PROJECT DESCRIPTION: My project ultimately is a memorial to the fallen obelisk, "Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument" (Monument for Strangers and Refugees) by Olu Oguibe.
I became familiar with the shifting situation around "Das Fremdlinge und Flüchtlinge Monument" (Monument for Strangers and Refugees) while attending Saas-Fee Summer Institute, 2018. Olu came and spoke at the Institute about his work and, in particular the movement of the right-wing German political group AfD, and their actions to dismantle the obelisk piece.
Initially, I was struck by the seemingly simple gesture of Olu’s obelisk, how a quote from the Bible, in solemn form, could have stirred such a backlash. The city of Kassel has just removed the monument,at the behest of the AfD, , in secret, unbeknownst to Olu. It’s future was in flux.
I wanted to capture the obelisk in this loaded moment, while it was stored in the Kassel city storage facility, hidden, in the mud, in pieces. The work was in a state of brokenness and flux, a new form that mirrored the meaning but in a totally unplanned way by Olu. Drawing mixed with installation became my methodology to explore this indeterminate state.
For the drawings, I chose to use the process of rubbing (frottage) for the mark making. The rubbings were done on each side of the obelisk, capturing the engraved text in German, English, Arabic, and Turkish. Using the frottage technique, for me, conveys a sense of memorial and as the obelisk was displaced, in-situ. I spent a week meditatively making the rubbings, it was a solemn activity, and it was very personal.
The second half of the project was to install the drawings around Germany, in particular Berlin, a locale that spoke to the dark history of anti-immigrant policy and the “othering” of humanity. I chose 5 sites that speak to this history and/or current contemporary political issues around migration. The work connects the history of forced migration to the present situation (in all its dark corners) of anti-immigrant rhetoric. My gesture to conflate the AfD’s actions, to locales in Berlin of similar ethos, was to link the past to the present. I also thought it important that the gesture be made from a descendant of the last expelled group from Germany, the diasporatic Jew, a stark reminder of the on going cycle.
Video: Memorializing the memorial through drawing. Capturing the fall of "A Monument to Strangers and Refugees" by Olu Oguibe