RESEARCH & PROJECTS
Installation av verket ''Walking with Shadows'' av Eric Magassa, Franska Tomten, GIBCA 2019. Foto: Eric Magassa
Remember us To Life - Vulnerable Memory in a Prospective Monument, Memorial and Museum
This project aims to investigate three commemorative projects that are currently under development in Sweden: A Holocaust museum, a monument over Swedish colonialization and a memorial for the victims of a murderer with racist motifs. I suggest that these three projects can be read as an engagement with an unhealed wound. This enables an investigation of how vulnerability is connected to questions of commemoration, cultural heritage and public space. The three projects are very different in terms of scale, temporality and commissioner but can be understood in a common framework of how a society deals with the memory of vulnerable lives in public commemorations. Central aspects are that I follow the processes of development rather than, in retrospect, assess their result and that the proposed project consists of an empirical part and a critical evaluation of the three projects and the chosen theoretical frame. The research addresses how contemporary discussions of public commemoration can be understood in relation to notions of vulnerability and grievability, the role of the commissioner, how future practices of commemoration can be sensible to a variety of aesthetic expressions, voices and experiences and how these commemorative projects can be considered as a form of ethical response to the past, theoretically as well as in relation to the current demands of the protests Black Lives Matter and in how cultural heritage is defined.
Beyond the Witness – Holocaust Representations and the Testimony of Images
Rebecka Katz Thor
2018, dissertation, Art and Theory Publishing
In a time when the very last Holocaust witnesses will soon be gone, a possible route for commemoration is to ask what testimony images can give. This book seeks to answer the question of how images can bear witness by examining them as multifaceted entities produced, reproduced, and resituated in conflicting political and historical situations.
Beyond the Witness – Holocaust representations and the Testimony of Images takes as its point of departure the question of how images can bear witness without being reduced to a mere representation. The background of the project is the witness tradition as the privileged means of commemoration, as it was formed after the Holocaust, and the question I pose is how a future commemoration will look when there are no survivors left. Here, I argue for the central position of the image and investigate how one can understand the conditions of production and the situational and contextual frameworks to understand what the image has to say (to paraphrase W.J.T Mitchell). This is a question of moving beyond representation and beyond preconceived notions of the witness, and instead asking what the image does if all its aspects are taken into account, and it is thus also situated in a time and place.
In three archive-based films by Harun Farocki, Yael Hersonski, and Eyal Sivan, the moving image is reactivated and reinterpreted. Footage produced as internal Nazi propaganda and the video recordings of a politically charged trial in the aftermath of the Holocaust have accrued new meaning.
The archival status, context, and conditions for production, and the means of representation, offer a framework for an analysis through which the testimony of images can be understood.
Asking what happens if one regards images as bearing witness by necessity implies a move beyond the witness (as a subject) and beyond the witness tradition (based on individual testimonies). There is a need for alternative forms of and tools for commemoration, which encompass different forms of mediations. I suggest a move beyond the presupposition of the image as proof or redemption, in order instead to examine how and by what means one can understand the testimony given by images. My proposal of the image as being able to bear witness is something which can be understood firstly through the threefold relation between the photographic situation, the mechanical recording and developing, and the reading of the imagery by the spectator. I pursue an argumentation against representation, against the idea that an image can be described in words, and against the notion that an image can be deciphered in a coherent or structural way. Yet, the image as witness is not a substitute and not a guarantee for grasping a historical event; it does not reveal the truth but could point to a possible truth. What a reading of the image as witness thus strives for is such a construction of truth – not necessarily saying what was but offering a fuller frame and context of the image.
AND ALL IS YET TO BE DONE
Rebecka Katz Thor and Petra Bauer
Image: Installation view
And All is Yet to Be Done is a long-term collaboration with artist Petra Bauer 2015-ongoing, exploring how spatial and temporal structures are activated within feminist practice. By this we ask what role physical space plays for means of organising and creating politics for the future.
We are invested in questions of political organising in feminist movements and in the project we traced similarities between contemporary associations and the early radical feminist movements (1900-1923). The interest in history is not a question of historicising, rather it is a quest of what in the historical that might help us create an alternative future. Hence, we highlight forms of resistance, which often are overlooked that continually challenge and re-shape communities. By acknowledging elements that usually remain invisible, such as the role of meetings, cooking and handicraft, one might offer a counter narrative. Thus, what is crucial here is to ask which kind of potential politics these organisations produce.
The project amounted to several works and iterations and was first exhibited at Gothenburg International Biennale of Contemporary Art in 2015.
And All is Yet to Be Done (2015) is a three channeled slideshow a narration unfolded about a journey of the early Swedish feminist movement. In the spring of 1920 a group of Swedish socialist women sets out on a journey to the newly founded Soviet Union. They travel north, passing through Norway on their way to the International Women’s Congress in Moscow. While travelling they visit other women’s organizations. For them the revolutionary country serves as an inspiration for what could be done at home. As they go they write a travelogue for the socialist magazine Red Voices and one of them, Kata Dahlström, takes her own photographs as well as collects post cards. The post cards depict the horrors of life during the tsar rule, in order to enforce what has been accomplished since the revolution. It is a time of transformations, a time when everything seems possible and yet, in Sweden, when little has been achieved. Following their lead, we revisited this specific time in order to imagine a future.
And All is Yet to be Done: The Grammar of Feminist Organising (2018) was commissioned by Riga International Biennale of Contemporary Art and took place in Kanepes Kulturas centrs, in Riga. The center describes themselves as a platform for cultural, social and political events, conversations, impulses of change, and freedom of thought. The house in itself has a rich history: when Kanepes Kulturas centrs moved six years ago the building had been abandoned for some years. Yet, in the early 20th century it was a space for social events for Baltic, German and Russian aristocrats and later it hosted different artistic communities as well as the academy of music.
We created a wallpaper out of photographs depicting women’s gatherings in the early 20th Century in Sweden. It was a time when women did not have any civil or political rights, and when women coming together could be seen as a subversive act in itself. The wallpaper is installed in the “Blue Room”, which is part of the bar hosted by Kanepes Kulturas centrs. During the exhibition period a transnational feminist assembly was held in the space, where feminists from Nordic and Baltic associations shared experiences and strategies of organising.
In 2018 the project was invited for an exhibition at Extra City Kunsthalle in Antwerp, due to institutional conflicts we decided to only be present with a statement.
The last part of the project, too this day, was presented in the publication Red Love: A Reader on Alexandra Kollontai published by Sternberg Press 2020.