MONILOLA OLAYEMI ILUPEJU


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Wayward Dust


45 min.
2020
Performance at Deutsches Technikmuseum in collaboration with Decolonize Berlin

On August 23, 2020, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, I debuted Wayward Dust, a performative intervention in which I collected all of the dust inside of the highly criticised and problematic Brandenburg-Prussian Slave Trade installation at the Deutsches Technik Museum, which was on view for 17 years.

The performance was part of a larger project developed in collaboration with Decolonize Berlin, with another separate performance by Philip Kojo Metz. The project took up the difficult task of taking down an installation designed by Hans-Jürgen Buchert, a white German sculptor, in the 90’s that rendered an inaccurate representation of the inside of a slave trade cargo ship. The installation was situated within Lifeworld Ship, the Navigation and Shipping Department of the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, with the intentions of introducing the history of the Brandenburg-Prussian slave trade and contextualizing the booming shipping economy within the framework of colonialism. The installation contains 82 life-sized figurines placed behind a metal cage, depicting representations of black people in humiliating and inaccurate ways. The installation was open to the public for 17 years and was publicly criticized for the last several years by a diverse set of voices. Yet, it closed officially just under one year ago, after I successfully demanded its immediate closure upon the initiation of the project.

The main goal of the performance Wayward Dust was to make visible the physical and intangible particles and processes within dust and within the work of reality-building. Further, it was a meditation on decay. Dust consists of sloughed off dead skin cells (among other particles like hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, dust mites, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic), which covers the styrofoam figurines. Every time someone experiences the installation, they leave a piece of themselves behind. The dust is a residue that has been created by the visitors, employees, and workers—and many non-human agents—of the museum over the past 17 years. Next to this record of presence, it also holds the shapeshifting temporal nature of colonial practices.

The residue from the performance, including the dust and supplies, a full live stream, and an ever-changing installation was present in Eve of Intuition, a process-oriented solo exhibition and residency at The Institute for Endotic Research (TIER). During my presence at TIER, I used the exhibition space as a studio and casual meeting space to explore ideas related to intuition and uncover strategies to disrupt the flow of maintenance of oppressive systems, through interdisciplinary means.

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Journal Entry, September 4, 2020

"Typically at the end of a performance I feel a huge emotional release, but not this time. I feel like I’m still holding something.

I’m thinking about decay.

I am thinking about the collected dust from said performance, which now sits in a vitrine in my studio.

I am thinking about how cleaning is usually seen as an act of reproductive labor because as one cleans, they are preparing a space for the conditions for life to be created or maintained. But I wonder what it means to clean a space that will soon after (and rightfully) be destroyed. How can gestures of reproductive and unproductive labor be weaponised against the constructed realities and oppressive value hierarchies that allowed an installation like the one at the Deutsches Technikmuseum to exist for over 17 years, along with so many other violent acts like the one it failed to commemorate and contextualize?

Anyway. Maybe unproductive labor can also be reproductive. You are preparing something for its demise so that new life can take its place. I see a glimmer of beauty there, but not 100% sure. Still processing, recovering
."
~

Thank you to everyone who made the performance and celebration of the renaming of M*Straße festival possible, it was a deeply rewarding day

📸Credit: SDTB / Hattendorf