Picture Politics 2017


Im Jahr 2017 startete das Goethe Institut Helsinki das Projekt „Picture Politics“.
Es wurden Comiczeichner*innen aus Europa dazu aufgerufen, mit einem Webcomic die ansteigenden rechtsextremen Tendenzen in den EU-Staaten zu kommentieren. Die Idee basiert auf dem Projekt „Bildkorrektur“ aus dem Jahr 2016.
Die Comics wurden gesammelt auf der Seite des Goethe-Instituts Helsinki veröffentlicht. In meiner Geschichte geht es um den Ornithologen Otto Finsch, der die damals von Deutschland besetzten Gebiete bereiste und zu der damals sehr populären Kategorie „Rasse“ forschte.
Meine Hauptquellen:
1) ’It is not so!‘ Otto Finsch, Expectations and Encounters in the Pacific, 1865 – 85 by Hilary Howes (sehr guter Artikel!)
2) Der Ausstellungskatalog der Ausstellung „Deutscher Kolonialismus“ im Deutschen Historischen Museum in Berlin

My comic only tells fragments of Otto Finsch´s life. I do not regard him as a hero, who was the first to find out that „race“ was merely a construction. To me he is very ambiguos – on the one hand a thoroughly working scientist who had the courage to challenge prevailing scientific assumptions, on the other hand a paladin to the powers of German colonial effort.

In my opinion research about German colonialism, its impact on First and Second World War and on the present, is not very well known – besides some historical figures and geographical data. Ethnografers like Otto Finsch must have used violence in varying degrees towards the inhabitants of New Guinea to perform their examinations. In a letter to Rudolf Virchow, Finsch writes about the facial plaster casts. He expresses his surprise on how it had been possible to convince “so-called savages“ to undergo this „not precisely pleasant process“.

Further questions conerning German colonial history remain:
In which way were images of „the wild“ created and which purpose did it serve? How was science used in these times to justify the oppression of indigenous people? And what about the construction of images today?

While the term „race“ is nowadays obsolete, I think that it has only been replaced by religion, language or culture. To my mind not the identification of differences is a problem. It is the ranking of differences, and the attribution of certain qualities to for example a culture. The assumption that a qualitiy or behaviour of one individual is typical for a whole group of people involves the danger of unreasonable generalization.

My research concerning clothes, buildings, indigenous people of New Guinea and other details was very superficial. In fact most of the pictures are pure inventions. Also the scene when Finsch is making a plaster cast from an New Guinea inhabitant´s face is imagined. But it was important to me to show that violence towards human beings was involved in the ethnografic studies of the 19th century.