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Visual Scepticism. Towards an Aesthetic of Doubt

Project description

Redesigning “difficult heritage” – modes of visual scepticism

Memorials tied to colonialism are under the spotlight. The 2020 Black Lives Matter movement resulted in calls to remove statues and monuments of colonial figures. A similar discussion existed after the Second World War confronting the "difficult heritage" of fascism. The common solution of placing an information board next to these controversial monuments is seen by many as insufficient. The ERC-funded VISUAL_SCEPTICISM project will propose a different approach. It will analyse case studies in which the monuments have not been removed but aesthetically transformed without completely erasing them from historical memory. The aim of the project is to examine these artistic interventions and to explore the sceptical potential of visual media in general.


"In early summer 2020, numerous monuments around the world were demolished after the death of George Floyd. The iconoclastic acts raise the pressing question of how this historical legacy should be dealt with. In a publication of the same name, Norbert Huse, a conservator of cultural heritage, spoke of ""uncomfortable monuments"" in this context. Since monuments of fascism and colonialism in particular also express the inhuman ideology of the regimes aesthetically, the frequently chosen solution of placing an information board next to the monument is not convincing, since in this way the effectiveness of this rhetoric in public space remains unchallenged. With the concept of ""visual scepticism"", the project proposes a different approach to these monuments. The monuments are to be aesthetically re-framed without completely erasing them from historical memory.

The project therefore pursues three goals:

Firstly, the concept of ""visual skepticism"" is to be explored to fundamentally examine whether and how visual media are capable of calling themselves into doubt. How do they succeed in generating insight with the help of inner contradictions. The thesis is that this form of knowledge production takes place on a purely visual level. It will be analysed how images can generate inner tensions and operate with dialogical structures that release knowledge.

Secondly, monuments of colonialism will be examined in order to find out how this memory becomes effective for the public not only in terms of content but also aesthetically. This aesthetic appeal to the viewer's experience of space and his or her bodily senses will be analysed in detail.

Thirdly, monuments that have been successfully re-framed will be discussed to show how artistic interventions have found aesthetic answers to inhuman ideologies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 369 431,00
20148 Hamburg

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Hamburg Hamburg Hamburg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 369 431,00

Beneficiaries (1)