Politics of Memory and Art Practices: The Role of Art in Peace and Reconstruction Processes [PIMPA/PPR], co-directed by Pierre Hazan and Catherine Queloz

FNS Project CR11I1_143961, 2012-2014

based on Research-Based Master Programme Critical Curatorial Cybermedia Studies (CCC),
Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD)

main objectives of the research project
methodological and interdisciplinary approaches

The project “Politics of Memory and Art Practices: The Role of Art in Peace and Reconstruction Processes” [PIMPA / PPR] is concerned with the representation in the public space of massive violations of human rights. Since the 1980s, the will to commemorate has been manifested in a proliferation of remembrance initiatives, from the creation of memorials, the introduction of minutes of silence and changes in street names, to thematic exhibitions of contemporary art, or the development of “dark tourism” at the scene of massacres and concentration camps.

While commemoration became more and more important in public space since then, the role of artistic practice has yet received little study, despite the fact that remembrance initiatives appear to be an integral part of the politics of reconciliation.

Although many researchers in the fields of human rights, Peace Studies, political science, history and philosophy have recognized the importance of remembrance initiatives in reconciliation processes, they rarely question the artistic form and societal impact of such initiatives.

By bringing together the theoretical approaches of political science and humanities, on the one hand, and artistic approaches, on the other, we seek to cross-reference our research areas by implementing a critical interdisciplinary methodology. The interdisciplinary approach that underlies this project is, thus, based on the idea that the space of contemporary art and the mechanisms that form part of a wider public domain require a radical re-reading and a broader conception of the arts. This re-reading will involve the testing of a number of critical and theoretical tools, given the often complex production of memorial works and art projects.

Thus, the inclusion of this research project in the Geneva University of Art and Design (Haute école d’art et de design – Genève, HEAD), in particular in the transdisciplinary department of the CCC Research-Based Master Programme (Critical, Curatorial, Cybermedia Studies), aims to foster its establishment in a setting favourable to the study of remembrance initiatives from the perspective not only of art, but also of political science and critical studies. These fields are, indeed, an integral part of the curriculum of art students and the approaches adopted by the artists, as well as by the researchers affiliated with the PIMPA-network.

research fields

To contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics and impact of commemoration initiatives in the process of recognition and reconciliation, we have narrowed the field of study both in time and geography. We have identified a set of commemoration dynamics specific to different geographical regions . These initiatives are, in addition, included in the public space and have been established since 2000. This allows us to identify a preliminary typology for structuring the research. Through these case studies, our project has three main objectives: to analyze the way mass crimes and conflicts are represented; to examine the decision-making process of the different shareholders in remembrance initiatives (i.e., artists, governments, political parties, human rights activists, victims’ associations); and to study how these commemoration initiatives have influenced societal debates on the representation of the past, collective identity and reconciliation processes.

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