POEMS OF NON-BELONGING
Stephen Kofi Adu-Sanyah
Gabriele Maria Adu-Sanyah née Schlüter
two black and white prints
70 cm x 50 cm each
In 2016 my father became a victim of a tragic surgical mistake related to racial bias that caused hospital staff to believe that regardless of his age (he was almost 70 at that time), he had enough stamina to get through prostate surgery without blood transfusion. It turned out that he did not have enough stamina, and the staff’s decision brought about a blood loss of almost 70% that resulted in severe damage to his nervous system. A few days later, the breakdown led to my father losing his eyesight. Since then, he never recovered from the loss and lives as a blind man in his apartment near Frankfurt. Although divorced, my mother took care of him and supported him in finding legal justice for almost five years.
deerskin, light-sensitive silver chlorobromide emulsion
approximately 40 cm x 40 cm
Deerskin coated with light-sensitive chlorobromide emulsion,
exposed with a black-and-white negative of a macro photograph of my skin. Developed, fixed, rinsed, and dried.
Then repeatedly partly soaked, folded, and dried.
1 m2 bourette silk, light-sensitive silver chlorobromide emulsion, white thread
approx. 20 x 20 x 20 cm
Roughly one square meter of 140gr/m bourette silk coated with light-sensitive chlorobromide emulsion, then exposed multiple times with a black-and-white negative of a macro photograph of my skin. Soaked in the developer, then fixed, soaked in water, dried, folded, crumpled, loosely kept in shape with white thread. Photographic emulsion is highly vulnerable, leading to a landscape of unevenly distributed scars, reminiscent of my own body. The wounds my skin has made space for are there to stay, as I am prone to hyperpigmentation, and my skin needs years to heal from even the tiniest damage.
Piezography Pro print between glass
105 x 65 x 0.4 cm
2020 Wilhelm Schlüter was Obergefreiter in the Wehrmacht’s Luftwaffe during World War II. He died in Germany after being unable to recover from war captivity in Russia. The original hand-sized vintage silver gelatin print is marked with ‘1933/1934’ and ‘Holland’ on the back. It is part of a family archive, but this particular portrait of my great-grandfather has been haunting me for years. Is this a man I could have had a conversation with? Would he have been interested in knowing what concerns me? What does it mean to be family, to be familiar? There is a fondness in me towards this man that seems deeply contradictory. The large-format reproduction of this photograph serves as a tool of connection that allows for moving beyond the function of mere representation of a historical moment.
white gaze II black square
light-sensitive glossy baryta paper exposed with white light
100 cm x 100 cm
A sheet of light-sensitive glossy paper exposed with pure white light, developed, fixed, rinsed, dried, scrunched, and re-flattened. Through reflection, the irregular surface of the black image produces dozens of white areas depending on the point of view.In June 2020, global protests against police brutality against Black people and People of Color were triggered by the case of the white police officer Derek Chauvin murdering the African-American man George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds on the 25th of May in Minneapolis. Thousands of black tiles with the hashtag #blackouttuesday were posted on Instagram in the name of solidarity – also by Swiss cultural institutions. The morning I logged into Instagram again after some deliberate days of absence, I felt sick in my stomach. The feed of eternal blackness made me throw up. My brain could not grasp the vast discrepancy of the graphic murder so many of us had witnessed through mainstream media versus the trivial reactivity it had triggered on social media as a means for selfish representation, disguised as left-leaning solidarity. Had anyone posting questioned how the receiving end would be affected? No. Instead of imagining how someone's feed would appear, the focus was on one's own, supposedly singular action. 'Mach mal halblang.' (German for 'give me a break.'), 'this is my own journey.', and 'one step to generate awareness doesn't exclude other actions.' were some of the replies I received from white people after I had expressed discontent in the form of a 'think before you post.'-comment.
colors of woman I
vertical video piece
8 min 45 sec, no sound, size variable
One drop of black ink slowly dilutes a body of water. Different shapes are formed throughout the process, transforming into more even texture. A thorough homogenization of the two liquids is never achieved. On the left, you can see six stills from the video piece. The first and last still selected equal the first and last frame of the piece. The One Drop Rule was a U.S.-American law passed in 1911 in Arkansas, that made interracial engagement a crime. It considered every person with any percentage of African blood as Black and thus inferior. The law disappeared in 1975, but the negative perception of biracial children remained within a society that was built on white supremacy:
not a crow, not in a gallery
silver gelatin print
24 x 18 cm
2019/2020 A raven on display during the MY GARDEN OF EDEN exhibition at gallery Christophe Guye in 2019. The bird was not a piece from a partic-ipating artist, but a decorative object borrowed from a taxidermist. It was photographed through the window from outside. Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. Named after a Black minstrel show character, the laws – which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968 – were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities.