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This bronze sculpture towers over several storeys in the stair hall. It represents a flagpole with a flag of mourning at half-mast. However, only the lower half can be seen in the Humboldt Forum – the flagpole metaphorically pierces the ceiling, emerging from the ground somewhere else entirely.

In accordance with the artist’s proposal, the upper half will initially be installed in Nachtigalplatz, in an area known as Afrikanisches Viertel (African Quarter) in Berlin-Wedding. At the start of the 20th century, an “ethnological exposition” was planned in Volkspark Rehberge, the nearby public park, in which people and animals from the German colonies were going to be exhibited. The outbreak of the First World War meant that the plan did not come to fruition. Some streets and squares in this area still have colonial names that have for years been subject to much dispute and efforts to rename them. The artist plans to install the piece at a third location at a later date.

The presence of this installation – a flag at half-mast – at the Humboldt Forum, also makes a contribution to the debate around this new building; in particular, the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Asian Art Museum) within the Humboldt Forum. The context in which their items were collected, during the era of German colonialism, has come to the forefront of public consciousness in recent years.

The title of the piece is a play on words on the legal term ‘Statute of Limitations’. The UN Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity of 1968 stipulates that there is no statute of limitations for the prosecution of genocide. The artist is using the title to reference the colonial crimes committed by the German Reich, for example, its actions in what is now the Republic of Namibia between 1904 and 1908.

Statue of Limitations is a critical commentary on Germany’s handling of the crimes committed during its colonial past – crimes it is only now beginning to address.

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