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The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo is organizing an international symposium on archival initiatives and other strategies for the preservation and (re)activation of cultural memory. Borrowing from the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic autobiography, Speak, memory is a three-day event structured around presentations, panel discussions, screenings, and artist talks exploring the rich array of methodologies that can be adopted to unearth, revisit or reactivate past artistic practices.
Recently, the Middle East has seen the emergence of a series of archival and historiographic endeavors focused on a local and regional history of modern and contemporary art. In response to the scarce and scattered art historical documentation of the region’s most recent past, a growing number of researchers, curators and artists have begun collecting documents and recording the oral histories of artistic practices and exhibitions that have seemingly been forgotten, misinterpreted or dismissed.
As these research projects gain momentum, private collectors and newly created museums are also slowly acquiring artists’ archives, magazines and other remnants of the region’s 20th century cultural history. These developments are not unique to the Middle East. A similar phenomenon has been taking place in Latin America, where private collectors, foreign museums and universities have been buying and exporting privately held archives related to artistic production of the 60’s and 70’s.
The current situation calls for a critical discussion between institutions, collectors, artists, curators, and researchers interested in reactivating recent cultural memory in a way that enables the creation of a multiplicity of narratives and ready access to these histories. Speak, memory seeks to instigate an informed debate on the challenges and strategies for the preservation of modern and contemporary art histories, focusing on those that have been scarcely documented or are underrepresented in dominant art historical narratives. In addition, the symposium will present archival initiatives that stand out for their successful organizational model, accessibility and discursive potential, as well as online platforms that are already providing possibilities for collaboration. Rather than being a one-time event, the symposium aims to create a network of archival initiatives and broader historiographic endeavors that can facilitate a series of ongoing conversations and collaborations.
Invited speakers include, among others, Susan Meiselas (photographer, New York), Beatrice von Bismarck (curator and writer, Leipzig and Berlin), Kristine Khouri (writer and researcher, Study Group on the History of Arab Modernities, Beirut), Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (artists, London), Vasif Kortun (curator and director, Platform Garanti, Istanbul), Claire Hsu (director, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong), Barnaby Drabble (curator, writer and co-founder of Curating Degree Zero Archive, Zurich), Farah Wardani (director, Indonesian Visual Art Archive, Jakarta), Negar Azimi (writer and editor, Bidoun and Arab Image Foundation, New York and Beirut), Yasmine Eid-Sabbagh (artist, member of the Arab Image Foundation, Beirut), Heba Farid (photographer and researcher, CULTNAT, Cairo), Lucie Ryzova and Hussein Omar (researchers, Downtown History and Memory Project, Cairo), Celine Condorelli (artist, London), Jesús Carrillo (director of public programs, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid), Miguel López (curator and writer, Red Conceptualismos del Sur, Lima), Sean Dockrey (AAAArg.org and The Public School, Los Angeles), Ashok Sukumaran and Sebastian Lütgert (Pad.ma, Berlin, Bombay, Bangalore).
Registration is required
Please send an email to info(at)speakmemory.org by September 15, 2010.
Due to financial restrictions, a registration fee of 80 Euro will be charged to participants coming from abroad.
Symposium Curator: Laura Carderera
For inquiries on registration, contact Project Manager Alexandra Stock alexandra(at)speakmemory.org.
on archives and other strategies of (re)activation of cultural memory
28-30 October 2010
Language: English, with Arabic translation