Der Anti Humboldt

After the resolution of the Bundestag in 2002 and the completed demolition of the "Palace of the Republic" in 2008, the new construction of the Berlin City Palace, including the Humboldt Forum planned inside it, is taking shape – until now largely unnoticed by the general public.

The Humboldt Forum is to house parts of the Central and Regional Library Berlin and the scientific collections of the adjacent Humboldt University, but above all so-called non-European art and culture. The palace façade symbolizes the lost and regained unity of Germany, the national centre, as well as the "golden age" of Prussianism that now becomes a post-separation-historical gap stopper. The plan is to transfer objects of the so-called non-European art and culture back to the place where, from the 17th century on, they once formed the beginnings of the collection: in the curiosity cabinet of the Hohenzollern palace. But exactly this point in time of the Baroque Schlüterhof from the 17th century marks the era of Brandenburger-Prussian transatlantic slave trade. The last palace construction activities under Wilhelm II took place during the phase of coordinating, accelerating and legalizing the Berlin Africa Conference, summoned under Bismarck, at which the regulations regarding the division of Africa between the European imperial powers were decided upon. The non-European and ethnological collections, then, will be placed in a building that is congruent with the colonial and academically hegemonic collection history.

Precisely in such a context, of all places, cultural treasures from around the world are to demonstrate cosmopolitanism. Non-European artefacts are made an instrument of national and European self-assurance under the cloak of the "cultural nation". This term also stems from the spirit of the 19th century, when the so-called "land of poets and thinkers" hoped to "peacefully" colonise the world by exporting culture. Yet instead of reflecting on such a term, the "cultural nation" is today being conjured again. German cultural expertise is in demand abroad, and German institutions like the German United Museums are at the service of an anti-Israeli feudal state and tax haven (Dubai) while simultaneously claiming to be cosmopolitan at the price of abandoning democracy.

At the same time, attempts are made to politically link up with a new European cosmopolitanism that as "Fortress Europe" is developing increasingly repressive migration policies against persons of non-European origin. The exhibits are presented in places in which their producers have no right of residence. This is accompanied by a migration policy that selects according to direct economic usefulness, while simultaneously massively intervening in the personal rights of individuals with a precarious residence permit status, created by the racist, special legislation of the aliens law.

In the museums in Dahlem, too, numerous objects exist that are known to have been violently appropriated or purchased from illegitimate traders. For example, close to half of the bronzes stolen by the British in Benin in 1897 came in possession of German museums and several private collections: 580 for Berlin. The demand to return these artefacts, raised by several descendents of inhabitants of the Kingdom of Benin, is ignored. The historicizing facade and the ties thus established with the 19th century obscure the breaks that the 20th century has left in the history of German supremacy. Which "productive" relations, and for whom, are to be conceivable here, when under the demonstration of cosmopolitanism (world art), under the emphasis on the (state) reformational aspects of Prussianism (Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, Wilhelm II), and under the declaration of democracy and humanism both political recognition and the historical dimension are eliminated?

Alexandertechnik is a network of freelance artists, activists and academics rejecting both the reconstruction of the palace and the currently circulating concept of the Humboldt Forum.

Members of the group include: Alice Creischer, Andreas Siekmann, Christian von Borries, Dierk Schmidt, Kerstin Stakemeier, Johannes Paul Räther, Lotte Arndt, Robert Burghardt, Sandra Schäfer, Tabea Metzel, John Dunn, Susanne Leeb, Karin Rebbert, Sophie Goltz, Brigitta Kuster, Max Hinderer, Regina Sarreiter et al.

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