1. Rentyhorn (2008), 4:30 min
As a member of the Transatlantic Committee De-mounting Louis Agassiz, I made the following intervention. I carried a metal plaque bearing a graphic representation of the enslaved Renty to the top of an Alpine peak, the Agassizhorn (3946 metres), on the borders of the Swiss cantons of Berne and Valais. In so doing, I took the first step towards renaming the mountain.
This act commemorates the fact that the Swiss-born naturalist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was an influential racist and pioneering thinker of apartheid, and that the Agassizhorn should be renamed the “Rentyhorn” in honour of the Congolese-born enslaved Renty, and of those who met similar fates. Agassiz ordered Renty to be photographed on a South Carolina plantation, “to prove the inferiority of the black race”.
After carrying out this intervention, the Transatlantic Committee Demounting Louis Agassiz and I submitted a request for the mountain to be renamed to the councils whose jurisdiction includes the Agassizhorn. An international petition (rentyhorn.ch) addressed to the Swiss government and its two chambers of parliament, and others, has recently gone on-line. It is designed to tell people about the campaign, and to collect signatures in support of re-naming the mountain. People from all over the world have already submitted their names, and more are being added all the time.
I have carried out this work in close collaboration with Hans Fässler, historian, author and founder of the Transatlantic Committee “Demounting Louis Agassiz”. More about Demounting Louis Agassiz at: sashahuber.com and louverture.ch.
2. Louis Who? What you should know about Louis Agassiz (2010), 3:50 min
(...) "Praça Agassiz, is in the suburbs of Rio, about an hour’s drive from the city center. The site is marked on maps as a square, but it is actually a dangerous intersection where, according to local inhabitants, there is a traffic accident on average every ten days or so. One week before our visit, a bus had crashed through a garage and demolished an entire house. None of the residents had any idea who Agassiz was or where the name of the square originated." (...)
Excerpt of the article by Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko from the book (T)races of Louis Agassiz: Photography, Body and Science, Yesterday and Today.
Text on the yellow flag:
Louis Who? What you should know about Louis Agassiz
(1807, Switzerland – 1873, US)
Scientist, naturalist, glaciologist, influential racist, pioneering thinker of apartheid, proposed racial segregation in the US. Professor at Harvard University and Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 1865-66 led scientific Thayer Expedition in Rio De Janeiro and Amazon Basin area in Brazil. Came to Brazil to collect fish and other aquatic specimens to add to the already voluminous collection in the recently built Museum of Comparative Zoology, and second to conduct geological research that could sustain Agassiz’s theories on glaciation. Came to study local population and documented “Brazilian races” through the use of photography.
3. Karakia - The Resetting Ceremony (2015), 5:20 min
A Aotearoa New Zealand South Island glacier has been un-named by Ms Sasha Huber, accompanied by greenstone carver Mr Jeff Mahuika (Kāti Māhaki, Poutini Kāi Tahu).
In June 2015, Huber and her small production team travelled to the Agassiz Glacier, between Kā Roimata a Hine Hukatere (Franz Josef Glacier) and Te Moeka o Tuawe (Fox Glacier). There, Mahuika offered a karakia blessing to symbolically un-name the glacier and free it of its association with Agassiz and his racism.
Sasha Huber is known for her contribution to the long-term project Demounting Louis Agassiz aimed at removing nineteenth century Swiss-born naturalist and glaciologist Louis Agassiz’s name from a 3946 m peak in the Swiss Alps and renaming it Rentyhorn. Demounting Louis Agassiz promotes awareness that Agassiz (1807–1873) was a proponent of "scientific" racism and a pioneering thinker of segregation and “racial hygiene”.
The artist is also in contact with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu officials, who – in collaboration with Makawhio Rūnanga – proposed supporting research on new and appropriate Māori place names for the “Agassiz Glacier” and another South Island feature, the “Agassiz Range”, as there are currently no known Ngāi Tahu names for these landmarks.
