Interview with Christine Meisner, artist

Christine Meisner (b. 1970, Germany) was one of 11 artists featured in the exhibition Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art which was held in 2007 to commemorate the bi-centenary of the pariamentary abolition of the British slave trade. She lives and works in Berlin between extensive international travels and artist residencies. The thrust of her artistic output, whether in film, drawing or text, is the experience of the African Diaspora and its representation in contemporary Europe. Uncomfortable Truths features Meisner's video tale 'Recovery of an Image' and two series of delicate and powerful pencil drawings, excavating the experiences of Afro-Brazilian communities descended from slaves. In this interview she discusses her work and the Uncomfortable Truths exhibition.

What for you is the appeal - or necessity - of addressing slavery in your work?

For several years I have been working on colonial and postcolonial changes in African countries, concentrating on specific examples of the search for identity, released by cultural occupation and annexation, incorporation and destruction. The focus of my work is on unfinished situations - the specific cultural processes in stories and protagonists, between leaving and arriving. Looking into the history of the Transatlanitc Slave Trade is not only to see an example of a forced acculturation, but it means also to question those responsible. The role of the Europeans in this trilateral trade made me, as a European, especially aware of the need to review my heritage, the conditions of my affluence.

Can you talk web users through the creative process that led the work on display in the exhibition to take the shape it has done?

I am working with the media of video, drawing and text. Having the choice of several artistic means and making investigations out of different resources, it's like I'm examining reality through several telescopes. Any 'truth' is determined by historic structures and, today, through the distortions of mass media. My work reflects the artist practice of producing a form of knowledge, which stands apart from the classical forms of written history and documentation. Questioning the legitimacy of historical constructions goes ad absurdum through a deranged perspective on details. My own approach tries to dissolve the inaccessibility of closed events and declared histories.

How do you feel that the environment of the museum impacts on the perception of your piece(s)?

As I have never personally been in the museum before [this exhibition], I can only hope that the presentation and perception of my work has had a stirring and fruitful exchange with the history and the exhibits in the Museum.

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