nikolaikirche is to be re-examined in the exhibition of the three Dekoloniale Artist residents 2024 from a decolonial perspective as an entangled place of colonialism, religion, politics and history-making of the Brandenburg-Prussian and Berlin citizenry.
The church is home to the tomb of Carl Constantin von Schnitter (1657-1721), who, as the engineer/builder and commander of the Groß-Friedrichsburg fortress in present-day Ghana, was a representative and central actor of Berlin-Brandenburg colonialism and the transatlantic enslavement trade. A further interesting example is the tomb of the 17th Century Berlin entrepreneur and politician Johann Andreas Kraut who is also buried in Nikolaikirche. The graves of many other Berlin citizens, whose biographies have been little or not at all researched and who have to be questioned about their colonial connections, are also located here.
1.1 The Subway Station Afrikanische Straße in Berlin’s African Quarter
One exhibition unit is planned for the Subway Station Afrikanische Straße and its surrounding African Quarter, Berlin’s former colonial district, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2024.
With its contemporary safari wall design, the Afrikanische Straße subway station is a site that testifies vividly to the continued existence of persistent colonial fantasies of a wild, uninhabited African continent without culture and history – waiting to be developed by Europeans.
In the course of European colonialist occupation policies from the 15th century onwards, the pattern of defining conquered territories as nobody’s land and undescribed nature (terra nullius), whereby the people living there were incorporated as nature people, continued to be a central topos in the colonial penetration in the Americas, Africa and parts of South-East Asia and Oceania in the following centuries, right up to the imperial 19th century. Through this positioning, Indigenous societies were denied a claim to (rule over) their own lands. As any resistance was met with violence, indigenous societies and their religions, cultures and languages were annihilated in many global sites. In this way, the assumption that indigenous people had no culture or religion was both created and materialized. African, Black and African-diasporic creatives and activists in particular have vehemently resisted the European invisibilization and / or caricaturization of African cultures and religions.
In the framework of the Dekoloniale Berlin residency 2024 the 14 large scale tiled animal and landscape images at the subway station Afrikanische Straße should be challenged, commented on, contextualized and deconstructed by the resident’s intervention. Dekoloniale has made enquiries to the Berlin transport authorities about the possibility of a fundamental change to these murals, and is currently awaiting a response, obtaining such a permit seems somewhat unlikely, though.
1.2 Colonial Asian and Polynesian Street Names in Berlin-Wedding
In 1897, the Chinese bay of Jiaozhou (German: Kiautschou) was occupied by German troops. The murder of two German missionaries on 1 November 1897 south of Shandong Province had served as a pretext for the invasion. A year later, the ruling Qing dynasty leased the bay to the German Empire for 99 years. Following this, members of the German Empire built a base, which was intended to serve as a military and economic demonstration of the power, prestige and influence of the German Empire in Asia as the model colony of Kiautschou. Three street names in the neighborhood of Berlin-Wedding reference German colonialism in Asia and Polynesia: Pekinger Platz, Kiautschoustraße and Samoastraße. All were named in 1905 during German colonial occupation. The naming occurred shortly after the brutal suppression of the anti-colonial Chinese resistance movement Yìhétuán Yùndòng – referred to as the Boxer War by Europeans – as a reminder of the supposed heroic deeds of the German imperial troops and their seven imperial Western allies. A prime example of the German colonial mindset is the so-called Hun Speech, held by the German emperor Wilhelm II in the port town Bremerhaven on 27 July 1900, when he sent German soldiers off to China to crush the anti-colonial resistance. The Dekoloniale resident intervention here can be developed in synergy / close proximity to experts and activists from the Asian communities in Berlin who will develop a historic intervention in the framework of Dekoloniale 2024.
1.3 The Berlin Conference
November 15th, 2024 marks the 140th anniversary of the start of the historic Berlin Conference (also: Congo Conference) of 1884/85. Germany was a colonial late-comer. Only after German unification in 1871, which replaced the thirty-eight sovereign German states with a unified nation-state under the leadership of Prussia and Chancellor Bismarck, did the acquisition of colonies emerge as a realizable political project. When serious colonial policy tensions arose between the major European powers England, France and Russia in 1883, Bismarck decided on a more active colonial policy: In the fall and winter of 1884/85, Chancellor Bismarck and the French foreign minister Jules Ferry jointly received the representatives of the 14 leading global powers in the palace of the Imperial Chancellor (Palais des Reichskanzlers) in Wilhelmstraße in Berlin-Mitte. With the Berlin Conference the German Reich joined the circle of colonial powers. The Berlin Conference formalized the scramble for European possessions in Africa and their economic exploitation: Originally, in the framework of the Berlin Conference only the borders of the Congo Free State in Central Africa were to be confirmed by the European rivals for the colonial division of Africa. As a result, the Belgian King Leopold II was granted personal sovereignty over the Congo Free State, which brought him immense wealth and where he established one of the most cruel and violent colonial regimes. In addition to these regulations, which gave the conference its widespread name, regularia were laid down on how to prevent or resolve the conflicts that had arisen or were beginning to emerge amongst the colonial stakeholders in the course of industrial developments in Europe and North America due to the opening up of new sources of raw materials and the creation of markets on the African continent.
