From spring 2022, the Kunsthalle Bremen will present an artistic intervention by Natasha A. Kelly in the collection exhibition “Remix”. The scientist, author, activist and artist has already dealt in several projects with the Black Model “Milli”, who is known from numerous works by the Brücke artists. Natasha A. Kelly’s starting point is the painting “Sleeping Milli” (1911) by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, which is in the collection of the Kunsthalle Bremen.
Image above: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Sleeping Milli, 1911, Kunsthalle Bremen, Der Kunstverein in Bremen.
In her intervention embedded in the Kunsthalle’s collection exhibition, Natasha A. Kelly comments on depictions of “Milli” and other models whom Kirchner regularly portrayed. In her essayistic examination, Kelly analyses those clichés in which Black women are objectified, exoticised and eroticised, and at the same time tells German history from a Black feminist perspective.
From 1909 onwards, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and other Brücke artists portrayed Black Models on several occasions. Kirchner’s painting “Sleeping Milli” (1911), which is exhibited in close proximity to Natasha A. Kelly’s intervention, is an important example of the presence of Black Models in the work of the Expressionist artist. It forms the starting point for the question posed by Natasha A. Kelly as to who the model “Milli” was. In her essayistic approach to the Black Model “Milli”, the artist combines two of her videos with texts and reproductions of artworks by the Brücke artists as well as historical photographs.
The films “Millis Awakening” and “Millis Rising
In Natasha A. Kelly’s first film “Millis Erwachen” (2018), eight Black German women artists of different generations have their say and talk about their experiences in and with German art institutions, about visual representation and political and social exclusion. Following on from this, Natasha A. Kelly takes up new narrative perspectives in “Millis Rising – A Film Mythology” (2019) to address the realities of life for Black women in Germany. The aim of her films is to break through viewing habits and to sensitise viewers to European aesthetics by means of Kirchner’s model “Milli” and to decolonise it. At the same time, the films want to give Black women visibility.
Annotated depictions of Kirchner, Heckel and historical photographs
For her intervention, Natasha A. Kelly has compiled numerous depictions of “Milli” and other black models by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and also Erich Heckel and combined them with historical photographs from the studios of Kirchner and Heckel. Individual elements from Kirchner’s studio, which can also be found in the painting “Sleeping Milli”, such as a screen, a curtain and the bed on which the sleeping woman rests, are included as accents in the intervention. In her texts, Natasha A. Kelly comments on the depictions and reads Kirchner’s depictions “against the grain”. In the search for the model “Milli”, Kirchner steps into the role of the accomplice and opens up a discursive space of action in which fragments of her reality can be reconstructed. In this way, Natasha A. Kelly succeeds in giving “Milli” back a piece of her identity and elaborating the social context of art in colonialism as well as Kirchner’s role in it.
Further information on Natasha A. Kelly
Natasha A. Kelly is a visiting professor at the Institute for Media Studies at the University of Tübingen in the summer semester of 2022. She has received numerous honours including the Black Laurel Film Award 2018 for her film “Milli’s Awakening” and the appointment by the German Women’s Ring as Women’s Ring Woman 2021. In April 2021, she published the Spiegel bestseller “Racism. Structural problems need structural solutions”, which she wrote in response to the Black Lives Matter Summer 2020.
At the invitation of the Society for Contemporary Art Osnabrück, Natasha A. Kelly curates the group exhibition I AM MILLI at Kunstraum hase29 from 6 May to 16 July 2022 as another artistic answer to the question “Who was Milli?”, the Black Model of the Brücke artists. hase29.de/i-am-milli/
May 2022, 7 pm: Artist talk with Natasha A. Kelly, moderated by Josephine Apraku 10 September 2022, 2 pm: Guided tour of the permanent exhibition “Remix. Seeing the Collection anew” with Natasha A. Kelly 2 November 2022, 4 pm: Rozena Maart in conversation with Natasha A. Kelly: “Sarah ‘Saartje’ Bartmann, Josephine Baker and the ‘Sleeping Milli’ – the image of the Black woman in the history and present of Europe”. In cooperation with globale° – Festival for Cross-Border Literature
Am Wall 207
Mittwoch, 27. April 2022 bis Sonntag, 30. April 2023