De-Placing Future Memory

Award Holder

Dr Elena Isayev

Higher Education Institute

Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Exeter

What is the strength of the bond between memory & place?
_ Place does not exist without memory
_ We are affected unexpectedly, by landscapes, monuments and objects

How can that bond be broken or weakened?
_ Stories cluster in places
_ Refugees are placeless with collective memory

What are the effects of such a break?
_ Overwriting through art, building and music
_ Traces cannot be erased, we carry them with us

When is it desirable?
_ Power is to control the memory of a place
_ To live in the completeness of the moment not its memory or ruins

These questions are addressed through a collaboration of academics, visual artists, architects, musicians and other members of our community.
The aim of this project is to provide a space to bring together ideas about identity, presence, homeland and mobility, whether theoretical or concerning current urgent events, which crucially depend on our understanding of the nature and quality of the bond between memory and place.

Monuments and places are seen as containers of infused memory, but the extent to which they mold, enhance or weaken bonds of attachment and belonging have not been fully investigated. The project seeks to comprehend the permeability of the bond between memory and place, and the sense of attachment that arises from it.  It is interested in the role or agency of the physical world, and the extent to which lessons from the exploration of materiality, in accessing the underside of history, can expose the impact of subliminal pasts, beyond what may be articulated through text.

The future memory embodied in an object, monument or place, anticipates a specific audience or participant response, and gains power from that expectation. For example, the strength of the experience which a war monument can elicit, is drawn from both: an anticipated shared understanding of memories of war from the past; and the sense that the monument will effect a similar reaction from later viewers, hence projecting memory into the future.

The power of an art work is in part derived from the same expectation, which allows its embodiment of the multi-sensory experience to shift our perception of that same world on which it draws for inspiration. A central component of this workshop is the collaboration of visual artists, who will share the methods of their artistic practice by conducting artist-led journeys, and creating work for an exhibition, which will be open to the public.

Through an innovative fusion of historians, archaeologists, geographers, anthropologists, and scholars from politics and drama as well as practicing artists, the project will address the following questions:

  • What causes a shift or break in the memory of a place?
  • How does understanding the agency of the physical world help us to gauge the tenacity of the bonds between memory, place and belonging?
  • How are futures of anticipated audiences embodied in monuments and objects?
  • In what ways does the experience of displacement and mobility in particular affect future memory? And How can meaningful memory monuments be created out of archives of the dis- or de-placed?
  • In what way can answers to the above questions be furthered through a better understanding of, and participation in, artistic practices?

These strands of inquiry may not be surprising in what is perceived as a rapidly shrinking world, with high levels of human mobility.  Negotiations about identity, homeland and attachment to place, are often at the root of investigations of contemporary migrations and politics in conflict regions.  But it is rare that the impact of the physical world, and its role is brought into consideration.

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