Thursday, 19 March 2020

9:30 – 10:00

Registration / Welcome

10:00 – 10:15

Welcome note

Lars Kwakkenbos, the dean of KASK

Introduction

Jelena Jureša, Marte Van Hassel, Stef Craps

10:15 – 11:30

Keynote
Michael Rothberg

Implicated Subjects and the Art of Obliviousness

In this talk Michael Rothberg will begin by outlining the argument of his new book, The Implicated Subject. Suggesting that the familiar categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander do not adequately account for our connection to injustices past and present, he offers a new theory of historical and political responsibility. The figure of the implicated subject and the allied concept of implication provide a way of addressing the manifold indirect, structural, and collective forms of responsibility that enable trauma, exploitation, and domination but that frequently remain in the shadows. Implicated subjects occupy positions aligned with power and privilege without being themselves direct agents of harm; they contribute to, inhabit, inherit, or benefit from regimes of domination but do not originate or control them. In the second part of the talk, Rothberg will turn to the questions of forgetting, denial, and aphasia and will argue that a certain “art of obliviousness” defines implicated subjectivity. Referring to the work of such artists and filmmakers as William Kentridge and Michael Haneke, he will explore whether and how it is possible to counter such obliviousness via a critical aesthetic of remembrance.

Chair: Stef Craps

11:30 – 12:00

Coffee Break

12:00 – 13:00

Reem Shilleh & Quinsy Gario

Moderated by
Joachim Ben Yakoub

Traces of Subversive Intimacies Relating Palestine, the Caribbean and their diasporic presences

A conversation between Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario, facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub

A growing number of visual artists in the global south return to the haunting present of the history of slavery, colonialism, anti-imperial struggle and decolonization by excavating lost stories, images and soundbites, relating different unexpected subversive dots on the imperial world map. In this conversation facilitated by Joachim Ben Yakoub, Reem Shilleh and Quinsy Gario will reflect on traces of possible intimacies between Palestine, the Caribbean and their diasporic presence to elaborate on different understandings of the archive. Reem Shilleh will expand on her proposition of an imperfect archive in the context of Palestine: a non-uniform, anti-formal archive that has no place, body, or definition but instead is a collective practice that questions nationalism and statehood as the defining parameters for collective and shared memory. Following Gloria Wekker, Quinsy Gario mobilizes the notion of the Dutch-Caribbean cultural archive, to point to how an unacknowledged reservoir of knowledge and affects based on four hundred years of Dutch imperial rule plays a vital but unacknowledged part in dominant racialised meaning- making processes. Echoing the work of Edward Glissant, Joachim Ben Yakoub will join the conversation from his understanding of the archive, as traces of one world in relation. In the light of accelerated globalisation and planetary entanglements the archive can no longer just be apprehended as a mnemonic device, but functions as a lively discursive and material power formation that structures prevailing aesthetics, the presence and absence of certain political subjectivities and their living memories.

13:00 – 14:00

Lunch Break

14:00 – 14:30

Matthew G. Stanard

Confabulation, Colonialism and Consciousness: Belgian Memories of Empire after 1960

When examining forgotten memories of European overseas empires, present-day commentators often assume an accusatory stance, as if Europeans have chosen to deliberately mis-remember the past, or to suppress unflattering memories. To what degree have gaps in collective memories—and filling those gaps—shaped processes of remembering and forgetting the colonial past? This paper examines the role of confabulation in the formation of a collective consciousness in the case of Belgium and its colonial history. Confabulation is a memory disorder where a subject fills gaps in his/her memory with made-up or twisted information; the tall tales the subject spins about past events are misleading, but not deliberately so. The means by which Belgian rule in the Congo was commemorated in the metropole and the way in which that colonial control ended not only created positive recollections but also gaps in Belgium’s collective memory; filling those gaps contributed to a positive narrative about the colonial experience that has only begun to be questioned in the past two decades.

Chair: Frederik Le Roy

14:30 – 15:00

Laura Nsengiyumva

Mapping Colonial Belgium

The presence of citizens with African descent in Belgium is the result of a history of oppression and migrations between the territories of Belgium, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Yet this part of our common heritage is barely known nor is it addressed in the discipline that shapes our « vivre-ensemble »; our urban-planning . This “omerta” holds in its core the seed of violence as it repeats the same imbalance as the one of our oppressive past; demands are received with a brutal defensiveness.

