»Are my hands clean?« raises the title-giving question, which can apply equally to the artist and the visitors of the exhibition. In her work, Rajkamal Kahlon deals with history from a postcolonial perspective.
The artist challenges testimonies from the past, especially language and images. She subjects them to a change of perspective, trying to create an awareness of the respective contexts in which they were created. Kahlon is interested how hierarchies and power structures are inscribed in images from archives that we (re)produce and consume. With her overpaintings and pictorial transformations, the artist examines which identity-creating and political implications are associated with such staged images.
»Recently I have come to think that the photographic and textual traces of people I encounter in colonial archives, are in fact still alive and are asking something from us. I’ve come to think that my work is really one of rehabilitation, transformation and restoration of the humanity, dignity and beauty of the people I find in the archives I work with.«
Books play a central role in the artist’s body of work. For Rajkamal Kahlon, these are not only carriers of knowledge, but also of pictorial expression. The exhibition »Are my hands clean?« features a wallpaper that picks up on a book cover and references these connections. Books are manifestations of power relations on which the artist works.
By cutting up and taking apart a book, rearranging the pages and overpainting them, history is also overwritten and rewritten. In the exhibition Kahlon shows a series of new paintings based on portraits of women from the 1904 book »Die Rassenschönheit des Weibes« by Carl Heinz Stratz. The pictures are created in an artistic process that superimposes photography, text and life-size painting. The gallery’s second exhibition space transforms itself into a powerful archive consisting of 300 drawings that form the project »Die Völker der Erde«, based on the book of the same name by Kurt Lambert from 1902.
07.12.2019 at 4 pm: Exhibition tour with the artist Rajkamal Kahlon and curator Nataša Ilić
16.01.2020 at 7 pm: Talk with artist Rajkamal Kahlon and writer and cultural theorist Ana Teixeira Pinto