M4gastatelier Amsterdam

In the framework of REcall project, POLMI team has started an Artists Residences in Amsterdam, c/o the Artists’ Collective Tetterode which three/four times per year set out a Call for Artist Residence project. POLIMI got the term 01NOV2013-28FEB2014.

The programme is to develop other design experiments and researches within REcall ideas & goals, working on Amsterdam “WWII Places&Memories” involving artists from the Tetterode Collective to challenge the difficult heritage of the city.

Here is the general programme for the Residency:

WWII Resistance had different variations that were less evident, less striking, than those that marked the great and truly fundamental actions of war and guerrilla of the armed formations. These variations were “Minor” Resistances that acted through single sabotage events, actions of disturbance or simply of rejection of the oppression, led out by a single individual or by unexpected and unorganized groups, but that did in fact contribute to Italy’s liberation and to the diffusion of the idea of opposition as a possibility. Almost always, these actions are remembered as a localized trauma, known to few, neglected or even erased by the official celebrations and hence hidden from common knowledge. In the places where these actions took place, there is no trace of past events and if there is some mention of it, it is mostly a manifestation of a mute (and in no way shared) rhetoric.

Collecting these examples – in the urban realm of Amsterdam – leads to the possibility of imagining the mapping of certain number of places of ‘minor’ resistance that acted in certain areas and in precise geographic locations, which are not visibly marked in the contemporary city: they have returned to being ordinary places even though they could be the carriers of stories of a shared memory. These sites could maintain the memory of violence and trauma alive and could become the “stumbling blocks” of a history of interstitial resistance, of the inheritance of the idea that action can start from below and cause change. These places still preserve idle traces of these events, but they now appear invisible even if monumentalized, destined even more to oblivion if remembered with commemorative stones or inscriptions. Instead, these sites and their evocative power should become visible through actions that are coherent with a contemporary perception and with the idea that interstitial or ‘minor’ resistance should be an element of everyday life today, just as it was then. In an EU where the actions of citizens are no longer taken into consideration in the decision making of the governing state, in an EU where individual efforts and collective solidarity have no social nor political influence, Minor Geographies of Resistance should walk side by side with those who pass these sites by chance; it should be a sort of invisible network that unexpectedly manifests itself and becomes visually meaningful to whom was protagonist of these episodes at that time. It is necessary to re-create a shared imagery that will allow the resurfacing of a “minor” history in the collective memory of our present, one which will contrast the absence and the obliteration of images, that can be placed in physical and accessible places, and that will allow those who cross these sites today to restore an identification with core values born from the trauma inflicted by Nazifascism.

In allusion to this principle, the presumed action will invite Tetterode artists to create “interventions” on site in cooperation with myself and UvA, for the locations identified in this mapping of Interstitial Resistance. Non-traditional visual devices shall be found in order to activate a different and possibly interactive view for the casual passerby.

The meaning of these actions lies in the consideration of the site itself as a patrimony of memory made alive, not through celebration, but instead through the daily reactivation of the remembrance of minimal yet important events; to arouse the feeling that the recovery of these memories has to do with a narrated ‘history’ born from below, that has nothing to do with the rhetoric of the official history, which fossilizes events instead of bringing them to life, in a past that cannot be part of a constellation that includes the present.

We believe that by confronting ourselves with this traumatic patrimony we could exploit its potential for identity and memory construction dynamics. It is in fact indubitable that war memory and national identity are inscribed in the landscape through heritage (Carr, 2010). Therefore, if we want to open our patrimony to new meaningful narrations, we must face today’s process of historicization of XXth century conflict remains in a conscious way.

Our proposal embodies this aim as it waves memory and imagination together: we believe in Action (reuse and reappropriation) as a therapy to overcome the never-healed trauma of difficult heritage (Postiglione/Bassanelli, 2011). In our approach, the military ideology of boundary and control attached to war remains takes on a different meaning through a process of resamantization.

The Conflict Heritage becomes evidence for a recent history that has changed the power relations among European countries. In this context, it is therefore clear that the great challenge of XXIst century museography will be centred on the reappropriation of our tangible and intangible patrimony to integrate the past in our life and encourage intergenerational exchange (Postiglione/Bassanelli, 2011). This is what our envisioned interaction between cultural heritage and contemporary art/design forms aims at.

The strength of the project extends beyond the timeliness of its contents, as it establishes innovative investigation praxes for contemporary cultural researches. The project proposes a “research by design” approach that joins a merely cognitive activity (the traditional theoretical research) and a purely operational one (the design practice). The purpose of such unconventional approach is that of knowing what “doing” means by doing (Postiglione 2011; Snyder 1984; Van Ouwerkerk 2001). A “thinking laboratory” is thus established with no pre-established method: each author defines the scope of his/her practice independently.

Far from being merely experimental in itself, the practice-based approach is particularly suited to the research issue at stake. In fact, the project isn’t only an instrument of knowledge, conservation and valorisation of difficult traces diffused on the territory. More importantly, it opens up a new propositional perspective capable of turning the painful heritage of WWI and WWII into a resource for European identity construction.

In order to succeed in this intent, the programme resorts to two methodological principles: multidisciplinarity and complementarity. The combination of these factors defines a meta-cultural model that aims at integrating contributions from different disciplines in the field of Humanities.