Screening, Discussion

Millis Awakening
with Natasha A. Kelly

Milli’s Awakening: Film screening and lecture with Natasha A. Kelly in the exhibition Whose Expression? at the Brücke-Museum, moderated by Daniela Bystron.

Nadu (born 1955), a mask maker, Naomi (born 1965), an actress, and Maciré (born 1995), a student, are three of eight protagonists who have in common that they are Black women* living in Germany and working in the art context. Their biographical narratives show to what extent the occupation with art, in all its forms, can serve as a “remedy” to alleviate emotional isolation and social oppression. For Black women* have always been eroticised and exoticised by the white male gaze. In the works of many Expressionists, which are considered “classics”, they were depicted merely as “objects of desire”. The painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, for example, did not so much seek to explore the anatomy of women*s bodies during the heyday of German colonialism. Rather, he was concerned with feeling his own masculine power through the supposed “nature-boundness” of his motifs. In 1911, he painted the sleeping Milli lying naked on a couch. He only allowed his own potency to be a source of inspiration. While numerous art historians focus their analyses on Kirchner’s sexual fantasies as well as his aesthetics, the film delves into the world of thoughts and feelings of his “muse” and allows Milli to awaken symbolically. In interviews with filmmaker Natasha A. Kelly, Black artists of different generations have their say, who in and through their artistic work have overcome the common colonial stereotypes and formed their own self-determined identity as Black women* within the white German majority society. They report on their challenges in and with German art institutions, on visual representation and political and social exclusion. Where can their experiences be built upon? Which strategies can be brought together? Which ones need to be rethought? Art thus not only forms the architecture of the film, but is also presented as the cornerstone for the social and political actionism of those involved in the project. In the bilingual publication of the same name, the interviews conducted are printed in their full length. The aim is to show the significance of artistic creation from a Black feminist perspective.

Dr. phil. Natasha A. Kelly is a freelance writer, curator and researcher. In her work, she combines theory and practice and thus manages to create transfers between science, society and politics. She has also been involved in the Black German community for many years. In addition to her advisory work for various art institutions, she is the artistic director of the theatre series “M(a)y Sister”, which has been performed at the HAU Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin since 2015. Her debut film “Millis Erwachen” (2018) screened at the 10th Berlin Biennale from June to September 2018 and was presented at the Museum für Moderne Kunst MMK in Frankfurt from October 2018 to March 2019. With the publication of the same name and her simultaneous debut as a filmmaker, she presents collective experiences and feelings of Black women artists in their diversity and interconnectedness, contrary to the usual formats of the dominance society, so that the continuity of Black feminism in Germany becomes visible.

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Please note: The event will take place in German language. Participation is only possible with complete vaccination protection or proof of convalescent status + a booster vaccination or rapid test (no self-test). The current distance and hygiene regulations apply, as well as a general FFP2 mask requirement.

You can register here for the event.

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