Greetings from Afar*:
Unstable Archives & Transdisciplinary Collaboration through 3D Scanning Technology
* Title from the Scenic Play written by Lulu Jemimah
Advancements in 3D scanning technology have long revolutionized the way historic spaces are documented and preserved. Still, more work needs to be done in utilizing it for its capacity to tell stories from more than one viewpoint. Therefore, this project explores the dynamic intersection of digital technologies, such as 3D Scanning and inclusive cultural heritage, through trans-disciplinary collaboration and the creation of unstable archives as storytelling devices for marginalized groups.
Drawing from our recent work during the Dekoloniale residency in Berlin, a cultural institution dedicated to honoring anti-colonial and anti-racist resistance, we delve into a captivating narrative of historical revival and contemporary relevance. Our research, led by Ugandan writer and producer Lulu Jemimah in collaboration with historian Robbie Aitken, centers on a remarkable piece of Berlin’s history – the 1930 theater production “Sonnenaufgang im Morgenland” (Sunrise in Morningland). This play, influenced by Black theatrical traditions in the United States and Paris, not only underscores the transnational connections of Black Germans during that era but also challenges the notion that movements like Black Lives Matter are purely contemporary phenomena. At its core, this play served as both an expression of diasporic identity and an act of resistance against prevailing racial stereotypes and right-wing backlash in late Weimar Germany.
Notably, its original site, Hermannplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, provides a fascinating backdrop, revealing the entanglement of societal discourse, normative architectural practices, and spatial injustices. Today, the site, once a ballroom, a theater, a poultry exhibition space, a military hospital, a cinema, and the iconic dance club ‘Cheetah,’ is transforming into an art gallery under private ownership. Throughout our residency, meticulous documentation of the site’s layered history, achieved through photographs and 3D scans, played a pivotal role. Lulu’s work involved a remarkable reenactment of the play, intertwining archival research and interviews to juxtapose historical grassroots activism with modern-day Berlin’s identity and activism landscape. Our collaboration with Lulu extended to scenographic projections for the scenic reading “Greetings from afar,” which wove biographical reflections from the play with the site’s multifaceted material memory.
As Lulu reconstructed historical timelines through her writing, our interventions breathed life into the material traces of the interior space, forging connections between past and present. The 3D scans, as agitated point clouds, immersive lighting, and varying textures, moved to the background, becoming silent witnesses to the unfolding narrative rather than imposing a holistic definition of the site.
In the final act, Lulu artfully crafted an image of the play that transcended temporal boundaries, neither confined to the 1930s nor the 2020s. This act of creation, a catalyst for inspiring novel iterations of resistance, demonstrated the power of cultural heritage in perpetuating its presence through time.
This presentation exemplifies how digital technologies and collaborative efforts can breathe new life into cultural heritage, fostering inclusivity by bridging past and present. It underscores the significance of embracing instability in archives, allowing multiple narratives to flourish and encouraging collective memory preservation. Through the amalgamation of history and technology, we unlock the potential of cultural heritage to inspire transformative acts of resistance and creativity.
Daniele Profeta, A/P Practice
Lulu Jemimah, Writer, Editor & Media Consultant, Uganda
Dekoloniale Berlin (special thanks to Noah Anderson & Anna Yeboah)
Prof. Robbie Aitken, Sheffield Hallam University
Vitjitua Ndjiharine - Visual Artist, Namibia
Nyabinghi Lab, Berlin