In the present ideological shift, we expect that cities express and facilitate equality and not layers of power. Cultural identity as a variation of this quest for social justice is often narrowed by a narrative of particularism which fails to recognize oppression and migration as universal experiences. Therefore, an inclusive dialogue is the key for intercultural understanding in order to reach the collective. My research, titled Shaping the presence of the African diaspora in Belgium. Inclusive city-making tools, aims to clarify the claims of the defined community through political and artistic actions to engage in the public debate.
Mapping Colonial Belgium addresses the lack of basic data needed to negotiate with the local authorities of all levels. How to make these claims valid as distinct misrecognized group? While avoiding fragmentation? In order to comprehend these spatial issues not only for the use of the Afro- descendants but for the whole community, the first obstacle is to deconstruct the colonial propaganda that surrounds us. Therefore, this map aims to be informative and accessible to the public through open source systems.
By using informatical geographic data, we also translate existing and new knowledge in a common official language used by the authorities (GIS) for surveys . Mapping Colonial Belgium becomes then a political tool that makes visible the traces of the Colonial History left in the public space in Belgium.

Chair: Frederik Le Roy

15:00 – 15:30

Bambi Ceuppens

Chair: Frederik Le Roy

15:30 – 16:30

Oliver Frljić

Our Violence and Your Violence

The question of relationship between theater and different forms of  political power is probably as old as this medium. The answer to this question defines the type of representation and a consequent performativity that certain theater deploys. This lecture will deal with different attempts of Oliver Frljić in last few years, whose theater  has been developing modes of representation which goal was deconstruction of ethnocentric normatives, with primary focus to post-Yugoslav societies. The political goals of Frljić’s theatre has been essential for the questioning of dominant modes of representation and the structure of power already inscribed and transcribed through them. Hence, the question of positionality often avoided within theater industry that deals with the appropriation and commodification of suffering, a situation where distress becomes another commodity that, depending on the political and economic constellations, sells well.

Chair: Thomas Belinck

16:30 – 17:00

Coffee Break

17:00 – 18:45

Film programme, curated and introduced by Branka Benčić

Propositions Against Oblivion: The Secretary of the Invisible

The Secretary of the Invisible describes a film as a chameleon and the figure of the artist as a secretary of the invisible. But it also works in reverse. The artist is the chameleon and film is the secretary of the invisible. (Marine Hugonnier: “The Secretary of the Invisible”, conversation with Anne-Sophie Dinant, Vdrome)

The film programme brings together films and video works by artists and filmmakers of different generations and backgrounds, and juxtaposes historical and recent works. It aims to establish a dialogue that reflects social and political constellations, indicates crises and omissions, redefinitions of the notion of the nation-state and national identity, or the politics of power inscribed in the representation of the other, exploring narratives that are missing in a public discourse, injustice, exploitation, and necropolitics.

Aphasia

a film by Jelena Jureša, 2019, 80′

In dialogue with

Unsere Afrikareise (Our Trip to Africa)

a film by Peter Kubelka, 1966, 13′

18:45 – 19:30

Panel discussion about Aphasia
Petra Van Brabandt
Jelena Jureša

Moderated by
Christel Stalpaert

Friday, 20 March 2020

9:45 – 10:00

Registration / Welcome

10:00 – 11:15

Keynote
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

Aesthetics of Memory, Witness to Violence and a Call to Repair

This paper considers the aesthetic, emotional and narrative dimensions of victims’ trauma testimonies and explores new interpretive domains opened up by unique moments of communal responses to trauma testimony that emerged at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. First, the paper focuses on how body language and other forms of symbolic expression can communicate a matrix of complex intersecting memories of traumatic experience in a way that reveals a deeper truth about the past that may not be articulable in verbal language. The paper then discusses three different forms of responses to trauma testimony. These include communal responses, denial, and a visual arts illustration of a creative response to trauma testimony. The final section of the paper introduces the notion of “reparative humanism” and argues that in the aftermath of historical trauma, restoring human bonds among the wounded and the victimisers and their descendants requires engagement with the process of “repair” rather than the more commonly held goals of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Chair: Catherine Gilbert

