Elsa Westreicher (b. 1989 in Kinshasa, DRC) lives and works in Berlin. She graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with First Class Honors in 2012 and was able to pursue her interest in cultural studies at The New School for Social Research in 2013–2014 through a DAAD scholarship. Her practice is grounded in an awareness for communicative conventions and visual languages and the desire to question and destabilise reading patterns through the means of design. She focuses on initiating and supporting projects that follow similar lines of thinking and doing. She has been an active part of S A V V Y Contemporary–The Laboratory of Form-Ideas since 2014, where questions of coloniality in design theory and practice have become her main field of interest. She recently conducted a workshop on the subject matter at the Royal College of Art. Since 2016 she works at Stan Hema, a Berlin based agency that develops brand and communication strategies.
“The Incantation of the Disquieting Muse: On Divinity, Supra-Realities or the Exorcisement of Witchery1” was a research and exhibition project at
S A V V Y Contemporary, that questioned the premise of “African futures,” and thus contributed to a project of the same title, initiated by the Goethe-Institut and Kulturstiftung des Bundes. The reader is one of the outcomes and seeks to make the artists’ and thinkers’ enquiries and perspectives accessible to the public beyond the spatio-temporal realm of the exhibition and symposium.
Project with S A V V Y Contemporary–The Laboratory of Form-Ideas
Curator and Commissioning Editor: Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung
Managing Editor: Federica Bueti
Co-Curator: Elena Agudio
Performance Programme: Nathalie Mba Bikoro
Copy-Editing and Proof-Reading English: Emily McDermott
Copy-Editing and Proof-Reading German: Adonia Bouchehrie
Translations English–German: Lynhan Balatbat, Christian Filips, Anna Jäger, Saskia Köbschall, Valerie-Siba Rousparast, Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson
Photography: India Roper-Evans, Hannes Wiedemann
Publisher: The Green Box, Kunst Editionen, Berlin
Contributors and artists: Sammy Baloji, Erna Brodber, Seloua Luste Boulbina, Vladimir Lucien, Percy Mabandu, Greg Tate, Georges Adéagbo, Haris Epaminonda, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Emeka Ogboh, Priscilla Rezende und Minnette Vari and many more
“The term ‘Witchcraft’ is an insulting generalization of diverse practices that habitate the realms of the epistemological, metaphysical, technological and cultural. In this project, the term ‘Witchcraft’ will be appropriated to complexify what it should stand for, i.e. divinatory, medical, magical practices and all sorts of practices that manifest within the supranatural, occult, shamanism, spiritualism and other umbrella nomenclature determined by men of religion and anthropology, who couldn’t grasp the reason and rational of such phenomena. The term will be used despite or even especially because of its connotations, so as to liberate these practices from the term and liberate them from the ‘Savage Slot’ they have been forced into.” (Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Curatorial Statement for the exhibition The Incantation of the Disquieting Muse, S A V V Y Contemporary, 04.06.–07.08.2016) ↩
Galerie Wedding – Raum für zeitgenössische Kunst is a communal gallery inside the town hall of Berlin’s northern district Wedding. Together with Miriam Busch, we developed a visual identity that reflects the new curatorial focus, summarized through the title “Post-Otherness,” or in its second iteration “Unsustainable Privileges.” Implemented by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung and Solvej Helweg Ovesen this focus has allowed to create a polyphonous dialogue about “cosmopolitanized realities,” in which “the ‘Post-Other’ emerges, a figure still bearing the signs of historical Othering while at the same time representing and experimenting with unknown futures beyond it,”1 asking the essential question “how can we accept the idea of otherness as a part of normality and explore the potential of post-otherness?”2
Taking the architecture of the gallery as a starting point, we interpreted its facade as a membrane between the street life of Müllerstraße and the artists’ discourses. We decided to elasticize, distort and thus redefine the prominent squared structure of the windows. The logo works as a bracket opening up this space.
R. Römhild & B. Ndikung, “The Post-Other as Avant-Garde”. In We Roma: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, p. 206–225, eds. Daniel Baker, Maria Hlavajova, BAK–basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and Valiz, Amsterdam ↩
B. Ndikung & S. Helweg Ovesen, “Post-Otherness Wedding (POW)”, Curatorial Concept, Pressemappe Galerie Wedding 2015, galeriewedding.de↩
Lamin Fofana’s piece “Witness” was part of the University of Disaster at the Venice Biennial 2017. It was a psychogeographic soundmap in memory of Pateh Sabally, a 22-year-old refugee from Gambia, who threw himself into the waters of Venice’s Grand Canal in January 2017 and drowned while onlookers shouted racist comments and recorded the suicide. The piece is a direct response to this tragedy and searches for possible spaces of empathy in the city of Venice. The accompanying map gives an approximate, fragmented guidance to the listener-viewer and tries to respond graphically to this “Unfolding Human Drama” by questioning proximity and distance, material and immaterial presences.
The Many Headed Hydra is a shape-shifting collective, feminist and decolonial art project that explores the waters as a rhizomatic narrative space. It was initiated by Emma Haugh and Suza Husse at Dristrict, Berlin. Now in its second “surfacing,” the Hydra’s mythological origins as a serpent-like water creature whose heads reproduce uncontrollably, found form in two exhibitions (in Nida, Lithuania and Berlin, Germany), a month-long residency, several collaborations across a full spectrum of artistic practices, and the publishing of a scattered and rearrangeable publication.1
The graphical language was developed from the first surfacing of The Many Headed Hydra (see below), which resulted in a magazine. A symbol, “wavy like the sea”2 and not only subliminally representing a vagina, develops from a one-eyed, to a two-eyed to a three- and fourth-eyed sea-creature that surfaces, resurfaces and shape-shifts.
