The Hornsleth Project Uganda is a unique project in art history




Wolf-Günter Thiel




Part 1

Kristian von Hornsleth will do his first project in Africa in Uganda together with the inhabitants in a little village north of Kampala. Hornsleth does this project which is in this dimension and in its straightness a unique project in art history.

The idea is to invite the people from this village to change their name to 'Hornsleth'. Driven by his idea of power branding and of the artistic concept of realizing this with real people is unknown at all in contemporary or historical artistic discourses.

The idea is to exchange the names of the people for the purpose of investing the money he gives and the money he makes with the project back in improving their short term life conditions along with a long term programme of infrastructure education and health care.

The participators profit directly from their investment in Hornsleth by getting direct help. They sell something to him. They really like the idea because the needs for them are more essential than their name. They argue anyhow that nothing changes in terms of their identity anyhow.

The possibility of profiting through an upcoming worldwide famous artist name is so abstract for them that they neglect the implications. The political meaning of the work is not only to help this village in many ways, but also what is happening in Africa through global political and economical powers who take Africa as a resource of energy, labour or other reasons.

The project shows at the same point that the people's attitude is so different than the comparable attitude of people in Europe or North America. The idea is brilliant to illustrate the idea of contemporary colonialism through art. Hornsleth uses his fame in order to show in his work the dirty way of global capitalism and confront it with the humane and ethic thinking of his art.



Part 2

Kristian von Hornsleth is an artist. All questions he is concerned with are artistic questions. So talking about his project "The Hornsleth Village" means we are talking about art!

In Uganda Kristian von Hornsleth realized an artistic work which deals with identity and the perception of identity. The identity of the artist and his artistic perception of his world is working with the identity of people from Uganda with their own perception of their individuality and with their perception of their world. The artists works with this difference of the perception of both sides and creates a way where both sides profit in their very interest. Through his work the living
conditions of 308 people of this village were remarkably improved!

The perception of an internationally successful working artist is using all possibilities of personal freedom of speech, of developing markets globally and being received globally. He generates his economic wealth through fame and as the main source through fun. "Fun, Fame, Fortune!" He is subjectively pushing his artistic value system and acting in his world, which is the international world of arts. The individual and his individual wishes are his driving force. His fame becomes a key tool to improve peoples live condition!

The perception of a human being from a village in the countryside of Uganda is very different. They try to survive with their possibilities as a farmer or as a peasant. They live without electricity without any kind of security system and without any ambition to work on anything else than surviving the existentially and socially very difficult situation. The world ends for this person in the capital of Uganda to get medicine against malaria. The world is his own life condition and his social surrounding. The surviving and taking care of the family is the main goal, everything else is not essential!

Kristian von Hornsleth went to the village in Uganda in order to convince them to use his name "Hornsleth" and gain through this a new and enduring tool to improve their living condition. What he asks for is the second given name on their identity cards. What they get are animals to enrich their personal life through animals they get through this. He offers an economic deal to people who never would be able to do any economic deal of this kind without his offer. He points out that they as individuals own something, not essential to them which has an economic value. Until now 308 people chose this way to improve their situation on short, medium and long terms. The artists just wants a photo of them showing their identity card with their second given name "Hornsleth". This photos are artworks and a document for the artistic process.

The situation for the village and each person living in the village is improved because the distribution system of the animals will guarantee that on the medium term not only the situation improves for few, but for many more, because the animals of the next generation will partly go back to a farm owned by the artist together with the village. Both will take care, that these animals will reach more and more people, even if the do not take the name "Hornsleth".

This is the basic economic idea, but from an artistic perspective it goes far beyond. Hornsleth shows through his photos individuals with an individual voice and an individual perception of world as such and they chose Hornsleth to communicate their existence to the world. Hornsleth is their ambassador and the person who explains who they are, where and how they live. Even if they naturally do not care about contemporary western art, they accept this artist offers a solution tool to improve their live situation. Hornsleth is a voice for them to communicate their own
individuality beyond their own horizon.

The question why this process is art or how it relates to western art theoretical context is of no importance to them. They are fond of the fact, that someone helped them and improved their situation and more who regards them as individuals with their own culture, their own problems and their own dignity and pride. They understand that they own something which makes them being of economic interest. They learn to act economically.

Where does the art start and what makes it a great art project? The art starts with the decision to realize this projects, to go to Africa, to understand the situation, to dialogue with the people from the village, to find a solution with the village leaders and to think of an economic deal which is good for both sides. The art is a process and an experience; a new experience for the people from the village and for the artist himself.

The art is a process of generating this idea and dealing with different cultures, different continents and all kind of barriers. The art is the result: The living situation improved. The consciousness of the people in the village as well as the artists' changed. The result is art which perhaps changes the opinion of the visitor of shows of this work and perhaps make many people aware that they can do something to improve peoples living conditions not only in Africa, but in general. The quality of the artwork is not only its brilliant visual quality, but that art can be accepted as a solution instrument. This art is a sign that the world of 308 individual people and their families already changed to the better.

That is what I call great art.


Wolf-Günter Thiel, art historian, Berlin, august 2006