Artur Żmijewski
In Between



Palais Attems

Production specifics
Courtesy der Künstler und Galerie Peter Kilchmann (Zürich)

Artur Żmijewski’s black-and-white portraits of non-European migrants were made just as a new wave of racism and xenophobia was sweeping the cities of Europe. They reenact one of the most violent episodes in the history of photography, when portraits with measuring devices such as rulers and calipers were used as tools of discrimination. Anthropometry not only served to identify racial traits but also typically criminal physiognomies. Features such as skull circumference or nose length were thus used to legitimate the natural superiority of one race over another, or to find examples that were “degenerate” or “impure,” to use the language of that time. Such pseudoscientific findings were deployed to provide a biological excuse for genocide and colonial violence. Żmijewski’s gritty photographs remind us of such outcomes, pointing toward today’s renewed exclusions and reminding us how 19th-century anthropometry lives on in today’s biometric passports and retina scanners.