Yolanda Gutiérrez and Chris Schwagga
An introduction by curator and choreographer Yolanda Gutiérrez and artist Chris Schwagga ahead of their exhibition POWER. MEANS. MONEY. Image as Currency? Currency as Image! at the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Hamburg, May 20 – August 15, 2022.
Collaboration and the power of the body are at the center of this exhibition, which, together with dancer Eva Lomby, will employ the languages of dance and photography to engage with artifacts selected from the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte’s numismatic holdings of colonial coins.
Yolanda Gutiérrez: How did the idea of working with helmets come about?
Chris Schwagga: I began the helmet series refuge in 2017 and continued working on it over 2018. At that time, it connected my status as a refugee to the ongoing pursuit of peace. For me, “refuge” is more than just a place: it is a person, a memory, or a smell––it could be anything that brings us peace, internally or externally. Using helmets made sense as an external object that could symbolize this desire for protection.
YS: The helmet is everywhere on the streets of Kigali, all motorcyclists use them, but you're also making an intervention into this cultural vernacular by reimagining these helmets; sometimes they look like astronauts’ helmets and are futuristic in appearance. What was the inspiration behind this?
CS: The inspiration came from my own experiences and the experiences of those around me. I was thinking about relationships and cultural influence. For me, helmets translate a sense of distance as well as connect with the Amazunzu hairstyle, a traditional hairstyle from Rwanda and Burundi.
YG: A fascinating part of your work is how you place the body in your photographic work. The photographs you made during the first lockdown in 2021 in Kigali are among my favorites. Can you tell us more about these?
CS: The body is a vessel––a link between me and the person looking at the image. The reason why most of my subjects are anonymous in these projects is to encourage us to look beyond what we think we might know about the protagonist and just focus on the image in front of us.
© 2022 8th Triennial of Photography Hamburg 2022 and the author