11:15 – 11:45

Coffee Break

11:45 – 13:00

Discussion

Uncovering and Challenging Oblivion – Memorial Strategies in Diverging Political Contexts

The task of dealing with violent pasts can be considered one of the most pressing political issues of our time. The rise of human rights discourses and the “memory-boom” since the end of the Cold War have prompted governments and citizens across the world to come to terms with historical injustices such as mass-violence and imperialism. Victims, survivors and other inheritors of colonialism and slavery demand reparation and recognition. Such “past-oriented politics” have since become the central focus of intense scholarly debate, in which several historians and social theorists simultaneously call into question the alleged emancipatory potential of such politics. Past-oriented politics have been criticized for stimulating a “competition of grievances” among (self-claimed) victims (Maier, 1993), for lacking orientation towards the future (Torpey, 2001; Huyssen, 2003), for keeping the wounds of the past open, and for preventing societies from moving on (Olick & Coughlin, 2003). In more recent years, memory scholars have tried to move away from the implicit notion that an “orientation towards the past” automatically goes hand in hand with a “future vacuum” (Rigney, 2018), by trying to understand how orientations towards the past, present and future interact in what they call “memory activism” (Gutman, 2017). This panel takes up these questions about the relation between ‘memory’ and ‘activism’, and between ‘memory’ and ‘the future’. Around the world, a growing number of grassroots memory-initiatives have emerged that explicitly link an occupation with memory to present and future social justice. The panel invites Collectif Mémoire Coloniale (Belgium), Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives, the Netherlands) and Vesna Teršelič (Documenta, Croatia) to share their perspectives as activists and memory workers in three diverging political contexts. What political, historical and aesthetic strategies do they employ to fight for collective remembering? How do they see the duty to remember related to their fight for social justice in these contexts? And which obstacles do they encounter? They will talk about their experiences as activists swimming against the mainstream oblivion, in their campaigns for visibility of past ánd of contemporary injustices. Eline Mestdagh (Ghent University) will facilitate the conversation.

Vesna Teršelič (Documenta – Center for dealing with the past)

Collectif Mémoire Coloniale et Lutte contre les Discriminations

Mitchell Esajas (The Black Archives)

Moderated by
Eline Mestdagh

13:15 – 14:15

Lunch Break

14:15 – 15:30

Anna Reading

Colonialism, Slavery and the Erasure of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) Memories.

The UK Tory Party Manifesto (2019, p.19) specifically targets the UK Gypsy, Roma, Traveller (GRT) communities with the intent to enact new legislation to criminalise GRT who park on private land, while providing no new temporary sites or housing for communities. This is nothing new: GRT have been routinely criminalised and marginalised for centuries throughout European history along with the multiple erasures of memory. This paper builds on earlier research of mine on the logics of the forgetting of the history and memory of people of GRT origins in European countries, arguably the EU’s largest ethnic minority and transnationally present in all 26-7 EU states (Reading, 2013, 2014). This forgetting includes the disconnection of the memory of transatlantic slavery from rrobia – the 18th and 19th century enslavement of Romany people in what is now the territory of Romania; the erasure of the memory of transportation of GRT to British colonies; the post-War forgetting of the Nazi genocide of Roma and Sinti in the Holocaust and the Cold War marginalisation, sterilisation and criminalisation of people of Romany origin in many ‘socialist’ European countries. The paper examines how erasure and forgetting of GRT history and memory operates materially, structurally and symbolically focussing on a number of examples including those from the Anglo-Romani context.

