How is colonialism reflected in art? With which expectations, prejudices and personal experiences did German and fellow European artists shape their image of the South Seas before World War I?
This documentary is the first to tell the story of German Expressionism in the context of colonial exploitation and racist anthropology. When painters Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein traveled to what was then German New Guinea and the islands of Palau around 1910, their "South Sea paradise" had already been destroyed by European colonialists.
Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner stayed at home, recreating the exoticism of the South Seas as a backdrop in his studio. All three artists wanted to revolutionize painting in Germany. To this end, they studied the originality of indigenous art. Nolde and Pechstein blanked out the downfall of that foreign world on location; in the South Seas, they painted that which they had brought along in their minds, the "white viewpoint," appropriating the artistic language of the indigenous people as if it were property they might "loot."
Nolde, Kirchner and Pechstein had nourished their yearning for the South Seas through visits to the ethnological museums of Berlin and Dresden, where they had their first contact with the art of foreign cultures – and France's Paul Gauguin was naturally a model for them in achieving art market success with pictures of the purportedly "savage" and "primitive" world.