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Landscape Painting (Bismarck Sea) Papua New Guinea, 2023


Landscape Painting (Bismarck Sea), Papua New Guinea, 2023

Fine lines carry across the sea’s surface. They describe the ocean, capture its movement in a still image. Stripped of their color, the waves of the Bismarck Sea off Papua New Guinea are transformed into an abstract representation of the sea. The large-format photo series creates an illusion in its mediality and seems to oscillate between historical engraving, painting, and photograph. This addition to Julius von Bismarck’s Landscape Painting series, created in the Bismarck Archipelago, is a continuation of the deconstruction of our understanding of landscape.

Analogous to the works Landscape Painting (Quarry), which were created in a quarry on Lanzarote, and in a reversal of the original intention of landscape representations—i.e., to depict faraway landscapes in a reproducible manner— the artist applies horizontal lines to the moving Bismarck Sea. The lines of this work do not seek to imitate a three-dimensional landscape, but to transform the real landscape into a surface that appears two-dimensional, into an image of itself. In his choice of subject, Julius von Bismarck draws on the historical use of engravings in colonial contexts and inquires into how we as Europeans have made the world our own. Engravings and photographs from the Bismarck Archipelago, the scene of German colonial violence, served the construction of an exoticized world in the name of scientific research. The visually stunning work focuses on the ongoing consequences of German colonial rule and the current reality of Oceania as an island world surrounded by water in times of steadily rising sea levels.

Entire landscapes and geographical formations overseas are still named after Otto von Bismarck: the Bismarck Archipelago and the adjacent sea in Papua New Guinea officially bear his name. The country’s highest mountain, Mount Wilhelm, is named after his first son. Although these places had names before they were renamed during the colonial period, the former are not used internationally. This act of repeatedly naming things after Otto von Bismarck has served as a constant reminder of the German occupiers and their crimes while at the same time negating the autonomous local history. Julius von Bismarck advocates for the renaming of these geographical entities in order to finally break with the German appropriation of distant regions.


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Process images of Landscape Painting (Bismarck Sea), Papua New Guinea, 2023