#1 The Artefact
“Imagine looking at an object not for its artistic or historical significance but for its ability to spark conversation. Every museum has artefacts that lend themselves naturally to social experiences. It might be an old stove that triggers visitors to share memories of their grandmother’s kitchen, or an interactive building station that encourages people to play cooperatively. It could be an art piece with a subtle surprise that visitors point out to each other in delight, or an unsettling historical image people feel compelled to discuss. It could be a train whistle calling visitors to join the ride, or an educational program that asks them to team up and compete.”
Nina Simon, The Participatory Museum, 2010
Working on the project Simulizi Mijini has brought us closer to the thesis of “understanding history as a narrative about what has happened.” We have also critically reflected on the social production of memory. During the summer school in Dar es Salaam we focused on interviewing people and collecting a wide spectrum of stories. This time we would like to approach the issue from another perspective – from that of an everyday artefact. We will explore its concealed potential for exhibiting intangible urban heritage.
Think, reflect and choose an artefact/object, which in your opinion has the capacity to introduce an urban heritage narrative from Dar es Salaam or Berlin. Bring the object with you to the summer school and prepare a small write-up describing why you have chosen that particular artefact/object. Discuss what kind of urban history can we discover through the artefact, and explore how the artefact/object can be connected to other intangible stories of urban heritage in the two cities of Dar es Salaam and Berlin.
Tip: consider questions like: Where was it made? How did it arrive in the city? What does it represent or symbolise? Who used it, owned it, made it? What does it tell us about how people inhabit the city?
(The write-up should be between 400-500 words).
#2 Open Assemblage
For my part, I do not think that history is a narrative, whether it be factual or fictional. History occurs in a space between the archive and life, between the past that is being collected and reality, understood as everything that has not been collected. Yet this zone where history occurs does not simply disintegrate, it does not become fictionalized. On the contrary, it becomes more and more homogeneous because the archives–partly through the electronic media–gradually merge to form one large world archive, a formalized universal memory. What we call history is the question after everything that is in the world but has not yet been incorporated into this universal memory. The dynamic process of history is the search for what is new–“new” not in the sense of a narrative but in the sense that it has not yet been included in the archive. The inclusion into the archive immediately redraws the boundary between the archive and its exterior and demands the archivization of what remains outside of its limits. The past is not “memory” but the archive itself, something that is factually present in reality.
Boris Groys, The Logic of Collecting, 1998 (originally published in ArtMargin but no longer available online. Also worth a read from Groys is “Entering the Flow: Museum between Archive and Gesamtkunstwerk” on e-Flux and his text “On the New” on Art Nodes).
A good archive works begins with the moment of destroying or decomposing the archive itself. In some ways this is the starting point for a new reading of the archive with a deconstructed, reinvented order (narrative) to assemble new thematic crossovers. To reach that goal we ask you to start re-structuring your collection / data. As experimental application try to apply dimensions as time and space (as factual as possible) to your stories and fill in the excel sheet on Google Drive with information and tags.
One impressive result of the work on the topic Urban Heritage from Below is the collection of stories from Dar es Salaam and Berlin / Moabit. The task B is to re-read you stories and fragment them into further smaller stories. Additional please review your fieldwork archive and adjust photographs, tipped interviews or links, etc. The newly carved out stories should have a length of approximately 1000 character.
#3 Africa City
The city is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language: the city speaks to its inhabitants, we speak our city, the city where we are, simply by living in it, by wandering through it, by looking at it. Still the problem is to bring an expression like “the language of the city” out of the purely metaphorical stage. It is very easy metaphorically to speak of the language of the city as we speak of the language of the cinema or the language of flowers. The real scientific leap will be realized when we speak of a language of the city without metaphor.
Roland Barthes, Semiology and the Urban, 1967
For today you should become a Flâneur of the city Berlin again –but instead of strolling aimlessly around the urban fabric, we ask you to look more closely for the language of the colonial past and Africa contemporary embedded in the city of Berlin. Do not hesitate to be highly curious and to decode the concealed urban heritage, as it can take many forms –see the “references”.
Please keep these questions in mind:
• How does the city bear traces of colonial history (in what forms, what language)? What is visible in public spaces? What has been translated from institutional spaces into the urban?
• What kind of visions of Africa do you come across in the contemporary city? What kind of imaginary (stories, legends, customs) / imagery (visuals, signs, images) of Africa is transmitted in today’s urban space?
Use your material to:
• write a rich urban short story, with associated picture, and
• collect relevant links into a short-documentation (articles, quotes, objects, photos…)
• tag, proofread and edit your story to match the format
Museums and Institutions: Dada Afrika at Berlinische Galerie (ongoing); Colonial Neighbors at SAVVY Contemporary (ongoing); Deutsche Kolonialismus at DHM (forthcoming); Online Dokumente zum Kolonialisms at Berlin-Postkolonial archive (online); Africa in Berlin at the Ethnologisches Museum (2009); Peter Beller Africa Art Gallery in Charlottenburg (ongoing)…
Archives: see the ‘Archives’ spreadsheet on Google Drive (especially highlighted collections).
Contemporary urban spaces: Hasenheide and Görlitzer Park; Sonnenallee and the Afroshops of Neukölln; YAAM; Werkstatt der Kulturen in Neukölln; International Christian Revival Church in Wedding; Joliba Interkulturelles Netzwerk e.V. in Kreuzberg, etc.
There is no unmediated photograph or passive camera obscura in scientific accounts of bodies and machines; there are only specific visual possibilities, each with a wonderful detailed, active, partial way of organizing world. All these pictures of the world should not be allegories of infinite mobility and interchangeability but of elaborate specificity and difference and the loving care people might take to learn how to see faithfully from another’s point of view, even when the other is our own machine.
Donna Haraway, Situated Knowledges, 1988 (full text available online)
# Proof Reading / Editing
As we are working ad-hoc on the web-blog, you may have recognised that the way you compose text and picture creates another level of curation and awareness. Therefore please re-read / review all blog entries critically.
In your groups discuss:
• title – clarity, hidden connotations, humor or drama
• choice of media – colour, size, motif, representation, composition (just compose online)
• first sentences – already on the front page you can read the 1st sentence. It is crucial that you give this first impression a good proofreading
• tag performance – the tagging is a decisive tool that will decide about the narrative notation and therefore what kind of urban heritage will be performed: drama, melodrama, documentary, fairytale …..
• linked / other media – text and images are the first appearing and dominant players for the curated blog urban narratives. However you have already touched and addressed other moments and sources that can further value your posts. Please add “third” sources, such as related links, movies, sound, etc. Initial situations, objects and context are in the material archive that is open to everyone.
You will need to print out all your “tagged” stories (with the tags listed at the end of the story) as well as images for the presentation on Friday. Read the stories aloud at least twice prepare yourselves. Learn your tag-performance.
*Tip: print the text in a font size format of minimum 12
If you have objects that trigger or accompany a narrative, please bring them with you and reflect on how to display them physically.
# Tagging Performance
We would like to propose a performative format for the presentation. We will playfully and seriously perform the stories and tags all together. This group work will be evaluated on Friday, Sept. 16th in the afternoon at the ZK/U.