It is very well possible to come across Asmat shields in the carefully staged private décors of Dutch households. Popular for their crude abstractions, these exotic artefacts adorn walls like paintings, proudly resonating our modernist masters, as well as nourishing hints of nostalgia and echoing the rich ethnographic collections of our ubiquitous colonial history museums.
In Dolores, Vincent Vulsma (1982) is presenting his latest work 141?E. The work takes its cue from the division of the island of New Guinea in roughly equal halves along the 141st meridian by the Dutch in 1848. The western half of the island -now called Papua- was claimed by the Netherlands and was under Dutch colonial administration until 1963 when it was incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia as an outcome of decolonization politics, burdening the Papuan peoples with yet another oppressor.
This specific incision into the political flesh of the island and a more general idea of mapping as an instrument for appropriation and the reproduction of claims inspired Vulsma to come up with a method for the reconfiguration and (re-)distribution of an artefact of particular taste. This ritual Asmat shield, made around Mid-Twentieth Century by a small headhunting tribe located around the Brazza River in Indonesian New Guinea, was recently acquired through the museum shop* of the Wereldmuseum, an colonial institution in Rotterdam.
Having passed through many hands since its relocation from the tribal village -back and forth between dealers and various kinds of collectors who continuously recalculate the accumulation of its market value- the shield is ultimately cut in two by Vulsma in order to herald its sinister appearance in yet another marketplace.
*The museum shop of the Wereldmuseum has a side function as a commercial gallery for Asian and Primitive Arts with a strong orientation on the specialisations of the collection of the museum.
Vincent Vulsma (Zaandam, 1982) lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam. He graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in 2006 and was a resident at De Ateliers between 2006 and 2008. Recent exhibitions include ARS NOVA E5305-B at Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender, Berlin and Birds (an installation by Willem de Rooij) at Cubitt, London. Vincent Vulsma will be participating in the 6th edition of the Berlin Biennale, forthcoming this year.