Mwangi Hutter


Kenyan/German, b. 1975/1975; lives and works in Ludwigshafen and Berlin, Germany and Nairobi, Kenya


Mwangi Hutter interrogates the status of the individual, yet in doing so never assumes that notions such as identity, singularity, or personality are uncomplicated or simply given. Rather, Mwangi Hutter’s work, which frequently involves photography and documentation of their own body, may be read as perpetually challenging terms such as autonomy and agency at a register at once sensual and theoretical, suggesting a critical engagement with the concept of duality: dual spaces, natures, and identities, all mapped simultaneously onto the same locus. A merged artistic identity, originally of Ingrid Mwangi with Robert Hutter, they are now referred to as one name, Mwangi Hutter, a practice Simon Njami has referred to as a complicated and productive “twinship,” a condition underscoring the distinctions and convergences bound up in “a self-centred, singular I, to the particularly problematic plural we.”

Such duality finds precedence in the 2001 diptych Static Drift, where Mwangi Hutter first applied stencils to their own abdomen, one corresponding to the outline of the continent of Africa, the other corresponding to the outline of Germany. In a process that simultaneously alludes to the chemical processes of photography and the inextricable connections between skin pigmentation and identity, Mwangi Hutter then allowed the sun to burn their skin, leaving under- and overexposed terrains to remain mapped onto the body. Short enigmatic phrases underscore the historical connections between the two spaces: Africa, light and framed by darkened skin, is a “Bright Dark Continent,” while Germany, “Burn Out Country,” is dark, suggestive of failure at several registers. The inversion of pigmentation that occurs between the two embodied mappings thus reinforces the chemical processes that link photography to the enterprise of late-nineteenth-century colonialism.

Artworks by Mwangi Hutter

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