VIS Issue 9 was published on 14 March 2023. The issue features seven expositions within the theme “of Memory and Public Space”. Editors: Serge von Arx and Eliot Moleba.
Hedvig Jalhed, Mattias Rylander
How can microsocial rituals connected to a specific site be used as interaction templates for artistic purposes? And how can we distort such rituals artistically in order to make them memorable events? As artists, we regard distortion as the process that gives character and distinction to things and situations, as well as something that confuses and enriches information and interpretation. Through examples emerging from the operatic production Chronos’ Bank of Memories (2019–2022), set in empty shop stores with interacting visitors, we have recalled and fleshed out issues of rituality with distorted proportions. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, its production was interrupted and later on revived, which affected the work. This exposition covers aspects of both our artistic practice in general and this particular opera’s tendency to encompass distorted rituals. Commentary texts, images, and audio/video clips are arranged into an introduction and then three thematic strands in order to offer a reasoned overview of our work process.
Altodi Poltodi (This shore, That shore)
Savyasachi Anju Prabir, Amrita Barua
Altodi Poltodi thinks through aspects of permeability and preservation, provoking an image of shadowy protector figures. How do they interact with a landscape, what could they want to protect and where do they mark their boundary lines? Drawing from the ancient stories of Rakhandars, mythic beings that guard or protect Goan villages, this collaborative process weaves personal stories with the land and history of Goa. Altodi Poltodi began as a conversation between two friends on a bridge over a river, in a state of suspension, connecting two shores – those of memory and the present.
[Re] Mapping of Being – Landscape/Cavescape/Humanscape
Nina Tsy, Nataliia Korotkova (IIAKO)
This exposition opens up the memory space of a landscape that carries a collective knowledge of the events of the Second World War in Sørøya, an isolated region far in northern Norway. Inside its landscape voids, the island conceals places that once became a refuge for half of the region’s inhabitants. In this research project, artists ask themselves what collective memory is and how the landscape opens up an alternative public space in its own depths. How do the caves of the island of Sørøya carefully hide and preserve the memory of the events of the Second World War, and how do these events fade into the shadows of Norway’s inhabitants’ social memory?
This exposition shows one chapter of our ongoing research project Dunke-Dunk, where the landscape is becoming the cavescape and the cavescape is becoming the humanscape through the artists’ long field trips to the region, their bodily immersion in caves, and an endless evagation searching for what preserves the memory of the touch of the Second World War through the [re]reading of archives, all the while collecting stories from the inhabitants and the terrain from an architectural and artistic perspective.
The Anonymous – A Documentary Memory and Transformation Project
De anonyma (The Anonymous) is a research project on memory and transformation that is divided into three parts: a book, a audio work, and a film. Over the past twenty years, Bengt Bok has returned several times to a former Nazi concentration camp north of Berlin. The first time he visited the site, he was shocked by the former death camp’s immediate proximity to a surrounding village. A community. Not only today but when the camp was still in use by the Nazis. How could people carry on living so nearby? He subsequently transformed the memories of his personal encounters, experiences and observations both in the camp and in the village into a book, which he, in turn, transformed into a sound work and, finally, into a film. In this exposition, Bok explores what became specific to, and distinctive about, each of the three different expressions or works — in other words, which narrative components remained, which disappeared, and which were added.
Poner el cuerpo – Making spaces public
In this exposition, I expand the notions and practices of collective body-action intervention (dance, performance, happenings, etc.) as a method to strengthen embodied knowledge, an instigation to engage in restorative encounters, and an invitation to intervene and disrupt political biases of (public) spaces. These methodologies propose alternatives for knowledge exchange/production beyond hegemonic, Eurocentric education.
In parallel, I reflect on my own practice and the anti-patriarchal and decolonial feminist political basis of the collectives of which I am part. We work with strategies and methodologies inspired by feminisms from the Global South, such as taking care of others as a practice that puts aside the patriarchal capitalist model of life that mainly separates, individualizes, prioritizes, and promotes competition and exploitation. We promote exchange, cooperation, and interdependence. I reflect on how these encounters summon the festive memory of our territories and the resilience of our* wounds.
Emotions of the bodies and the resistances will trigger our rituals in Abya Yala**, the flows and drifts will make this poetic-affective encounter, as will the skin itself.
*We: Here I refer to collectivity in a broad sense in each case: We as the collectives I am part of, we as women (cis, trans, nonbinary), we as immigrants, we as bipoc, etc
**Abya Yala: Self-determined name for the territories in the global south named "America" as a result of the colonizing process.
The exposition Scented Rooms aims to be a form of resistance that finds itself in poetry and politics, poetic imagery, re-thinking censored archives, existential reflections on photography and cinema, and dance.
At the very core of the research is an important historic icon in Iran; The country's oldest theater which was burnt down by extremists during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, closed forever and has decayed over time. The burning of this theater, along with many others, was the starting point for imposing restrictions on art and culture.
The research departs contextually from the efforts of the Islamic government to control civil society. It is a reaction to a history of imposing a specific language discourse and discarding elements that represent a non-religious view, visual changes in the urban space and limiting access to specific types of information that refer to citizens’ collective memory.
Giving agency to this theater, the research aims to revive the collective and public memory of a society, being the voice of those that have been silenced for a long time.
A History of Violence
Through experimental writing and conceptual photography, my PhD uses my own biography to investigate the consequences of societal transformation processes in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The focus is on the period of regime change known as the »Wendezeit« in the late 1980's to the early 1990's in East Germany. To date, this subject has been analysed primarily by scholars of history and cultural sciences, while approaches to this topic by artistic researchers are still rare.
With my research, I would like to reveal causes for the outbreaks of violence that accompanied this radical shift. The objective of my PhD is thus to submit critical testimony to the silence about seldom-discussed side effects of the transformation during and after the turnaround which Germans call the »Wende«. Based on the example of (my own) individual history, it demonstrates how authoritarian regimes and structures impacted on three generations of citizens, and how they affected the individuals. Throughout an experimental narrative, outbreaks ofsenseless violence are treated as side effects of disruptive transformation processes, just as are ambivalent situations in which actors of social change recognise themselves to be simultaneously victims and perpetrators of violent incidents. Since personal memories and historical documents served as the basis of this work, the central challenge of my artistic research was to carve out generalisable elements from individual examples, and to try out and experiment with various textual and photographic formats to find an adequate way to present the research material. Important sources of inspiration for this process included works like Alexander Kluge’s »Lebensläufe« (‘Case Histories’), Primo Levi’s »Ist das ein Mensch?« (‘If This Is a Man’), Walter Benjamin’s »Denkbilder« [Thought-Images], Klaus Theweleit’s »Männerphantasien (‘Male Fantasies’), Georges Didi-Huberman’s »Bilder trotz allem« (‘Images in Spite of All’), Claude Lanzman’s documentary film »Shoah«, and W.G. Sebald’s novel »Austerlitz«. The result of my research is an experimental book that portrays the multidimensional nature, polyphony and complexity of the subject, and offers the readers an opportunity to deal with the material in the way they desire, and perhaps to make it useful for their own work and research.