Sasha Huber. Photo: Kai Kuusisto.
is a visual artist of Swiss-Haitian heritage, born in Zurich (Switzerland) in 1975, and currently living in Helsinki (Finland). Huber's creative practice spans a variety of media, including video, photography, performance-based interventions, and publications. She also discovered the compressed-air staple gun as a medium, while constantly aware of its symbolic significance as a weapon, for instance, in Shooting Back (2004) and Shooting Stars (2014). This committed artist is known for her contribution to the long-term project “Demounting Louis Agassiz”, which campaigns for the renaming of the “Agassizhorn”, a mountain peak that got its name from the Swiss naturalist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). The proposed new name for this mountain in the Swiss Alps is Rentyhorn, in tribute to Renty, an enslaved person from the Congo, and other victims of racism. Huber has edited the book Rentyhorn (2010), and was co-editor of (T)races of Louis Agassiz: Photography, Body and Science, Yesterday and Today (2010) on the occasion of the 29th Biennale of São Paulo (Brazil). She has participated in numerous international exhibitions, including the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014, and has been invited to artist residencies in Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia. Huber holds an MA from the University of Art and Design Helsinki, and is currently undertaking doctoral research on racism through the lens of art at the Department of Art at Aalto University, Helsinki (Finland).www.sashahuber.com STATEMENT
The primary incentive for my artistic work has been the exploration of my Haitian-Swiss roots and identity via colonial history. This approach has broadened out considerably to include a range of histories and postcolonial realities.
One of my biggest influences was my grandfather, the artist and co-founder of the Centre d’Art in Haiti, Georges Remponeau (1916-2012), who emigrated with his family to New York City in 1965, to escape the dictatorship and to offer his children a better future. New York City is also where my parents met and, as my father was from Zurich, Switzerland, they moved there together and started a family of their own. Being born in Switzerland made me a part of the Caribbean Diaspora.
As an artist my first critical reaction to history and colonialism was to make the portrait series Shooting Back (2004) depicting Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and the Haitian dictators François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1907-1971) and Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier (1951-2014). I ‘shot’ their portraits on discarded plywood using a compressed-air staple gun, aware of its symbolic significance as a weapon. At the end of 2014, the series was shown in the first major retrospective of 200 years of Haitian art, Haïti, in the Galerie sud-est at the Grand Palais in Paris. In a recent exhibition named Shooting Stars (2014), I made portraits dedicated to victims of gunshot assassinations perpetrated for political, ethnic, ideological or economic reasons. Among them: African-American Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr. (1925-1965); Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (1927-1986); Iranian asylum seeker and Australian detention centre protester on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea Reza Barati (1990–2014); Graduate from Normandy High School, St. Louis Michael Brown, Jr. (1996–2014). I stapled the portraits onto massive larch wood and covered each one with leaf silver, making them reminiscent of religious icons.
Sasha Huber: Sea of the Lost
, 2014, metal staples on plywood.
(Photo: Timo Nieminen.)
My work took a new direction in 2007, when I joined the Transatlantic Committee “Demounting Louis Agassiz”, initiated by the Swiss historian and political activist Hans Fässler. The Swiss-born naturalist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was an influential racist, a pioneering thinker of apartheid, and a
supporter of segregation in the Southern states of the USA. Agassiz’s full story had mostly gone untold until then. The aim was to shed light on Agassiz’s dark history by renaming the Swiss Agassizhorn mountain ‘Rentyhorn’, in tribute to Renty – an enslaved person from the Congo, who was one of many photographed for Agassiz’s research – and other victims of racism. In 2008, I began planning my first intervention. I took a metal plaque bearing the new name to the top of the Agassizhorn and launched an international online petition (www.rentyhorn.ch). It was then that I began working with interventions, documenting them on video and in photographs and drawings, and in books related to my projects, produced in collaboration with writers and researchers. In 2010 and 2013, I extended the body of work Demounting Louis Agassiz on artist residencies in Brazil, Switzerland and Scotland, and now, this year, in New Zealand. I am the editor of Rentyhorn (2010) and co-editor of (T)races of Louis Agassiz: Photography, Body and Science, Yesterday and Today (2010), published on the occasion of the 29th Biennale of São Paulo. My video Louis Who? What you should know about Louis Agassiz (2010) was shown at the 19th Biennale of Sydney in 2014.
Huskurer Remedies (2010-11), which I made together with my husband Petri Saarikko (director and founder of Kallio Kunsthalle, Helsinki), was a collective family project exploring family-based knowledge of traditional folk remedies, which forms part of family identities. We began Remedies during our artist residency at Botkyrka Konsthall in Sweden, and plan to develop the project further during our upcoming artist residencies in New Zealand and Australia.
A detail from Huber's work Sea of the Lost