21 November 2019, 09.00-17.00
Location: CEREFREA, Villa Noel, 6, Street Emile Zola, Bucharest
This workshop analyzes transregional artistic memory practices in the case of societies that have experienced dictatorial regimes. Its particular focus lies within comparisons between South America (especially the Southern Cone – Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil) and Eastern Europe (including ex-Yugoslavia). Some of the questions we will address include: Which pathos formulae (Aby Warburg)/ cultural schemas/narrative templates do we see circulating between different regions? How are similar artistic genres and aesthetic approaches mobilized and locally inflected in different regions? How is their circulation shaped by national and transnational infrastructures and how do they compare in terms of production and reception? Finally, we are particularly interested in methodological opportunities, limitations, and critiques of the transregional approach.
This workshop is organized by the Interdisciplinary research center on Politics, Arts, Memory and Society (PolArt) of the Department of Political Science, University of Bucharest and is a part of the project TE “Transregional remembrance of dictatorships: restoring human dignity through artistic practices in South America and Eastern Europe” (PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-0346, UEFISCDI).
09.00 opening of the workshop
09.30 – 11.30 Panel 1 Eastern European memory regimes
Chair: Dan Drăghia (University of Bucharest)
Maria Alina Asavei, (Charles University, Prague), Presentist Cultural Materializations of Roma Persecution: A Committal Memory for Restoring Dignity
Although the recognition of violence against Roma is enforced through European policies directed to eliminate Romaphobia, racism, and discrimination, in practice, individual states offered little (or no) support to aid the materialization of the cultural and social memory of Roma exclusion from the “common European memory.” This presentation addresses the cultural memory work undertaken by cultural workers and artists of Roma ancestry across Europe that aim to both commemorate the victims of abuse and violence and to signal present infringements of human rights and injustices perpetrated against Romani communities. The “bearing witness” aspect of an unfinished transitional justice process is still an issue of intense academic and political debate. The debate is ongoing and it is not yet clear how to remember and commemorate for instance the Roma and Sinti who perished under the Nazi regime. This difficulty is typically explained by invoking the view that it is not yet settled as to how to refer to the wide variety of Roma persecutions. At the same time, there is a widely accepted view that Roma lack a commemorative culture (Lemon, Stewart) Against these claims, my argument is that there is no such a thing as Roma cultural indifference to commemorating the dead but rather a certain politics of forgetting and the non-committal memory work (Benedik) are responsible for the form and content of the official commemorations of Romani victims. The instances of presentist memory analyzed in this presentation reveal a different picture than the official commemorations of Romani victims accross Central and South-East Europe, where memory is merely employed in abstract debates and conversations while all “immediate connections between contemporary discrimination and historical suffering are neglected” (Benedik). The cultural materializations of Roma suffering turns the producers of them into memory entrepreneurs and cultural activists.
Codruța Pohrib (University of Bucharest), Queer aesthetics: reframing post-communist memory politics
Marked by an ineffective trauma-nostalgia dichotomy, Eastern European post-communist cultural memory practices have been organized around the affective protocols of trauma (by state-sponsored institutions), pop-nostalgia (especially by private/commercial cultural actors) and, in some instances, have used the post-colonial critical idiom. More recently, queer artistic practices developing parafictional, translocal tools for exploring micro-histories of queer lives from communism, are questioning these established frames of remembrance, challenging previous memory work, as well intervening in presently rekindled Cold War rhetoric. This paper investigates some of these artistic/research practices, paying close attention to their affective-aesthetic protocols, the way they creatively assemble new “archives of feeling”(Cvetkovich 2002) and how the participate in contemporary memory debates.
Alexandra Oprea (University of Bucharest), Cinema, memory and critique of corruption after the fall of communism
This presentation questions the anti-corruption movements that emerged in post-communist Bulgarian and Romanian societies after the 2000s in order to understand the emergence of a public problem, in this case, corruption. We thus try to understand the local specificities of this denunciation of corruption but also the circulation between the two countries, through the analysis of the cinematographic discourse as it is presented in the 4 films chosen by this research. Among the existing cinematographic productions we have selected two documentaries, a Romanian one -Kapitalism our improved formula (Alexandru Solomon, 2010) and a Bulgarian one -The Beast Is Still Alive (Vesela Kazakova, Mina Mileva, 2016) and two fictions, one Romanian short film – Cigarettes and coffee (Cristi Puiu, 2004) and a Bulgarian feature film – Gloria (Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, 2016). All four are Eastern Europe productions, released at different times of the post-communist era, so local films, loosely similar by type. It is precisely for this reason that we analyse documentaries, short and long films together, to cover several ways of cinematic expression and to highlight the circulation of certain types of artistic discourse. In order to do so, this contribution mobilizes concepts specific to pragmatic sociology (such as the notion of test and that of grammar) and memory studies. This translates into the analysis of a transnational public memory of communism mobilized in the denunciation of corruption. We therefore try, through this presentation, to propose a model of analysis that allows the researcher to use film productions to capture a form of endogenous critical articulation of a public problem.
