Circular removal of an upper layer of soil

© The School of Mutants

The School of Mutants

(Horacio Cadzco, Hamedine Kane, Boris Raux & Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro) in collaboration with Stella Flatten

The Dig, 2024

To dig, to unearth, to stick one’s hands in the sand, to build a castle, to make a hole and then to fill it up again, to reveal what has been buried – we have all played with sand in one way or another. The installation by the School of Mutants in collaboration with the scientist and artist Stella Flatten is a mutation between a sandpit and an excavation site, and relates to this primary vocabulary of play and the fundamental human need to uncover what has been hidden. The starting point of the installation is the ingenuous digging of a hole, revealing literal and symbolic layers of dust, grit and gravel. It thus refers to local colonial history and to what once was, but has been silenced and repressed. The installation reaches deep into the ground and at the same time looks into the crowns of the plane trees – such as the ones that were part of the colonial migration from Paris to Dakar.

On the other side of the Gropius Bau, where the Topography of Terror Documentation Centre now stands, an activist group called Actives Museum met in the early 1980s to dig there. Stella Flatten shows how these people organised themselves to carry out a excavation on the site where the Gestapo headquarters once stood. The School of Mutants continues this civic digging and invites everyone to join. The aim is to create a place of non-conventional learning and unlearning that encourages curiosity and collective knowledge building – on the site where Berlin’s first ethnographic museum once stood.

The School of Mutants (Horacio Cadzco, Hamedine Kane, Boris Raux & Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro) is a collaborative platform for art and research initiated in 2018, in Dakar, Senegal. Departing from research into the pedagogical utopias in post-independence Senegal, the collective reflects on the legacies of African futurism, the Non-Aligned Movement, and Southern solidarities. It borrows its name from the University of Mutants, established in 1978 on the island of Gorée, Senegal, known for challenging the Western epistemological authority.


Stella Flatten's artistic practice is research based and focuses on the appropriation of space. Her work centers on questions about legibility of history in the built environment as well as digging as a method for social and activist processes.