Comments on the art and research project ‘The division of the earth: tableaux on the legal synopses of the Berlin Africa conference’

Dierk Schmidt and Malte Jaguttis


Is pictorial language able to convey a juridical abstraction? This co-authored text addresses that question in the context of the geo-political division of Africa after the Berlin Africa Conference (Congo Conference), as a means to conceptualise colonial rule in 1884/85 – and its manifold grave consequences – as a historical by-product of Europe’s political and aesthetic modernity. Is there any value in representing the image of genocide, (while acknowledging the ‘impossibility’ of its representation)? With these issues in mind, lawyer Malte Jaguttis and artist Dierk Schmidt offer a commentary based on their project, ‘The division of the earth — Tableaux on the legal synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference’.


Berlin Africa Conference, Congo Conference, South West Africa, Germany, Herero People’s Reparations Corporation, division of the earth, post-colonialism, abstraction

Full text: Schmidt_Jaguttis_p.113-120 (PDF, 834 KB)


Biographical note

Dierk Schmidt (born 1965) is a Berlin-based artist and author. He is guest advisor and conducts workshops at various universities, among others the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Scools and the Berlin Weißensee School of Art. His solo exhibitions have included: Ich weiß was … was du nicht weißt … – When opinion becomes an occasion for calculation, Kunstraum objectif […], Antwerpen, 2003; SIEV-X – On a Case of Intensified Refugee Politics, or Géricault and the Question Concerning the Construction of History, Städel Museum, Frankfurt/Main, 2009; and IMAGE LEAKS – On the Image Politics of Resources, Frankfurt Kunstverein, Frankfurt/Main, 2011. Among his group exhibitions are: Violence is at the Margin of All Things, Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2002; Com volem ser governats?, Macba, Barcelona, 2004; Trienal du Luand, Luanda, 2007; documenta 12, Kassel, 2007; and Animism, at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2012. His most recent publication is: The Division of the Earth – Tableaux on the Legal Synopses of the Berlin Africa Conference (co-edited by Lotte Arndt, Clemens Krümmel, Dierk Schmidt, Hemma Schmutz, Diethelm Stoller, Ulf Wuggenig), Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 2010.

Malte Jaguttis studied law and history and holds a doctorate degree in law from the University of Hamburg, Germany. Between 2003 and 2007, he was a research assistant at the Institute for International Affairs in Hamburg. Jaguttis has published in the fields of Public International Law and German Constitutional Law, with research interests that span legal theory and history, fundamental rights and urban governance. He has been admitted as a lawyer in Germany since 2009, where he specialises in Public, European and International Law.

An earlier version of this material was presented on the occasion of the project conference ‘Disturbing Pasts: Memories, Controversies and Creativity’ (20 -22 November 2012, Museum of Ethnology/Weltmuseum Wien, Vienna). To view the film footage on the Open Arts Archive,, follow this link: