In her contribution to the 10th Berlin Biennale, Firelei Báez contemplates the triangulated histories surrounding various iterations of the name “Sans-Souci”: Sanssouci, the leisure estate of Frederick the Great, built between 1745 and 1747 on the outskirts of Berlin; Sans-Souci, a castle in Milot, Haiti that was built between 1810 and 1813 for King Henri I; and Haitian Colonel Jean-Baptiste Sans-Souci, a prominent figure in the Haitian revolution who was betrayed and killed in 1803 by his rival Henri Christophe (later King Henri I). Incorporating painting, sculpture, and architecture, Báez’s installation is an intricately painted architectural structure that refers to both the physical and metaphorical constructions of these Sans-Soucis.
An essential departure point for Báez is the stark contradiction between the German Sanssouci as a place of leisure and the Haitian Sans-Souci as a space of militant splendor and now—since the catastrophic earthquake of 1842—a ruin. The artist describes the place where such histories meet as a “third space of refuge”—a space where fictional alternative universes are imagined. Bringing the lost histories of Haiti to the fore, the biennial becomes such a space, highlighting the manner in which various historical sites are maintained—not only in history, but also in contemporary imaginaries.
Venue: Akademie der Künste