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Subtle Transitions Conference

by Larissa Petryca, on 17 April 2024 13:33:48 CEST

On April 4th and 5th, academics and creatives from the Czech Republic and around the world met in Prague to discuss the role of art in the preservation, transmission, and transformation of memory. This mini-conference was part of a regular annual event series organised by the Memory & Arts Working Group, part of the Memory Studies Association event series. The Prague Working Group meeting and mini conference was organised by Branislava Kuburović from PCU’s School of Art and Design Faculty, Irena Řehořová and Ondřej Váša from the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University and was held at PCU’s Bishop’s Court Studios and Kampus Hybernská.

Exploring memory through art and creative practice

The Memory Arts Working Group considers the role of the arts in the transmission of memory and the ways in which they give expression to experience by transmuting it into form. They not only narrate a story but enact its affect. The presence of art thus can open up a space for a witness who did not directly observe an event. This space enables multiple connections across generations and cultures. The group invites scholars and artists to explore those interconnections by focusing on a variety of arts practices, still and moving images, artefacts, and performances. Its aim is to form a long-term working group that collaborates on different projects and publications.

As the conference was in Prague, the majority of the workshops and presentations examined memory and the "gentle shifts" within the complex cultural, social, and natural environment of Central East Europe.

Subtle Transitions

Participating artists and scholars who presented at the conference were Olga Bubich, Rebecca Harris, Mauro Greco, Michal Kindernay, Jan Miklas-Frankowski, Zofia Przybysz, Zofia Rohozińska, Ishrat Shaheen, Astrid Schmetterling, Denisa Tomková, Mischa Twitchin and Jiří Žák.

The presentations were themed into blocks and included:

  • Narrative and photographic representations of the past
  • Post-Socialist memory and identity
  • Transformations of memory through artistic practice
  • Memory and natural environment
Subtle Transitions Conference & Workshop participants

Narrative and Photographic Representations of the Past

Block one began with Dr. Mauro Greco from Argentina's National Scientific and Technical Research Council who delivered his research paper titled “To Write Voiceless: A Derridean Approach to Santiago Amigorena’s ‘Confessions’” via an online presentation. This was followed by Dr Jan Miklas-Frankowski and Zofia Przybysz from the University of Gdansk, Poland who presented on “Memory of ‘the border of suffering’: The image of the Polenaktion in the reportage ‘Zbąszyń. Inferno’ by Zbigniew Mitzner.” The session concluded with Dr. Mischa Twitchin from Goldsmiths University of London discussing the topic of Exposed Memory.

Post-Socialist Memory and Identity

Block two opened with Dr Denisa Tomková from Charles University who presented her research “Empowering Aesthetics of Vietnamese Diaspora Artists in Post-Socialist Central Europe”. Zofia Rohozińska, a PHD student from the Department of Economic Sociology and Public Affairs Center for Research on Social Memory presented her research “Transforming 1980s Poland through the Transformation of the Memory of Socialist Realism”. The final presentation delivered by Jiří Žák, a lecturer at PCU and current PhD student at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno who presented his research work “The Paradox of Continuity: Guns, Havel and Czechoslovakia through the prism of artistic research”.

Transformations of Memory through Artistic Practice

Block 3 featured Astrid Schmetterling from Goldsmiths University of London who presented her work on “Nikita Kadan’s Art in a Time of War” and Rebecca Harris, a writer, art historian, curator and PHD student from the University of London spoke on Hella Guth’s surrealist drawings.

Memory and the Natural Environment

The final conference block began with Olga Bubich, a writer, journalist, photographer, lecturer, art critic and former Assistant Professor at Belarusian State University who is currently undertaking an ICORN residency in Berlin. Olga presented “Memory Landscapes: Re-thinking the Nature of Memorial Camps” which looked at the role of nature in the representation of collective memory of traumatic episodes of 20th century history. This was followed by Ishrat Shaheen who presented on “Border Creep: Exploring Human-River Dynamics in the Aftermath of the 2022 Odra River Environmental Crisis” and finished with Michal Kindernay, an Intermedia artist, musician, experimental filmmaker, curator, performer and PCU lecturer who presented his project “In the Stream of Sound”, a collaborative project he undertook Magdaléna Manderlová an Oslo based sound artist and field recordist.

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