11.30-12.00 Coffee break
12.00-14.00 Panel 2 The memories of communism in Romania and Eastern Europe
Chair: Caterina Preda (Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest)
Andreea Lazea (West University of Timisoara), Irony and memory in visual arts in post-communism
Following totalitarian regimes, changes in arts are expected to be radical, as the new-found freedom of creation should liberate long repressed imagination and make finally place to subjects, techniques and aesthetics artists are genuinely interested in. The idea simplifies the complex situation of the arts in post-communist societies, as sometimes themes and styles that emerged during the totalitarian regime are recuperated and developed afterwards. An example is the neo-byzantine movement, that during the 1980s was marginal in relation to the official culture and involved few artists gathered in the Prolog group, whilst after 1989 it became one of the main artistic phenomena, well represented nationwide. But there are also important ruptures. Whereas many topics and paths are explored by artists in the new democratic Romania, the memory of the communist past is hardly one of them. Along with a semi-absence of the subject in the official discourse, few artists approached the recent and traumatic past. The proposed intervention will discuss such artistic endeavours, for example the installations and performances of subREAL group (East-West Avenue, Alimentara), Ioana Ciocan’s Project 1990 for Lenin’s pedestal involving 12 artists, Tara von Neudorf drawings related to the totalitarian past and its nowadays life. The presentation of some important artworks tackling the memory of the communism will highlight the presence of a common ingredient – irony. Can irony in visual arts succeed in preserving memories and how does it do that? What kind of memory is the one irony passes on? Are there analogous forms of art in other post-communist societies? These are the questions my intervention will deal with, drawing on the results of similar research on other cultural fields and geographical areas and largely employing formal and contextual analysis of art objects.
Ludmila Homutová (Charles University, Prague), Pink Symbols. Transforming Postcommunist Public Spaces in Eastern Europe
Political changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s left significant marks in the ex-communist public space. Some statues and symbols of former regimes were torn down without much fuss. But some symbols were transformed, raising questions, backlash and praise at the same time. Pink Tank by David Černý that used to be in Prague is one famous example. His action transformed the memorial to the Red Army into a symbol of resistance, the Velvet Revolution, and freedom. The rich second life of Pink Tank shows the vitality of this new symbol. The use of the colour pink bears clear allusions to this very tank that was used also in other East European countries. This paper will examine the forming of new postcommunist symbolism and how it reflects political and social changes in the former Eastern Bloc taking the use of pink colour as an example. It will briefly describe the story of the original Pink Tank and other examples of „pinked“ statues, especially The Red Army Monument in Sofia and the statue of Lenin from the Project 1990 in Bucharest. Finally it will analyze reactions to these transformations in media.
Manuela Marin (The National History Museum of Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca), Remembering the Communist Past in Romania from a regional perspective
This paper analyzes how the Romanian popular press and advertising industry marked the passing of 20 and respectively 30 years since the fall of the communist regime in Romania. While focusing on the Romanian case, my paper will place it within the larger context of similar initiatives from other communist countries. In the first part of the paper, I will focus on how Romanians’ thinking about the communist period changed from outright rejection to nostalgia over the last 30 years and what arguments they invoked to support their option. To this end, I will analyze both the results of the opinion polls and the readers’ comments on the articles published about communism in the Romanian press. The second part of my presentation will examine what types of images about the communist past were conveyed by the Romanian press and advertising industry and thus, what role the consumption had in creating the nostalgic image or images about the communist past.
14.00 – 15.00 Lunch for the participants to the workshop
15.00-17.00 Panel 3 A transregional outlook between South America and Eastern Europe
Chair: Maria Alina Asavei, (Charles University, Prague)
Katarzyna Cytlak (CEMECH-UNSAM, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Buenos Aires), Giving the ‘Big Picture’. Art Dealing with the Post-Authoritarian Contexts.
