September 5, 2009 - Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart - Peggy Buth. Desire in Representation
September 5, 2009

Peggy Buth. Desire in Representation

Peggy Buth, Desire in Representation. Fotoserie, 2004-2009.

Peggy Buth
Desire in Representation

September 12–November 15, 2009

Schlossplatz 2

D-70173 Stuttgart

info [​at​]

From September 12 to November 15, 2009 the Württembergischer Kunstverein is showing the first comprehensive solo exhibition of Berlin artist Peggy Buth, conceptualized as an overall installation and designed especially for the Kunstverein space. Of focus here are a series of new works, coproduced by the Kunstverein, that build on previous works by the artist.

Point of Departure
The point of departure for the exhibition is the two-volume artist’s book “Desire in Representation” (2008), which is based on extensive research conducted by the artist on the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren (near Brussels).

The museum, having opened in 1910, has served as a showcase for Belgian colonial history, which officially began with the Berlin West African Conference of 1884–85, at which the Congo was declared to be the private property of King Leopold II. In accordance with changes in property ownership conditions in the Congo up until its independence, the representational means employed by the Tervuren Museum were likewise modified. Since 2004 the museum has been immersed in a process of spatial and conceptual reorganization that is still going on today.

In the first volume of the book project (“Travelling through the Musée Royale”), Buth presents photographs of various rooms and displays at the museum and points out the ways in which meaning and historicity are created there.

In the second volume (“O, my Kalulu!”) she takes up Henry Morton Stanley’s novella “My Kalulu, Prince, King, and Slave” (1874) as well as some of his different travelogues and associates these with book illustrations, historical portrait photographs, additional written sources, and archived material. Stanley, a British-American journalist and explorer of Africa whose personal legacy was bequeathed to the museum and archived, worked on behalf of Leopold II on the cartographic and infrastructural development of the Congo, thus paving the way for its colonial exploitation.

In “Desire in Representation”, Buth explores the narrative techniques applied by the museum and in literature as respects both their colonialist influences and their constructions of historicity, manhood myths, and the “other.” The Western projections onto the “other” are known to mirror one’s own yearnings and fears. Buth especially calls attention to this by taking recourse to Stanley’s novella, exposing its subliminal homoeroticism.

A comprehensive index in the first volume elaborates the contexts of both books.

The Exhibition
Based on her book project, Buth has developed, specifically for the Stuttgart exhibition, a new narrative spanning eleven rooms. In addition to already existing works, the overall installation is most notably comprised of a series of new works, such as the five-part video installation “O, My Kalulu”!, in which the artist investigates on a filmic-installative level the homoerotic subtext of Stanley’s novella.

Each space conceptualized by Buth for the Stuttgart exhibition can be both autonomously interpreted and read in connection with the others. Here it is not a linear narration taking form but rather one that is fragmentary and sundered by repetitions and shifts, which immerses the viewer in a myriad of different scenarios: in a “library” referencing the imaginativeness of nineteenth-century travel and adventure literature with audio works, covers of historical publications, and other elements; in a “fever room” and a “study room” where museal stagings fathom the transference between research and myth; or in a “laboratory” that ties into the displays dedicated to the experimental sciences. In addition, an “index room” displaying Buth’s photographs of the Tervuren Museum along with a large-format index of texts and images concentrates on the narrative and distancing techniques employed by the museum and simultaneously brings into play the multilayered contexts involved in the project.

Linking the various stations are works, such as for instance the video installation spanning multiple rooms, “O, My Kalulu!”, or a sound installation that seizes upon parts of the video work, or dioramas whose typical scenographies have been disjointed by Buth with irony.

For the Stuttgart exhibition, Buth has devised an array of settings that are equally archival and theatrical, where differentiations between artwork and historical document, exhibit and display, stage and exhibition space, as well as narrative and metanarrative are perpetually shifting. From this arises a narrative that first comes about, in ever-new ways, through a traversal along the various scenarios—tendering a multitude of possible interpretations.

The exhibition is accompanied by a lecture series and a reader, with the catalogue publication to later follow.

The Artist
Peggy Buth, born 1971 in Berlin, studied at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig and at Saint Martins College in London. Her works have been shown internationally, including at the Brussels Biennial (2008) and at the exhibition “Made in Germany” in Hanover (2007). She has been the recipient of international scholarships from the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles (2009) and the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht (2004–2005).

In her artistic work, Buth is neither fixed on a particular medium nor on a narrow artistic concept. She instead explores the representational systems of art, literature, politics, history, and science, with an emphasis on what is being repressed and what unintentionally comes to light in these spheres. In so doing she employs the media of photography and video, uses tar, shellac, or carpet in creating her pictures, works with found materials, language, and sound, produces objects, sculptures, and installations. This versatility in artistic working methods is also reflected in the exhibition “Desire in Representation”.

Further information at:

Further press information and material at:

Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart
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