Toxic Cultural Heritage Collection

The Toxic Cultural Heritage Collection collects contemporary everyday objects and furnishings from flea markets, eBay, and private homes that tell the story of Berlin's colonial past and racist present. These include, for example, racist stereotypical depictions of black people, for example in the form of CD stands and ashtrays. Particularly worthy of mention here are forms of "colonial style," "ethnic looks," and "exoticism”.

In the Toxic Cultural Heritage Collection, racist objects are taken from the uncontextualized circulation in everyday life. The focus of the collection is not on collecting the exotic "other", but on the racist "own". Our goal is to bring the examination of German colonial history and its afterlife out of global political debates and onto the private level in one's own home.

The project unfolds in collaboration with SAVVY Contemporary´s archival project Colonial Neighbours – a participatory archive and research project that investigates the legacy of colonial history of Germany and its ongoing impacts upon the present. Following the concept of “history as entanglement” (Conrad & Randeria) the project aims at breaking historical dichotomies and drawing a more differentiated picture of current Lebenswelten in the city. For the duration of the project, objects from Colonial Neighbors will become part of the Toxic Cultural Heritage Collection.

During the exhibition period, Berlin-based artists whose practices deal with issues such as colonialism and racism will be invited to use objects in the collection as a starting point for critical artistic engagement. A special focus will be on the question of representation and reproduction of toxic images, its display and framing, destruction and non-exhibition. The spatial installation by artist Henrike Naumann provides the space and the first artistic contribution for this at SAVVY Contemporary.

During the course of the project, the website will be launched to the public, accompanied by a poster campaign in Berlin's urban space. Through the website, toxic colonial everyday objects can be digitally submitted to the collection, which will then be cataloged by the team. To ensure that the violence emanating from the objects is not simply reproduced further, possible ways of dealing with them can also be indicated at the same time. This can happen in different ways: Destruction, disposal, alienation, commenting, covering... Together we develop ways in which detoxification can take place.