4. Mother Throat (2018), 10:20 min
300 km north of the Canadian capital Ottawa, 350 km northwest of Montreal, in the province of Quebec, lined by pristine forests, lies Lac Agassiz. It is one out of over a dozen places in Canada alone named after Swiss glaciologist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873), and one out of over seventy places around the world which are carrying his name. There is also an impact crater on Mars, a promontory on the Moon and a main-belt asteroid named after him. Half a dozen animal species carry the name Agassiz.
What if this lake were called Lac Hitler? Too much of a unilateral bias? Lac Staline? Too blatant a comparison? How would we feel if this was Lac Rosenberg? Lac D'Annununzio? Lac Stoddard? Lac Kang Sheng? Lac Pétain? Rename the lake? Unname it? Explain it? Disdain it? Forget it?
May this ancestral land of the Algonquin (First Nation of Canada) be freed from its association with a man who taught that "the brain of the Negro is that of the imperfect brain of a seven months' infant in the womb of a White." May the trees lining the lake no longer stand in relation to a man who paved the way for segregation and apartheid and whose thoughts influenced Nazi racial hygienists, admirers of Mussolini and Ku-Klux-Klan activists alike. May this beautiful wintry landscape rather bear witness to the human mind's ability to free itself from prejudice, racial hatred and discrimination.
Throat singing by the Ottawa based Inuit throat-singing duo Silla: Charlotte Qamaniq (Iglulik, NU) and Cynthia Pitsiulak (Kimmirut, NU)
5. Space Race (2018), 4 min
Space Race (2018–20) is a mesmerizing video work that transports the audience to Mars and the Moon, through 3D visualization. Planetary entities are brought up close and personal, and we visit the exact spots named after the glaciologist and racist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873) - the ridges and dust haunted by Earth’s dark histories. Facing this cosmic colonization, where racist values are bound through naming to the surface of celestial bodies, we are caught in the complex web of human time/logic. Within exhibition setting the video is further materialized by two touchable sculptural artworks representing each celestial “Agassiz” wound.
6. Black Lives Matter (2017), 7:20 min
Sasha Huber & Petri Saarikko
Black Lives Matter is a performance about Police brutality faced predominately by African-American population due to deep rooted racism. The performance depicts a fictitious Police officer writing uncountable times “Black Lives Matter” on a chalkboard wall as a form of non-violent penalty.
7. Haiti Cherie (2011), 6:20 min
"In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, I made an intervention on the frozen, snow-covered Baltic Sea. A couple of weeks after the quake, dressed in a custom-made jumpsuit in the colors of the Haitian flag, I made snow angels as a symbol of my mourning, the lost lives, my solidarity and hope. This represents my feeling of helplessness and the pain that I can still feel."
8. Remedies, Australia (2015), 15 min
Sasha Huber & Petri Saarikko
The Australian edition of Remedies casted Mildura natives to contribute eucalyptus tree related unwritten narratives and oral histories for an individual and collective portraiture. Earth bound clay object-action cements the liminal stories and realities around the complex legacy of postcolonial wake into a collective stem.
Elders Mary Pappin (Mutthi Mutthi) and Ivan Johnson (Barkindji) talk about the past-present-future of aboriginal culture in respect to living landmarks – scarred trees. The younger generation of Barkindji artists Corey Payne, Taya Philip Thomas and Tahnaya Belling O'Donnell reflect on living healing customs and tool making. Gardener Denise James and farmer David James illuminate their parasitical relationship between sacred billabong creek bed and scarred black box trees. Teacher Alfred Meredith reveals his dangerous teenage encounter with eucalyptus oil. Sanctuary forester Toni Langdon presents the wide variety and uses of eucalyptus trees. Healer Peter Webb describes the powerful presence of trees as a living spiritual refuge.
The project was conceived by the Finnish-Swiss artist duo Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko and consisted of a series of filmed sessions around Mildura. During each session, participants were invited to share eucalyptus tree-related remedies, these were choreographed and edited into an installation piece.