During the 1930s the Danish painter Rita Kernn-Larsen
(1904–1998) was connected to the international surrealist
movement and participated in some of its seminal exhibitions in
Paris, London and New York. Nevertheless, her work has not been
properly included in academic art historiography. She shares the
fate of other female surrealists whose work became recognised only
recently. This essay maps out Kernn-Larsen’s activities
connected to the surrealist movement and discusses her status.
Through readings of artworks by Iranian Fariba Hajamadi, South African Tracey Rose, and Americans Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Ulla Angkjær Jørgensen examines how contemporary visual arts have brought into play European museums’ ways of exhibiting the black body as a sign of otherness since the start of colonization. She argues that the traditional museum exhibition requires the viewer to adopt an aesthicizing and exoticizing gaze, closely associated with masculine agency and superiority, and epitomized by the display case. By practicing a tracing of learned habits and prejudices akin to what Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has described as ‘un-learning,’ contemporary visual arts make use of the display case in order to provoke a feeling that the object is looking back at the spectator, and thereby expose the colonial worldview written into the western mindset through centuries of education and institutionalization. The trope of Black Venus is thus inscribed into the very form of these artworks, through the way in which visual and bodily aesthetic practices either enhance or abolish the air-less, time-less bubble that separates the spectating body from the displayed body.