Colonial expansion was ideologically justified and legitimized with a European sense of mission and presumed civilizing mission. The associated construction of one’s own superiority with the simultaneous devaluation of colonized societies is based on a constructed fundamental difference between colonizers and colonized, which is characterized by a racialized hierarchy and forms a central element of colonialism. The Berlin conference is also seen as the beginning of European development policy towards Africa. At the conference, the European states for the first time formulated a joint ‘development mandate’ towards Africa.
Germany’s formal colonial rule ended with the loss of all its colonies after Germany’s defeat in the First World War. However, the German colonial aspiration to regain their colonies continued well into the Weimar years and surged especially under national socialist rule, when a neocolonial propaganda machine was implemented.
For the last 20 years African, Black and African-diasporic groups and individuals have demanded that Berlin should establish a memory site or monument at the historic site of the Berlin Conference, in order to honor and remember the African victims / resistance fighters of / against European enslavement and colonialism. Annually around February 25th – the closing date of the 1884/85 Berlin Conference – a protest march underscores this demand.
The historic site of the Berlin Conference of 1884/85 which is now the project space of Dekoloniale Memory Culture in the City in Wilhelmstr. 92 lends itself to artistic interventions in the project space itself or on the walkway and terrace in front of it. Our own Dekoloniale [Re]presentations team will curate a historic window exhibition in our project space – the artistic intervention of the Dekoloniale Residency could thus go into resonance with this historic exhibit in the same space.
Your Options & Choices
The Dekoloniale residencies 2024 creatively connect contemporary art devoted to social change with historic moments in political activism, highlighting activities that seek to motivate broad and diverse publics. Exploring the complexity and possibility of artistic interventions in range, and impact of these artistic practices – including installation, photography, video/film, sound, projection, sculpture, painting, (fashion)design – the residencies are expected to expand over their course within this unique and dynamic framework.
Your Dekoloniale Artist Residency applications can focus on either:
- Nikolaikirche + Subway Station »Afrikanische Straße« (African Street) and the African Quarter
- Nikolaikirche + Colonial Asian and Polynesian Street names (Kiautschoustr./Samoa Street/Beijing Square)
- Nikolaikirche + The Berlin Conference / Wilhelmstraße
The three selected residents are expected to create artistic interventions in the main site (Nikolaikirche) linked to a site in the public sphere (Option A, B or C) and present them in the framework of the Dekoloniale Festival and the Dekoloniale exhibits on November 14-17, 2024.
The residents are encouraged to consider hybrid modes of thought, research, and practice. We favor forms of expression that expand disciplinary boundaries. In the context of the residency works at Nikolaikirche we encourage bold, larger scale interventions.
The residents are free to set their own artistic foci within the given framework of Colonial Ghosts – Resistant Spirits: Church, Colonialism and Beyond.
(Find a Handout of further supporting Questions here)
Speakers of all mother tongues are encouraged to apply, however please note that the three residents are expected to be able to communicate and collaborate in English. The residents are provided with travel costs, accommodation and a per diem in Berlin throughout the residency period, a production budget for the implementation of the project, and a fee.
The selected residents will have full access to the Dekoloniale project space, receive curatorial guidance and production support. Participation in the twice weekly Dekoloniale workshop series and consulting session schedule is mandatory.
The preparation for the Dekoloniale Residency will already begin on and after March 7, 2024, when active cooperation of the selected residents is required in order to enable the official permit application process for the urban interventions and in order to facilitate visa application processes (where applicable). Therefore only apply if you are available to communicate and contribute reliably in the months prior.
The production of the residency works in Berlin will take place within the period of 6 months (from mid-May to mid-November 2024), with a public presentation on November 14-17, 2024 in the framework of the Dekoloniale Festival 2024. We expect to show the residency art works for a couple of months (tbd). For the running time of the shows, rights of use for the art works and associated images (such as photos) will be asked for by the Stiftung Stadtmuseum.
How to Apply
Applicants submit their application to email@example.com:
- A short motivation letter (max. 1 page)
- A short description and visualization detailing your planned project (max. 1 page)
- A 3-liner summary of your project, that concisely summarizes its essentials
- estimate production budgets (please prepare two budget versions: one over max. 5.000 € and one over max. 10.000 €) in EURO
- CV (max. 2 pages)
- Portfolio (max. 10 pages – 5MB)
The application process is entirely online. Please note that only complete applications containing all the documents listed can be considered.
Proposals will be evaluated on the following criteria: Their relevance to the tasks as described above, the contribution of the proposed project to the field of decolonial artistic practice; on its aesthetic merit – either as a form of knowledge or aspect of design and their feasibility.