The three interrelated works Black Bullets, The March, and Off The Pig from 2012, are an homage from Jeannette Ehlers to proud historical uprisings and protest movements against discrimination, speaking into contemporary issues of struggle against racism and coloniality.
"Jeannette Ehlers is a video, photo and performance artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. For years she has created artworks that delve into ethnicity and identity inspired by her own Danish and Caribbean background. Her pieces revolve around big questions and difficult issues, such as Denmark's role as a slave nation—a part of the Danish cultural heritage, which often gets overlooked in the general historiography."
Black Bullets was recorded at a mountaintop citadel in Haiti, the largest in the Americas and built after the rebellion as a defensive measure for the new state. To this day, the citadel stands as a symbol of the emancipation. A series of black figures move in a looping sequence across the silvery sky to the pulse of a heavy, hypnotic drone-like sound. Unlike the figures in some of Jeannette Ehlers’ other works, the subjects have not been erased here. On the contrary, they are united with their reflected images, merging with them, almost like bullets gradually being cast.
“Revolution has come. Time to pick up the gun. No more pigs in our community. Off the pigs!” So sang the American black civil rights fighters of The Black Panther Party about the white police (“the pigs”) in the 1960’s. With a sampling of significant historical voices in the black struggle for freedom—among these Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Haitian slave leader Toussaint L’Ouverture—Jeannette Ehlers creates a fragmentary, historical resonator for her own black and white recordings of a pig. The pig has always occupied a central position in both Western and African myths—albeit with different statuses. In Off The Pig, the black pig filmed by Ehlers in Haiti alludes to the mythical vodou ceremony Bois Caïman, among other things. This ceremony played an important part in the Haitian revolution, which is also the subject of Ehlers’ work Black Bullets. As myth would have it, drinking the blood of a sacrificed pig gave hundreds of enslaved Africans the power and courage to fight the battle for freedom against the superior forces of the French rulers in the late 1700’s. Vodou was, in itself, actively suppressed by the French, who tried to convert the enslaved Africans to Christianity, but vodou survived as the enslaved Africans incorporated Christian saints and symbols into their own religious practices brought along from Africa.
By means of a digital black and white 3D animation, The March takes us inside the artist’s brain where blood is running, forming beautiful and extensive networks, constantly budding and creating new streams. On the white background, shadows of a crowd of people emerge and the sound of marching feet is vaguely heard. With the title The March and these elegantly embedded layers of sound and images, Jeannette Ehlers reactivates historical material, not least the Voting Rights March of 1965 in which 600 African American citizens marched from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, fighting for their right to vote. They were met with violence, killings, and arrests, but a movement had been launched that would prove unstoppable. Along with Black Bullets, Off The Pig, and other of Ehlers’ works, The March pulls at significant threads, weaving back and forth in history and in and out of the body, indeed connecting to the recent global protests against racism and to the growing Black consciousness and Pan-African movements.