Sasha Huber (b. 1975) is a Helsinki-based, multidisciplinary visual artist-researcher of Swiss-Haitian heritage. Huber’s work is primarily concerned with the politics of memory and belonging, particularly in relation to colonial residue left in the environment. Sensitive to the subtle threads connecting history and the present, she uses and responds to archival material within a layered creative practice that encompasses performance-based interventions, video, photography, and collaborations. Huber is also claiming the compressed-air staple gun, aware of its symbolic significance as a weapon while offering the potential to renegotiate unequal power dynamics and names these laborious artworks ‘pain-things’. She is known for her artistic research contribution to the “Demounting Louis Agassiz” campaign, aiming at dismantling the glaciologist’s lesser-known but contentious racist heritage. She holds an MA in visual culture from the Aalto University in Helsinki and is presently undertaking a practice-based PhD at the Zurich University of the Arts in artistic research. Huber has had solo exhibitions, joined short film festivals and residencies around the world, and participated in major international exhibitions. In 2021 Huber started her first solo exhibition tour under the title “You Name It”. The tour begun at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam and continues to further institutions such as The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, and Autograph in London in 2022, and the Turku Art Museum in Finland in 2023. In 2018 Huber was the recipient of the State Art Award in the category visual arts given by the Arts Promotion Center Finland.
Portrait credit: Kai Kuusisto
All images courtesy: the artist
HAITI / SWITZERLAND / FINLAND
Karakia – The Resetting Ceremony, 2015. Video, 5 minutes 20 seconds.
Mother Throat, 2017–19. Video, 10 minutes 30 seconds.
Supported by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland.
In 2015, Sasha Huber travelled to the Agassiz Glacier on the South Island of Aotearoa, the ancestral Māori name for New Zealand. The artist organised a resetting ceremony there, with a karakia (incantation) offered by Jeff Mahuika, a Māori greenstone carver. This incantation served to symbolically unname the glacier and free it from its association with the glaciologist Louis Agassiz and the racist views he advanced. Subsequently, the artist travelled to Algonquin First Nation and endeavoured to symbolically unname Lac Agassiz (Lake Agassiz) located about 350 km northwest from Montreal, Quebec. She did so in collaboration with Sila, an Inuit throat-singing duo based in Ottawa, featuring Charlotte Qamaniq and Cynthia Pitsiulak. Based on the Inuktitut word Sila, meaning air, climate, or breath, their name speaks to all that connects us to the natural environment. Performing a selection of traditional and contemporary throat songs, they collectively sought to reclaim the site from its legacies of colonialism and racism.
The works are a part of her ongoing De-mounting Louis Agassiz Campaign, started in conjunction with the activist and historian, Hans Fässler. In 2008, Huber made an intervention at the top of an alpine peak in Switzerland, the Agassizhorn (3946 metres) when she placed a metal plaque bearing a graphic representation of the Congolese-born slave Renty, whom Agassiz had ordered to be photographed on a South Carolina plantation “to prove the inferiority of the black race”. In so doing, the artist took the first step towards renaming the mountain. Subsequently, a formal request was submitted to the councils concerned for the plaque to be permanently fixed to the rocks on the summit, and for the mountain to be renamed.
An international petition (www.rentyhorn.ch) addressed to the Swiss government and its two chambers of parliament remains online for signing.