Jan Mammey and Falk Messerschmidt’s Statues Also Die records the artists criss-crossing Paris and documenting dormant monuments to French colonialism that can be found in the city. They made these traces, and sites, the focus of a six-month residency, having found that the violent history of colonialism, which has been fundamental in the formation of contemporary France, is not addressed by a dedicated institution. Their photographs, taken day and night, in interiors and out of doors, capture memorials to distant and relatively recent histories. The images are immersive, the reader is plunged into scenes and cannot adopt the objective perspective to which writers of history tend. 31 sites are covered, accompanied by textual information the artists gathered during their investigation. Most of the markers and sites are overdue reconsideration, though state bodies seem unwilling to unpick the tangle of an often-shameful history and mythology.
The title Statues Also Die is borrowed from Ghislain Cloquet, Chris Marker and Alain Resnais’ 1953 film “Les statues meurent aussi”. This short documentary on African art became a powerful anti-colonial document, censored by French authorities. One of the filmmakers’ theses is that artefacts are rendered dead by their Western museum context, a further instance of how colonising forces dismantled and destroyed the cultures and societies they found. Within Statues Also Die is a short story in diary form by Arno Bertina in which a police investigator stakes out an archivist, both figures torn between conflicting urges: to preserve or to dismantle shameful histories; between restitution or letting the past lie. With this publication, Mammey and Messerschmidt identify some of the many colonial blind spots to be found in the fabric of Paris.
Falk Messerschmidt (born 1982) studied photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig. He has been awarded several international residencies, prizes and stipends. Jan Mammey (born 1972) studied in Munich and at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, where he was a Meisterschüler in Heidi Specker’s class. He has been awarded several North American residencies and won first prize for photography in the International Marianne Brandt Competition in 2013.