Installation View, Haus am Kleispark Gallery, Berlin
Codex Testomnium Amoris, Main panel image (Barberini Faun, Glyptothek Muenchen)
Installation View, Haus am Kleispark Gallery, Berlin
Installation View, Haus am Kleispark Gallery, Berlin
Codex Testomnium Amoris, Panel VI
Codex Testomnium Amoris, two panels
Codex Detail, Escort Portrait
Codex Detail, Escort Portrait

Codex Testimoniorum Amoris

The Book of the Witnesses of Love


In this work, Jean-Ulrick Désert calls attention to the oft-neglected, yet essential fixture on the balance sheets of the prostitution economy, the John (the client).

The artist presents the wants, wishes, desires and experiences of the John in an ecclesiastical  style against a backdrop of a society assured of their moral superiority and in the context of the murder of  
a prominent German socialite at the hands of an Iraqi immigrant.

Codex Testimoniorum Amoris is arranged in a manner which invites study. Particular care is taken to explore a series of issues deemed contentious within the catholic region of Bavaria. The artist allows the viewer to fill in the gaps and imagine for themselves what might have stood in place by purposefully removing all sexually explicit words, names or acts.

The artist draws on the Barberini Faun, a marble sculpture by Giuseppe Giorgetti on view at the Glyptothek in Munich, as a motif and as a wink to the absurdity of a culture, profusely hypersexual and yet latent in its acknowledgment of that sexuality.

Text: Mokia Laisin

Eight panels document in German, French and English descriptions by the most invisible contributor in the economy of prostitution, the John. The descriptions of their experiences are rendered in old gothic type using the conventions of illuminated manuscripts. The installation is arranged in the form of a manuscript study hall for the public to study and read. Codex Testimoniorum Amoris was commissioned by the Arts Council of Munich and exhibited in the Galleries of City Hall. Additional private funding was withdrawn by co-sponsors when it was revealed that the artist would explore such a questionable subject in the Catholic region.

An effort was made to explore this difficult subject in an elegant manner without the use of exploitative images or texts. All explicit words, names, acts are left for the viewer to imagine, making the texts both more opaque as well as fluid and interpretable by the viewer. Each plate has a different set of texts as well as a different classic text composition using established conventions of scholarly annotations and remarks solely with the voice of the buyers.

German description:

Digitalausdruck auf transparentpapier im 8 DinA0 Rahmen, rotes teppich, 8Stuhle, 800 cm x250 cm

Der nicht lange zurückliegende Mord an Rudolf Moshammer hat den amerikanischen Künstler Jean-Ulrick Désert zu einer Außeinandersetzung mit dem Thema der Prostitution in München angeregt. Vielfältige Formen der Tabuisierung, Dämonisierung oder auch Hygienisierung markieren dabei unterschiedliche Konzepte von Moral, Lust, Ökonomie und Macht und finden ihren äußeren Ausdruck in einer Palette unterschiedlicher Rituale und Ikonographien. Diese Gemengelage untersucht Désert mit der ihm eigenen Technik ungewöhnlicher und verstörender Gegenüberstellungen.

Auf acht Tafeln werden in Deutsch, Französisch und Englisch Selbstaussagen der Freier als den am wenigsten wahrgenommenen Beteiligten im Prostitutionsgeschäft dokumentiert. Die Beschreibungen ihrer Erfahrungen sind in Fraktur und unter Benutzung von Darstellungsweisen illuminierter Handschriften wiedergegeben. Die Installation wird dem Publikum in Form einer Manuskriptausstellung präsentiert. Codex Testimoniorum Amoris wurde als Auftragsarbeit für das Kulturreferat München in der Rathausgalerie München gezeigt. Ein privater Sponsor zog sich nach Bekanntwerden des Themas Prostitution in dieser vorwiegend katholischen Region aus dem Projekt zurück.

Der Künstler hat sich bemüht, die Verwendung ausbeuterischer Texte oder Bilder zu vermeiden. Anzügliche Wörter, Namen und Handlungen bleiben der Phantasie des Betrachters überlassen und machen in ihrem Fehlen den Text zugleich weniger durchschaubar als auch lebendiger und interpretierbarer. Jede Tafel zeigt eine eigene Textzusammenstellung. Die Ansichten der Freier sind typographisch als Anmerkungen und Marginalien wiedergegeben.

Material & Format:

Digital prints on vellum papers, carpet and 8 chairs
± 8M x2,5M x 2M [70cmx100cm per panel– 8 panels in total]


WORKS 1997–2023

Jean-Ulrick Désert is the inaugural recipient of Wi Di Mimba Wi :: The AKB & SAVVY Contemporary Commission Prize. 

Silence Will Not Protect You

Originally commissioned for Volume IV of Unfinished Histories at the Klosterruine in Berlin–Mitte, curated by Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung. The initial floor installation consisted of 33 fine grain concrete birds laid to rest upon concrete/beton blocks...

Neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos

do not cast pearls before swine

In this work, Désert teases the above mentioned excerpt from Matthew 7:6 and renders it in the form of festoons draped across the room. The texts, exhibited in Kreyol, Papiamento, Spanish, Sranan Tongo, and Patois, sit underneath balloons which characterise the pearls we are warned of wasting on undeserving recipients.

