Pressemitteilung vom 11.10.2019

Spectral-White. The Appearance of Colonial-Era Europeans

Kanon-Fragen | Spectral-White

Exhibition: Nov 1, 2019-Jan 6, 2020
Opening; Oct 31, 2019, 7 pm
Press tour: Oct 31, 2019, 5 pm

Accreditation requested:

Spectral-White. The Appearance of Colonial-Era Europeans presents an incomplete but extended reconstruction of a collection of objects assembled by the Cologne ethnologist Julius Lips (1895-1950). The collection raises questions about violence and appropriation, cultural symbolization and resistance. At the same time, the exhibition questions racist projections and the blind spots that continue to make it difficult to escape the matrix of the white gaze.

In 1937, while in exile in the United States, Julius Lips published his book The Savage Hits Back in which addressed the outside perceptions of European culture with explicitly anti-racist intentions. The then director of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne was one of the few German ethnologists who refused to work in the service of Nazi ideology, and was forced to leave Germany in 1934. In the objects and photographs, Lips recognized a form of realism superior to European art, but also anti-colonial satire and caricature. Lips’s assertion of a resistive reversal of the hierarchies of the colonial gaze and its culturally critical implications appear highly questionable, however, as many of the objects shown in the exhibition were produced for white buyers.

Like the overwhelming majority of European researchers, Lips largely perceived non-Western art as an expression of collectives, therefore leaving the artists unnamed in his book. The biographies of two artists whose works Lips depicts in his book will be presented in this exhibition. Through the sales of their art, Tommy McRae (Southwest Australia, circa 1835-1901) and Thomas Onajeje Odulate (Lagos, Nigeria, circa 1880- 1952) had room to maneuver in times of immense colonial oppression of indigenous culture and ways of life.

In the preface to his book, Lips drew parallels between the history of systematic oppression through colonization and his own deprivation of rights by the German fascists and designed a dystopian vision of the future that saw fascism as the spawn of imperialism and colonialism. On this basis, the exhibition explores historical philosophy theories that see the boomerang-like return of colonial violence as an essential driving force for twentieth century European fascism.

Curated by Anna Brus in collaboration with Anselm Franke

An academic companion volume, edited by Anna Brus (Universität Siegen) in collaboration with the RJM and HKW, will be published in fall 2019 by Reimer Verlag.

Part of Kanon-Fragen, supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media due to a ruling of the German Bundestag
In cooperation with the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Cultures of the World (RJM), Cologne
Haus der Kulturen der Welt is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as well as by the Federal Foreign Office.

Press contact
Anne Maier
Head of Press
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
+49 30 39787 153/196