Counter-Memory, Heterochronia, and “History Painting” (After Géricault): Dierk Schmidt’s SIEV-X—On a Case of Intensified Refugee Politics
This essay examines the disruption of linear time in experimental forms of “history painting” as represented by Dierk Schmidt’s SIEV-X—On a Case of Intensified Refugee Politics (2001-2005). It analyses how the aesthetics of heterochronoia—multiple temporalities—play a crucial role in the development of a new understanding of the politics of “history painting.” As Schmidt’s work reveals, a radical conception of history exists outside the “singular moment,” and in dialogue with heterogenous visual cultures (news media, art history, advertising). In attempting to understand the import of Schmidt’s work, this essay considers his methodologies for creating a heterochronous mode of history painting, particularly his anachronistic engagement with the work of Theodore Géricault and the iconic history painting, The Raft of the Medusa. Unlike previous critical responses to Schmidt’s work, this paper argues that (after Géricault) the artist’s use of investigative “journalistic” methodologies for SIEV-X—On a Case of Intensified Refugee Politics do not generate an aesthetics of exposé but rather an aesthetics of “fictionalization.” This aesthetic is defined by the recalibration of documentary and speculative data as a means to reconceive the landscape of the perceptual. The findings of this research demonstrate that the use of disparate fragments—or data—to visualize otherwise diminishing historical events underpins contemporary history painting’s capacity for advancing a distinct economy of affect that circumvents the limitations of the news media and its “monopoly on reality.”
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