Terra Nova Afrikæ 新非洲

Commissioned for the exhibition THE INCANTATION OF THE DISQUIETING MUSE by Savvy Contemporary (Berlin)...

Tante Cilet

How Nannite became Aunt Cilet (2015)

The shared phenomena of archiving and recycling photographic memories through family albums remains a critical point of cohesion for the Haitian diaspora...

ABC's of my Private Life

L’ABCdaire de ma vie privée

In four pages, Jean-Ulrick Désert revisits the four places that shaped his personal experience: Port-au-Prince, Brooklyn, Paris, and Berlin...

Belgian Soliloquy

Belgian Soliloquy was developed for the Special Art-Project space PLATFORM 102 In Brussels (Belgium)...

Amour Colère Folie

(Love Anger Madness )- A Temporary Monument to Resistance

A temporary monument to resistance...


The Goddess Temple

An imaginary "ruin" of Josephine Baker's unconstructed Parisian villa of 1928 (by Adolf Loos)...


(I am very much in love w/u)

The Latin term Secretum is used to express the idea of a contained or jarred secret...



BlackOut was first created and installed for 3 days in a public square (Richard-Platz, Berlin-Neukölln) in the summer of 2012.

Sky Above Port-au-Prince

Haiti 12 January 2010 21:53 UTC

This artwork reflects the view of the sky above Haiti during the officially recorded time of the 2010 Earthquake.


The Goddess Constellations

 A 3-dimensional map of the sky above Paris (48°51N2°21E) marking the hour (5AM) of Josephine Baker's *death on the 12th of April 1975..

Shrine of The Divine Negress No.1

The Goddess Project

Désert’s take on the image of the Black Madonna and the Divine Feminine is expressed with a motif of Josephine Baker...

White Lessons

a series of different art-projects on the theme of Whiteness as a lecture presented at Making Mirrors Conference at the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst...

Divine Negress Butterfly Fans

The Goddess Project

1000 hand-fans distributed to the public with the quotation: "A butterfly flapping its wings...can generate a violent storm"-Kofi Annan...


Paint-by-number Trophies (2009) 

The statement 'you can be whoever you want to be...Prime-Minister/President, Secretary General, even an Artist'
- often goes unexamined...

Good Morning Prussia

Good Morning Prussia (Guten Morgen Preussen) is a series of handmade cyanotype photographs. It is the story of a “little Nubian boy”, August Sabac el Cher, who was given as a "gift" to a German noble due to his musical talents. 


Works on paper (mixed media and collage) created for the exhibition entitled Demokratie und Gewalt...

Voices from the Heart

Urban Grafitti is carefully documented and transcribed onto Gingerbread-cookies...

The Travel Albums


A diary of imaginary postcards with incidental notes recounting the project's journeys and strolls in texts and images collected from the public...

The Passion

The artist focuses on football (soccer) fan-culture eccentricities, typified by extravagant fanaticism and the hooligan subculture..

Postcards From My Loves

NH2K / Billboards

Illuminated billboards digitally printed on textile...

Toiles de Jouy

All projects of the Haitian-American artist Jean-Ulrick Désert tackle the visualization of abstract ideas, such as the complex relations between private and political space...

The Science of Beauty

The works of The Science of Beauty consists of a series of newly imagined school-charts using transgendered and intersexed bodies from the beauty of nature.

Métamorphoses Sublimes

A video(loop) projection presented in Istanbul (Turkey) of a Belgian woman demonstrating How to construct and wear a modesty Muslim-veil fashionable among the Turkish minority in Germany. 

Jn.Ulrick Désert

Jn.Ulrick Désert

Désert's first German solo-retrospective exhibition entitled and simply abbreviated as Jn.Ulrick Désert presented at the Wolfsburg Castle (Schloßwolfsburg)) by Kunstverein-wolfsburg

Die Hosen 'runter lassen

The Haitian-American artist creatively reacts to Robert Mappelthorpes seminal and highly controversial black & white photograph Man in a Polyester Suit...

Suicidal Meditations

Photo and video-based project..

The Burqa Project

On The Borders Of My Dreams I Encountered My Double's Ghost

Four flags from four leading industrial nations, The United States of America, The United Kingdom/Great Britain, France, Germany, are used as the basis for replicating the Afghanistan hijab known as The Burqa...


Surrender comprises of two artworks, originally available as low edition multiples, La Main (The Hand) and Le Chapelet (The Rosary) ...


The artist in German Lederhosen constructed of leather resembling caucasian skin and blond hair, was initially deployed as an art-action in multiple European cities...



A beer coaster created to be distributed and used in public and private venues...

The Hip Decadence of Reductive Glamour

The artist, wearing a light tone foundation make-up as a Caucasian hipster, takes a series of self-portraits using a public photo-booth at the Paris Opera House Metro.

Tea Celine

Thé Céline

Glazed Porcelain with blue over-glazed texts (Louis-Ferdinand Céline citations in consultation with French literature scholar Prof.Thomas C. Spear, CUNY)