Spirals: Colour, Camera, Colonialism on Friday, 30th of July

23 Jul 2021
23 Jul 2021

The Centre for Curating the Archive would like to invite you to another session of the Spirals virtual seminar series. The theme is Colour, Camera, Colonialism.

We are excited to host Dr Hanin Hannouch, postdoctoral researcher at the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin State Museums (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) in cooperation with the Max-Planck, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz. Beside her monograph on colour photography in Imperial Germany focusing on its ties to colonialism, currently in preparation, she is the volume editor of Gabriel Lippmann's Colour Photography: Science, Media, Museums with Amsterdam University Press (late 2021/early 2022) and the guest editor of another special issue dedicated entirely to three-color photography, out in April 2022.

Circulating ideas about art, art practise and archival engagement between two lively, dynamic, yet different global north and global south settings, the Spirals series draws Berlin based art practitioners, curators and scholars into a conversation with scholars and students based in Cape Town.

Dr Hannouch’s talk is titled, Gustav Fritsch ca. 1900: Three-Color Photography, Nature, & Colonial Science. In it she traces German anthropologist and racial hygienist Gustav Fritsch's (1832-1927) research on color, its complex relationship to colonial sciences, and the notion of Nature ca. 1900. Mostly known as a foundational figure in the use of (monochrome) photography as an investigative tool of anthropology and for his experiments with neurologist Eduard Hitzig (1838-1907) on the excitability of the brain and the localization of the motor cortex, all ca. 1870, Fritsch's preoccupation with three-color photography and color vision at the turn of the last century has received almost no scholarly attention. In order to improve the color photographic process, he conducted a histological study of human and animal retinas which he illustrated using photomicrographic images. Expanding the paradigm of mechanical objectivity often attributed to photography, he claimed that the results of his inquiry were given directly to the scientist by the personification of Nature. Moreover, he participated in the widely successful two-volume color photobook Die Deutschen Kolonien (edited by Kurd Schwabe, published by Carl Weller, 1910). He framed its color photographs of landscapes, taken by Robert Lohmeyer in the colonies of the Kaiserreich, as Nature's own autoportrait. As I argue, unpacking the inconsistency and the contradiction of what he considered Nature throughout his projects reveal the entanglements of three-color photography and colonial science in the name of technical progress and political victory.

Fritsch has a complex legacy as an anthropologist, racial hygienist and for his early use of photography as a scientific tool. He has a strong South African connection, having visited in the 1860’s and producing important, but now also controversial portraits of important political figures on Robben Island and indigenous people across South Africa during a period of colonial domination. The talk, dealing with a later period of his work, explores relationships between histories of science, human anatomy, technology, and concepts of nature will be of wide interest to the South African scholarly community.

Dr Jethro will be the discussant for the session.

Please join us via Zoom on Friday 30 July 2021 between 3pm-4:30pm (SAST) by following the Spirals Zoom link (Meeting ID: 926 2695 5210, 977358).