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Afterlives of Empire – Encounters in Art and Academia

Afterlives is a new project developed by Gesa Stedman and funded by Humboldt Universitätsgesellschaft.

In its initial phase, eight art students from Oxford and Berlin are invited to work at Lichthof Ost in the main building of HU, turning the room into a temporary studio, before transforming it back into an exhibition space. The art students will show how their interaction with several scientific collections at HU, among them the sound archive, the geographical collections, and the Winckelmann collection has led to a new understanding of some of the colonial legacies at HU.

A workshop with pupils from Rosa Luxemburg Gymnasium Pankow, a panel debate with art historians, curators, and cultural studies scholars, and a pop-up exhibition itself will conclude the first phase of the project from 14 August to 11 September 2023.

During the winter semester 2023/2024, the second phase of the project will explore the entangled history of the British empire and art history further in an interdisciplinary project seminar as part of the MA British Studies at the Centre for British Studies. The students will be introduced to cultural studies concepts such as representation, cultural exchange, contact zones, and entangled history and learn how to contextualise and read works of art. At the same time, they will be introduced to art works past and present which represent or critique the often covert afterlives of empire. Art students from the first phase as well as art historians will join forces with Gesa Stedman during this semester.

The third phase of Afterlives of Empire will result in a project delivered by the GBZ students at the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften 2024, again including some or all of the art students, in particular those from Oxford, to showcase their work on HU’s collection in this postcolonial context, to explore how the German and British empires shaped these collections and how this can be translated into art.

Building on the questions that in particular the art work and artists have posed, Gesa Stedman envisages a longer-term exploration of “the Empire at Home”, namely researching further how the British and German empires were entangled at HU and in Berlin in general.

About the project

Afterlives is a new project developed by Gesa Stedman and funded by Humboldt Universitätsgesellschaft.


The pop-up exhibition at Lichthof Ost, Unter den Linden 6, is available from 7-10 September 2023.

Opening times

7 September 2023 6.30-9pm, official opening with drinks reception
8-9 September 2023 11am-6pm
10 September 11am-9pm, panel debate and closing of the exhibition.

Access is via two sets of steps. The exhibition is child- and family-friendly and all are welcome.

For more information, please contact Gesa Stedman