As a South Africa-born, Swedish-German collage artist and cognitive linguist, Simone Löhndorf is acutely engaged with “meaning making”; in particular, with taking concepts out of their conventional contexts to create unexpected meanings. She believes that “to draw attention to unconventional, yet highly meaningful content, is one of the purposes of Art. College [is] especially well suited for this purpose, since concepts can be reinforced by the choice of texture, origin, and time period when the material was created.” She often focuses on the human experience as a major theme, due in part to her equal interests of evoking a deep, emotional response from her viewers, and initiating positive change.
Löhndorf’s project Dehumanization-Rehumanization is an unflinching look at how the most brutal acts against one population are legitimized by another population, through the latter’s dehumanization of the former. Her artist book portrays her theories of three common methods of dehumanization: through physical or mental distance which can serve to abstract a people; through a gradual desensitization process which slowly incorporates a general bias against “the other” until prejudicial stereotypes are felt to be “known facts”; and lastly through one population’s dissatisfaction with their own circumstances leading them to find a scapegoat population to blame, Her project takes the form of a concertina book, rendering the gradual process of incremental dehumanization through a series of small collages. In describing her piece, she writes:
“A couple goes from living a satisfying life in their community…to being depicted as a junkpile at the end of the series. When I made this, I thought of the Jews in Germany in the Third Reich…A question I have never stopped asking myself is how we can allow the most horrible atrocities to happen…In contrast, the other side of the concertina shows the converse process of rehumanization, which I hope for all immigrants to experience.”
Löhndorf’s strategy in her collage book of separating the process of dehumanization into smaller collages exemplifies how imperceptibly this transition can occur; the couple doesn’t disintegrate all at once but only slowly becomes increasingly unrecognizable until they are left as a mass of shards. In the reverse side of this book, however, she refuses to accept this process as irreversible, reminding the viewer that although the process of rehumanization may be as slow and piecemeal as the original disintegration, it is not only possible, but critically necessary.