Selma Selman

Deploying Art to Transform the Mechanisms of Marginalization

My artistic approach is deeply informed by two key experiences: my coming of age during the Bosnian War (1992 -95) and my Roma identity. The Roma people are the biggest minority in Europe and there are often perceived as “nomadic”—people who are not rooted, but rather mobile and migrating—and therefore made invisible within the national order of things. As a result, the Roma people live in countries where they do not have many rights and where they face perpetual discrimination. Due to our statelessness, the war severely affected my family and other Roma people in my hometown, Bihać. We spent three-and-a-half years under siege, with no electricity or regular food supplies. During the siege, the Roma population was especially vulnerable; i.e. were the last to receive humanitarian aid. In my long-term project “Get the heck to school” I collaborated with a U.S. based Bosnian NGO, BHeart Foundation and together, we sell my art and belongings to collect and distribute scholarship funds to at-risk Roma children. Those children, particularly the girls, face the problem of poverty and child marriage, both of which are on the increase due to the dire socio-economic situation stemming from our migratory history and war experience. So far, the project has provided 12 Roma girls with scholarships, successfully shielding them from child marriage. In conjunction, we have provided 42 children with daily lunch in school. My search for functional, contemporary political resistance stems from my personal experience with oppression from various directions and scales, but as an artist, I do not want to flatten myself to an identity that would cohere simply to the image of Roma origins. In my artworks, my ultimate aim is to protect and enable female bodies and enact a cross-scalar approach to collective self-emancipation of oppressed women.

Chair: Brigitte Herremans

15:30 – 16:30

Carole Umulinga Karemera

The Music of the Hills

As far as memory can go, Rwanda’s hills had names, given after historical characters and events. Each Rwandan knows the hills where he/she is coming from and also the legends attached to it.
In the same way, each Rwandan still practices Guhemba, Kwita izina and other traditional ceremonies and rituals to welcome to the world the new born and choose collectively a name for him/her.
In Rwanda, commonly called “the country of thousands hills, the beauty of the hills is astonishing and we are still admiring them convinced that Imana (God in Kinyarwanda) is coming back to sleep every night in Rwanda. But we also remember that they were the theater of the genocide and became the open graves for thousands of souls without burials.
We all remember their names and the forever silent lives that inhabit them.
Mother Nature has taken back her rights and has taken care to cover the mass graves with a green coat and to change the rivers of blood into clear blue waters.
But each year in April, everyone can strongly feel the coexistence of those three spaces which are parts of the Rwandan cosmogony: Ijuru, the heavens, Ibuzimu, the land of ancestors and Ibuzimu, the world of humans.
We are struggling to reconcile them in our hearts.
The presentation will explore how, as Rwandan artists, we are trying to wisely reinvest those spaces and create new safe ones where those senses and hard feelings can find their true meaning and way out, to allow all Rwandans and survivors in particular to live at ease with history and memories without a sense of shame, guilt or even sometimes a strong desire to die, and to those wandering souls to leave the bank of our lives and chant with us for the dead and the alive.

Chair: Adriana La Selva

16:30 – 17:00

Coffee Break

17:00 – 18:30

Film programme, curated and introduced by Branka Benčić

Propositions Against Oblivion: The Secretary of the Invisible

The Secretary of the Invisible describes a film as a chameleon and the figure of the artist as a secretary of the invisible. But it also works in reverse. The artist is the chameleon and film is the secretary of the invisible. (Marine Hugonnier: “The Secretary of the Invisible”, conversation with Anne-Sophie Dinant, Vdrome)

The film programme brings together films and video works by artists and filmmakers of different generations and backgrounds, and juxtaposes historical and recent works. It aims to establish a dialogue that reflects social and political constellations, indicates crises and omissions, redefinitions of the notion of the nation-state and national identity, or the politics of power inscribed in the representation of the other, exploring narratives that are missing in a public discourse, injustice, exploitation, and necropolitics.

History Lesson
a film by Sarah Vanagt, 2005, 5′

Brutality in Stone
a film by Alexander Kluge, 1961, 12′

Honey
a film by Kurt Kren, 1968, 2′

How Steel Was Tempered
an animated film by Igor Grubić, 2018, 12′

Reflecting Memory
a film by Kader Attia, 2016, 48′

18:30 – 19:15

Film programme panel discussion
Sarah Vanagt
Branka Benčić
Stoffel Debuysere

Participants may want to consider also attending the evening film programme organized in collaboration with KASKcinema. Tickets can be bought on the day of the event.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

20:30 Arts of Oblivion Film Programme

Srbenka
a film by Nebojša Slijepčević, 2018, 72′

Friday, 20 March 2020

20:30 Arts of Oblivion Film Programme

Pays Barbare
a film by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi, 2013, 65′