The Many Headed Hydra is a shape-shifting collective, feminist and decolonial art project that explores the waters as a rhizomatic narrative space. It was initiated by Emma Haugh and Suza Husse at Dristrict, Berlin. Its first “surfacing” was conceived as a magazine with contributions by proliferate thinkers and doers, discussing the North Atlantic as a territory of passage, undergoing social and ecological transformations, with its streams of capital, its histories of diasporas and the cold war, its flow of technology, and the desires and discourses that cross its waters.1
The Hydra’s mythological origin as a serpent-like water creature whose heads reproduce uncontrollably is at the core of the graphical language that was developed for this series of publications. A symbol, “wavy like the sea”2 and not only subliminally representing a vagina, develops from a one-eyed, to a two-eyed to a three- and fourth-eyed sea-creature that surfaces, resurfaces and shape-shifts.
The results of the second “surfacing” can be viewed above.
Editors: Emma Haugh and Suza Husse
Contributors: Anna Hallin & Olga Bergmann, Bryndís Björnsdóttir, Hannah Black, Natasha Ginwala, Tinna Grétarsdóttir, Emma Haugh, Suza Husse, Occupational Hazard Project, Tejal Shah, Ato Malinda, Nine Eglantine Yamamoto-Masson and participants of the workshops “Speaking As Fishes” in Leipzig and Reykjavík.
Buen Vivir was a two-year research project that involved artists from Columbia, Croatia, Peru and Switzerland. The process-led undertaking sought to discern, create and question contemporary forms of “buen vivir” – the spanish translation of “sumak kawsay”, describing the andean conception of being in the world before the invasion of the spaniards. Having become a somewhat “hot topic” in the last years with capitalist societies frantically searching for alternative models that can potentially sustain human life on this planet, it was high time that this frenzy gets questioned by critical and creative minds. An exhibition in Zaghreb as well as Switzerland, with an extensive discursive programme was organised as a culmination of these collective practices in the summer 2016.
A project with Cinema Luna, Kunstmuseum Thurgau, MSU Museum for Contemporary Art, Shed im Eisenwerk
Curator: Harm Lux
Contributors: steffenschöni, Petra Mrsa, Eliana Otta, Julian Santana, Carlos Leon-Xjimenez, Fernando Pertuz, Bildstein/Glatz, Sylvia Jaimes, Christians Luna, Bojan Mucko, Esneider Gamboa, Christian Alarcon Ismodes, Reto R. Müller, Gonzalo Fernandez, Mirjam Wanner, Tea Hatadi
Johannes Paul Raether
In close collaboration with the artist, a poster was created that served to announce the exhibition, performance and workshops that Johannes Paul Raether developed at District in 2015. The artist’s work is based on the activation of fictional characters, layed out in his “Systema Identitecturae,” which found representation on one side of the poster. For this exhibition “Transformella” was activated: the “Queen of Debris and Surrogate Mother of the Institute for Reproductive Futures,” posing questions on the emancipatory potentials of new reproductive technologies.
A workshop that taught, questioned and playfully broke open the structural base of programming with HTML, CSS and Processing in Leipzig, 2013: “By learning and understanding the structures that lie behind sleek surfaces, we want to question and subvert the way the web communicates with us in a critical and playful way. […] The participants are free to apply these newly gained possibilities by using the surface of our website as a white canvas to give form to their explorations, questions, actions, reactions and gestures.”1
In collaboration with Miriam Busch
Programming of the website by Philipp Schäfer
Off Sight was a student led protest that turned against the administrative decision to exclude the print and bookbinding workshops from the direct learning experience at Central Saint Martins in 2011.
Sit-ins and meetings were organised, many works emerged, and an exhibition was created including a symposium with representatives of the graphic design community (including Ken Garland). A year after the protest, a reflective summary and review was created in the form of a book. As a self-initiated project it only showed effect six years later, when the upheavals did indeed lead to an overturn of the decisions and brought the workshops back to the main building at King’s Cross.
This paper was written during the course “Design and the Future of Publishing” at the New School in 2014. Fascinated with the non-transparent aspects of the web and the wealth of data that is being stored for and against us every day, I decided to attempt a formulation of thoughts about the nature of these ever more solidifying power structures and the thought systems at their core.
The paper was “published” online. It is still retrievable from elsawestreicher.com/thepowerofstoring/. The text is also available as an object at Printed Matter New York and was purchased by the New York Public Library. Its original form, as it exists in the data centre that hosts my website, i.e. the original electronic impulses, i.e. the binary code, meets a new physical form and therefore storage possibility by being written out as DNA Code – used to store electronic information successfully since 2012.
A project at The New School for Social Research
This poster was developed to provide information on the intentions and influences of the Amateurist Network, a collective of cultural practitioners in London who ask questions on the economic dimension of their work in the cultural sector and seek to challenge the under-valuation of it. The poster was used at presentations and workshops at Tate Modern and the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA).
Project for the Amateurist Network
In collaboration with Boo Wallin
Letters on Buildings as Undercurrents on Structures
This research project revolved around the presence of letters in urban centres. It proposed to interpret lettering as one of the forms in which undercurrents of a society become visible, and equally questioned the remaining invisibilities. It occupied itself with trying to grasp the underlying motivations, limits and desires and took inspiration from Henry Lefebvre’s concept of Rhythmanalysis to get a better understanding of the way graphic signs determine and make contemporary cities.
B.A. Thesis at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, 2011