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Guilt and Debts, 2018

Retrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia

The retrospective held by the Museo Reina Sofía assembles some of Schmidt’s most ambitious projects. In The Division of the Earth (2005) — two series of large-scale canvases on the division of Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884 — the structural violence targeted at the African continent is represented in a system of diagrams and chromatic codes to render the real effects of abstract, political and economic strategies in specific territories and communities.

In Schmidt’s view, colonial greed stems from capitalism, and he reflects on its destruction of the environment and its instability and alienation in Think It All – Untitled – Run Away (1995) and McJob (1997). Similarly, colonialism is manifested in a certain way of exhibiting ethnographic objects and in resistance towards restitution, which grants continuity to colonial mental structures. Since 2009, Schmidt has realised this institutional critique in actions with the activist collective Artefakte, and in works such as Berlin Castle Ghosts (2002–2004), thus calling out the contradiction implicit in the German authorities’ reconstruction of an 18th-century imperial palace to be used as a museum of world cultures.

Museum devices are revised in the series Broken Windows (2013–in progress), where the artist cites this ubiquitous support in museums to allude to the decontextualization and fetishism of the ethnographic object, and to the decline of experience, in which these glass structures, painted by Schmidt, remain frames and frameworks through scratches and perforations, referring at once to the colonial practices of plundering and initiatives of resistance and restitution.

Dierk Schmidt’s oeuvre can be defined as a continual exercise of updating and relocating, and he is always mindful of the contexts providing the backdrop for his artistic practice. Consequently, for the exhibition Guilt and Debts he has devised a site-specific project related to the role of the Palacio de Velázquez — where the show is displayed – directly after it was built in 1883 and in view of its housing, in 1887, part of the monographic exhibition of the Philippines, Mariana and Caroline Islands, before becoming the Biblioteca y Museo de Ultramar (the Museum-Library of the Overseas). Moreover, Schmidt brings to the fore another time in Spain’s colonial history: the early years of the Franco regime and its imperialist ideology via collections amassed from the Sahara by archaeologist Julio Martínez Santa-Olalla.

Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dirck Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores
Dierk Schmidt, Guilt and Debts, restrospective show at Museo Reina Sofia, 2018, photo by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

text by Museo Reina Sofia
photos by Museo Reina Sofía. Joaquín Cortés / Román Lores

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Dierk Schmidt

Dierk Schmidt, born in Unna, Germany, in 1965, studied art history and visual arts in Düsseldorf and Amsterdam. He takes on the genre of history painting to investigate politics of representation, critically redescribing the production of the historical past and present. Dierk Schmidt has repeatedly worked on issues of colonial history, on restitution politics, international law, and on abstraction in painting, a main project being “The Division Of The Earth“ for documenta 12 in 2007. His analytical approach makes use of painting’s conceptual methods, self-reflexive on the issue of painting and capable of rationalizing representational gaps.



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