PJU – Mission

Limburgs Museum (NL) | December, 2016

This exhibition is the second one on the PJU project in the Netherlands, after ‘Much Has Changed‘ that was commissioned by and part of Noorderlicht Photo festival 2013. And next to presentations in Liberia (2014) and Sudan (2015).

The presentation is held in the Limburgs Museum in Venlo, in the Catholic south of the Netherlands. Julien’s books and lectures, the latter broadcasted by a national radiostation with a Catholic denomination, were important sources of information about the African continent during the decades leading up to the independence of most colonised countries in Africa in the 1960s. Julien was trained as a chemist, but had a passion for anthropology and ethnography. As a result of this passion he carried out a large number of research expeditions in several countries, ranging from Equatorial Guinea in the west, to Angola in the south west, Tanganyika in the south east and Ethiopia in the East of the continent between 1932 and 1962.

For his research Julien often made use of the infrastructure of mission stations. This is part of what led to the title of the exhibitions. But there is also Julien’s scientific mission to add knowledge about the spread of and relations between isolated groups of people through (the now highly contested method of) serological research. And, last but not least, my mission to expand the meaning, understanding and potential value of his photographic and filmic output by bringing it back to where it was made and following leads by those interested on the ground, including historians, anthropologists, artists, and descendants of those documented by Julien.

On the wall of the museum hallway gallery are prints of scans of a selection of Julien’s photographs, and photographs made by me printed on fabric. Sixteen small books document the process and contextualise it in different ways, clarifying both the particularity of Julien’s practice, but also how it is exemplary for the way ‘Africa’ was documented in his days. Making most of the material available to me accessible for the visitor who would like to dive in deep. And going into detail with some of the stories encountered in Liberia and Sudan.

A short film clip about the show, made by local t.v. broadcaster t.v. Venlo can be seen here (Dutch only, just like most of the links in this text). I also uploaded the mash up film ‘Dance (Liberia 1932-2014)’, that I made and premiered in this show. And a short clip in which Julien speaks of his work in Africa in the 1990s, made by Cor Adolfse and Hans Bruin is here.

De Mix is an initiative of the Nederlands Fotomuseum and Rafaël Philippen. It is a series of commissions in which a contemporary photographer develops work in relation to that of a Dutch colleague from the past.