In 1996, an American critic and historian Hal Foster used the term “artist as an ethnographer”, marking a paradigm shift in the art of the seventies regarding cultural politics, and above all, the politics of alterity. The ethnographer becomes a model of the producer (of culture) who investigates the cultural “Other” – a subaltern and postcolonial subject. Considering the theoretical debate aiming to redefine modern art, to reevaluate local translations of the modernist project and re-inscribe it within the global frame, Foster’s concept should be modified in order to correspond better to the post-authoritarian contexts. From this perspective, artistic strategy developed by Latin American and East European artists can be defined as self-ethnography or even as self-history, the science that uses self-reflection to explore anecdotal and personal experiences, and then, relate them to broader historical, cultural, political and social meanings and knowledge. The paper aims to discuss the archival and historiographic turn in contemporary art developed in the contexts defined as “peripheral” in respect of the Western (European) cultural centers. It will focus on artworks context that aimed to give a big picture of historical traumatizing events, or to depict the history of the country, the continent, or even the whole Planet Earth. The paper will analyze two artist’s books made by the Uruguayan artists during the post-dictatorship period: Brief History of Art in Latin America (1986) by Jorge Caraballo, which is a commentary on the Uruguayan civic-military dictatorship (1973-1985) and Visual Encyclopedia of the History of Latin America (1983-1988) by Clemente Padín that refers to the history of colonialism, dictatorships and dominations of the whole continent. In order to discuss the use of individual memories to construct metahistorical narratives about domination and resistance, the paper will compare Padín’s and Caraballo’s artworks to Pangaea – Visual Aid for Historical Consciousness (2011) by Ex-Artists’ Collective, which maps political and social struggles as well as their symbols and ideologies from the prehistory of the World up to today’s globalization.
Graziele Frederico (University of Milan), Become testimony: women voices about the Brazilian and Argentinean Military Dictatorships
Based on the concept of testimony defined by Giorgio Agamben in Quel che resta di Auschwitz: l’archivio e il testimone (2008), this paper proposes the analysis of three narratives which seek to reconstruct the memory and the past from a temporal distance that allows to reelaborate and expose the scars of what happened, besides showing and representing various aspects of the politics of transitional justice, memory and truth (or the absence of all this) in the Brazilian context with references to the Argentinian context as well. This paper proposes to analyze the novel Nem tudo é silêncio (2010), by Sonia Regina Bischain, a São Paulos’s periphery writer; Mar azul (2012), by Paloma Vidal, that tells a story about two exiles, father and daughter in different times, escaping from the Argentine and the Brazilian dictatorships. And finally, Volto semana que vem (2015), by Maria Pilla, a survivor from the two dictatorships (Argentine and Brazilian) that elaborates in fiction 20 years later her experience. Based on these narratives, this work aim to approach Agamben’s wish that after the extermination camps, ethics and testimony should make some words forgotten and others understood/read differently. The process of memory elaboration differs in many ways in the two countries. First of all, Argentina has prosecuted its criminals for state terrorism, while Brazil continues to maintain an unrestricted “amnesty” for tortures and murderers. In the Hispanic-American country, public testimonies and proceedings were held and a collective sharing of the crimes of the dictatorial regime was possible. In Brazil, official memory policies in the post-dictatorship period cloistered scars at private levels and at most turned state crimes and horror into a family problem. The discussion has not been and is not yet public and collective. In literature, these questions are also exposed in different ways. While Argentines consider testimonial literature as an established and prolific literature genre, even tracing different phases with the current production of “Hijos”, for example, bringing irony and humor as new aesthetic elements for the memorial debate. In Brazil, although the current phase also differs from the first stage of denunciation, there is a division in production: narratives that still seek to demonstrate the still open wounds (especially due to the lack of Justice) and on the other hand, an attempt to pacify this past or a melancholy framing of the military dictatorship in an outdated chapter of the country’s history.
Caterina Preda (Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest), The artistic memorialization of dictatorships: a transregional approach
Thirty years after the fall of communism and after the end of the military regimes in South America (in the 1980s), contemporary artists, theater and film directors are still interested in the ways in which the dictatorships in their countries shaped their societies. Artists investigate the past through the use of the archives of the secret police forces in their countries, or they employ regional archives (Voluspa Jarpa) that help shape a transregional approach to the study of the memory of the dictatorships. They moreover use their bodies to recall those, which are still considered disappeared by the dictatorships such as in Uruguay (Clemente Padin), or Chile (#quererNOver). Artists enter a conversation with the relicts of the past, engaging with the material memory of the dictatorships as in the case of the socialist monuments which are still in place (Alexandra Pirici) or which have been relocated. In this presentation I want to discuss the different ways in which contemporary artists bring to the fore the memory of dictatorship and the ways in which they help document, interrogate and draw a new possible future from the relicts of the unresolved past. From a theoretical point of view this investigation is situated at the meeting of Art in Transitional Justice studies and Cultural memory studies that take into account artistic forms of memorialization after traumatic experiences introducing thus in the theoretical discussion the case of contemporary visual arts which is not a privileged topic of research for neither.
17.00 closing of the workshop