Understanding Practice with Astrid S. Klein

The Power of the Kola – Negotiating the Living

With her long-term project The Power of the Kola, the artist Astrid S. Klein introduces her translocal research and research practice. Her artistic investigations trace connections and paths which intend to depart from the ‚colonial library‘ (V.Y. Mudimbe) and to permit vibrant, nonessentialist neighborhoods of multiple worlds.

The Power of the Kola is a long-lasting, intergenerational art project by Astrid S. Klein that has involved international research, art works, and public events since 2011. It is supported by the voices of many contributors. With the diasporic Kola plant (Cola acuminata), the artist focuses on tropical plants in Europe as powerful protagonists embodying varifold meanings and modes of action. In this she collaborates with a particular plant that lives in diaspora in a botanical garden in Germany.

Opposed to the violence of the Plantationocene, the Kola embodies constructive forms of activity and communication and enables the emergence of respectful, equal relationships. Marginalised, local, endogenous and indigenous knowledge about ecology, plant medicine, local economies, social relations, other cosmologies and cultures of memory and reconciliation are given their space. Alternative translocal modes of action are negotiated on an equal footing in the encounter and convergence of different knowledge complexes.


An audio piece by Astrid S. Klein with contributions by Jupiter Bokondji, Albert Gouaffo, Koko Komégné, and Soro Solo, and with music by Mariá Portugal and Huguette Tolinga

The audio piece To the Red Soil will accompany the departure of young Kola plants, living in the diaspora in Germany. They are embarking on a journey to the African tropics. The plants have decided to leave the University of Hohenheim’s tropical collection greenhouse to accept an invitation to travel to Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This departure from the Western archive may seem a bit absurd, and it raises questions. Why are the plants in a botanical collection in Europe in the first place? Why are they traveling “to the red soil”? What are their plans? Do they wish to unfold their dormant potential, activate alliances, and negotiate more just relationships? Will

they make use of their profound skills to become active again? Will they link various systems of knowledge in an equitable way? Are they capable of countering the violence of industrial plantations and the extraction of natural resources with alternative perspectives and actions?

The Kola tree and its seeds, the Kola nuts, hold significant meaning for the African continent. In the botanical collections of the West, which are inextricably linked to European colonialism and extractivism, the Cola acuminata as a tropical crop plant and raw material is omnipresent. Yet the agency of these plants as protagonists is widely ignored.

The journey of the plants will take place in 2024 and is part of the multivoiced art project The Power of the Kola by Astrid S. Klein.

Astrid S. Klein

The artist Astrid S. Klein has been working translocally with protagonists from the African continent, the African diasporas, the Caribbean, and Europe since 2005, jointly creating many-voiced, sustainable projects. Her research is focused on the decentering of one’s own thinking, on the fostering of new relationships through different knowledge, and on opportunities for collective action. Her investigations trace connections and paths which intend to depart from the ‚colonial library‘ (V.Y. Mudimbe) and to permit vibrant, non-essentialist neighborhoods of multiple worlds.

Klein is a master student of Joan Jonas. Her transdisciplinary practice encompasses poetic-critical analyses in different media and public event formats. She is the editor of crossing-boundaries-of-doubt.net and the initiator and artistic director of quartier flottant. She is a founding member of the Gesellschaft für künstlerische Forschung Deutschland/Baden-Württemberg. Since 2020, she has been teaching Cultural Studies and Artistic Research at the Peter Behrens School of Arts, Düsseldorf.

For her research Astrid S. Klein has received numerous grants and fellowships. Her works have been shown at various venues, including Hamburger Bahnhof –Museum für Gegenwart (Berlin), Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst (Berlin), Heidelberger Kunstverein (Heidelberg), Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart), Wien Modern (Vienna), Le Plateau (Paris), Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (Paris), Apexart (New York), Anthology Film Archives (New York), Doual’art (Douala), Goethe-Institut Yaoundé (Cameroon), Accra (Ghana), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), and CCA Lagos (Nigeria). www.crossing-boundaries-of-doubt.net

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