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Tonight no poetry will serve – A Memory Wound
Södertörn University, School of Culture and Education, Aesthetics.
2018 (English)In: NSEParis 2018 Abstracts, 2018Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The title of our paper alluds to a poem by the American writer Adrienne Rich. The poem suggests the sublime capacity of art to effect change, while at the same time acknowledging that art also can be ineffectual in the face of despair. The history of public art is fraught with controversy, and this fact is also addressed by a number of researchers in our field. As the philosopher Hilde Hein writes ”we go to private art, but public art is come upon,” referring to public art as ”unwanted art” (2006, 55). Our project is not concerned with the controversy of public art, but with a topic that we believe is under-theorized in our field, namely how the social and ethical meaning of memorials and public art are reproduced as a discourse. We argue, that there is a Post Witness Art discourse that reproduce the idea that art must bear wittness to catastrophic events, even when the people that are effected by these events opposes the very existence of art. We will argue, that to look at Post Witness Art as part of a discourse that defines art as remembrance and mourning, means that we have to acknowledge that this discourse carries a certain language, words that in themselves manifest power. In our paper we ask, what does claims of democracy and inclusiveness mean when the art world is faced with opposition? What if there are situations were art simply is not the answer, as the title of Rich´s poem suggests? We will address these matters with a specific case in mind, namely Memory Wound. This is a memorial design by the Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg, commisioned by Public Art Norway, in the aftermath of the horrific attacks at the government buildings and Utøya in Norway on the 22 of July 2011. The attacks claimed a total of 77 lives and hundreds were injured. With a ”wound that can never be healed” Dahlberg intended the design to “reflect the abrupt and permanent loss.” Dahlbergs design illustrates the loss in the presence of a cut – like an injury – and has a site/non-site logics that is a recurrent image in many contemporary memorials. In our paper, we will adress the collision between the people that live in the proximity to where Memory Wound were to be situated, and the advocators for the memorial, namely the art world. In an open letter an international group of acclaimed artists and curators appealed to the Norwegian government to ”be brave and allow Memory Wound to become a dignified place of healing”. This letter exhibits what we will adress as a tacit understanding of how public art should function, as a mediator between the private and the public. The arguments in favour of Memory Wound that came from the art world show, that there is an underlying assumption that art has a democratic and healing function, that is reflected by the words that are used. We will discuss the advocator’s arguments in the context of a post-habermasian notion of modernity and a “progressive reading on history” where freedom, autonomy and emancipation will be the result. In this research project we work together as a collaborative duo called arketeg.freyr, and this talk will consequently be presented as a combined effort.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Arts Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-35527OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-35527DiVA, id: diva2:1215280
Conference
NSEParis 2018 The Nordic Society of Aesthetics, Annual meeting, Paris, May 31- June 2, 2018.
Available from: 2018-06-08 Created: 2018-06-08 Last updated: 2018-06-08Bibliographically approved

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