(born 1965, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; lives and works in Berlin, Germany)
Jean-Ulrick Désert strives to render “conspicuous invisibility,” a challenging, oxymoronic goal. Embracing a tradition of conceptual art engaged with social and cultural practices, Désert often combines traditional iconographies and historical metaphors to disrupt constructed concepts of race, gender, and sexuality—to, as he puts it, “reconstruct and defy fixed identity.”
In his work, he draws on his experiences of living in Haiti, New York, and Berlin. For the project Negerhosen2000/The Travel Albums (2003), Désert traveled around Germany dressed in traditional Bavarian lederhosen—made of “Caucasian nude-colored” leather rather than the traditional black or brown—and interacted with the public in tourist areas. As a black man, an otherwise not-uncommon sight in Germany, he became a spectacle, posing for pictures and eliciting both delight and puzzlement in passers-by. In blending issues of racial identity and queer camp with characteristically black modes of humor, Désert creates a form of “dark camp” that targets the racial and gender phobias of a supposedly tolerant society.
Jean-Ulrick Desert has studied at Cooper Union and Columbia University. His practice includes billboards, actions, paintings, site-specific sculptures, videos, and objects. His solo exhibitions include The Goddess Project / Shrine of the Divine Negress No. 1, Dada Post Gallery, Berlin (2010); The Passion, Stadtmuseum, Munich (2006); The White Man Project, BRUCE—Brave New Art Foundation, Rotterdam (2004); The Burqa Project: On the Borders of My Dreams I Encountered My Double’s Ghost, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Lowe Manhattan Cultural Council, New York (2002); Negerhosen2000, Aktionsforum, Praterinsel, Munich (2001). His group exhibitions include Making Mirrors: Of Body and Gaze, Neue Gesellschaft fur bildende Kunst, Berlin (2011); Wrestling with the Image: Caribbean Interventions, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington, DC (2011); Signs Taken for Wonders, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2009); Integration and Resistance in the Global Age, 10th Havana Biennial, Los Cabanas K., Havana (2009); Re/Positioning—Critical Whiteness / Perspectives of Color, Neue Gesellschaft furbildende Kunst, Berlin (2009); Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art, Brooklyn Museum (2008); Über Schönheit / About Beauty, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2005); Veni Vidi Video II, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2004); Bloninchen und Bräunchen, Weiss Weiss bin auch ich, Aktionsforum, Praterinsel, Munich (2001); and Sur la thème de Paris, Galerie de la Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris (2000).