This virtual tour enables you to virtually visit highlights from Autograph's Gallery 1 space of our exhibition by the Swiss-Haitian artist Sasha Huber. Exploring the colonial residues left in the environment by drawing attention to historic traumas and its ramifications in the present, Huber highlights the way history is imprinted onto the landscape through acts of remembrance that include memorialisation through the naming of places and the erection of monuments. Tethered to natural spaces – mountains, lakes, rock formations, glacier, and craters – as contested territories, Huber’s multi-layered research-led practice is concerned with the politics of memory and belonging.
Sensitive to the subtle threads that connect history, her practice encompasses performance-based interventions, video, photography, and collaborative working modes. YOU NAME IT brings together over a decade’s worth of work by Huber – prompted by the cultural and political activist campaign “Demounting Louis Agassiz”. Founded in 2007 by Swiss historian and activist Hans Fässler, the campaign seeks to redress the legacy of the Swiss-born glaciologist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873). His scientific contributions to the fields of glaciology, palaeontology and geology resulted in over 80 landmarks (and several animals) bearing his name on Earth, Moon, and Mars.
Less well known, however was Agassiz’s legacy of ‘scientific’ racism, an ideology that includes resistance to Darwinian evolution, creationism, miscegenation – or the suppression of interracial marriage, cohabitation, and procreation – and the creation of racial hierarchies. Intent on proving the alleged inferiority of black people, he commissioned J.T. Zealy (1812-1893) to photograph enslaved people on the Edgehill plantation in South Carolina in March of 1850, using the technology of photography to further his eugenics campaign.
Huber’s desire to use art to heal colonial and historic traumas can be seen throughout the exhibition. Foregrounded in the centre of the gallery in an open-ended enclave is Tailoring Freedom (2021-ongoing) depicting Renty and Delia Taylor, an enslaved Congolese father and daughter whose portraits were forcibly taken by Zealy and used by Agassiz. Huber reproduced Zealy’s daguerreotypes onto wood and used her signature staple gun method – a technique she has developed since 2004, combining both facets of her practice for the first time – to ‘dress’ Renty in a suit worn by Frederick Douglas (1818-1895), and Delia in a ‘dress’ worn by Harriet Tubman (1849-1913), honouring the contributions of both abolitionists. The artist uses the staple gun to symbolically stitch wounds together, creating reflective and three-dimensionally appearing ‘pain-things’: asking not only who and what we memorialise, but also, and more importantly emphasising how we practice this. This technique can also be seen in The Firsts – Tilo Frey, commemorating the Cameroonian-Swiss politician who campaigned for women’s rights and suffrage in Switzerland; and in Khadija Saye: You Are Missed, honouring the late artist, activist and carer who tragically died alongside her mother in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
Huber’s artworks present a vision for the ways we can tenderly, and with care, refute the damage already inflicted by history. In challenging the terms by which we remember, the artist asks who and what we memorialize, and more importantly, how we do so. The exhibition at Autograph continues in our Gallery 2 space with a series of film works.
is a Helsinki-based, multidisciplinary visual artist-researcher of Swiss-Haitian heritage. Sensitive to the subtle threads connecting history and the present, she uses and responds to archival material within a layered creative practice that encompasses performance-based interventions, video, photography, and collaborations.
Huber frequently reclaims – aware of its symbolic significance – the compressed-air staple gun as an artistic ‘weapon’, tapping into its potential to renegotiate unequal power dynamics. She is known for her artistic research contribution to the Demounting Louis Agassiz campaign which aims to dismantle the glaciologist’s lesser-known but contentious racist heritage. Huber also often works in a creative partnership with artist Petri Saarikko with whom she initiated the long-term project Remedies Universe.
Huber holds an MA in visual culture from the Aalto University and is presently undertaking a practice-based PhD at Zurich University of the Arts. Huber has had numerous solo presentations, artist residencies and participated in international exhibitions and festivals, including the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015. In 2021 Huber’s solo exhibition tour YOU NAME IT began at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam and continues to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto; Autograph in London in 2022/23; and Turku Art Museum in Finland in 2023. In 2018 the Arts Promotion Centre Finland awarded Huber the State Art Award in the category visual arts and in 2022 she received a multi-year artist grant.
YOU NAME IT was initiated, organised, and circulated by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, in collaboration with Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam; Autograph, London, United Kingdom; and Turku Art Museum, Finland.
Autograph has supported the creation of several works in YOU NAME IT. The Firsts – Tilo Frey (2021) and Khadija Saye: You Are Missed (2021) were commissioned by Autograph as part of our project Amplify – Stranger in the Village: Afro European Matters, supported by the Art Fund. Additionally, five new portraits on display from the series Tailoring Freedom (2021 – ongoing) have been commissioned by The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto; Autograph, London; Turku Art Museum, Finland; and Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam.
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