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Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to Co-Production

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TRACES (Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts: From Intervention to Co-Production)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-02-28

The multi-disciplinary project team developed a rigorous, creative and all-round investigation on contentious cultural heritages to experiment with innovative research methodologies. In order to achieve these objectives, TRACES has initiated a series of “Creative Co-Productions” (CCPs) in which artists, researchers, heritage agencies, and stakeholders collaborate on researching selected cases of contentious heritage and developing new participatory public interfaces in the three years duration of TRACES and beyond. Theoretical investigations pertaining to different research fields and disciplines support and complement these collaborative research actions with the aim to identify new directions for cultural institutions, NGOs and museums to effectively open democratic platforms to discuss contentious cultural heritage and contribute to evolving European imaginations.


European imagination and agonistic approaches
• The European identity has to be understood as fluid, processual in opposition to essentialising “container identities”. Hence we propose to speak about European “imaginations” rather than identities.
• The creation of open, pluralistic, democratic platforms where actual or potential conflict (rooted in heritage, or articulated with it) can be negotiated is conductive to this new European imagination, which is based on ways of dealing with conflict and difference in contrast to a fixed identitarian concept of European self-understanding.
• Educational programs as stimulated or invented by TRACES educational research need to foster controversial discussions that impact the learners‘ understanding that Europe is not taken for granted, but a constructed notion.
• Micro stories can be used as the door opener towards contentious, neglected or awkward pasts in an European perspective. These micro stories can reveal the European dimension of the local histories and open up similarities in the structure of contentious heritages between different contexts, can challenge a stereotypical perspective on minorities, challenge hierarchies within institutions (the way history is told)


Knowledge production
• Art in the context of the CCP approach is embedded in the process of knowledge production and not an add-on – art is “doing theory”.
• In the CCPs, as observed by the ethnographers, notions of creativity, collaboration, and interdisciplinary exchange are emergent and processual, rather than given.
• Rather than being characterized by ‘objective’, withdrawn or distant researchers, and a discreet, and unaffected reality to be observed, the ‘mis-en-scène’ is constituted by in a socially relational ensemble of researchers, artists and research subjects, both human and non-human.
• Cross-disciplinary methodologies (as developed in the CCP process) are necessary to address the complex issues and events from the past because of the complexity of the agonistic socio-political and economic relation among subjects that motivated and enabled the production of contentious objects and images and the events that later became our current difficult heritage.
• The CCP approach allowed to realise an integrated model of learning: public engagement and education can be conceived as research, artistic production as a process of mutual learning with stakeholders, and the collaboration as a site of institutional learning.

Audience inclusion & learning
• The way audiences deal with the provided displays challenge and shape the theoretical concepts that underpin the display.
• The development of methods for education needs to be embedded in the research process from the very beginning on, the role of educators need to be clearly defined. .

Recommendations for Institutions and future collaboration
◦ establish contacts and long-term collaborations with local activists organisations of the communities that are implicated in different debates regarding concrete cultural heritages.
◦ work closely with interested audiences and participants of different generations, political camps and genders by providing small, but well organised and precisely announced recurrent events on the long-run.
◦ long-term contracts for artists and cultural and/or educational institutions are recommended
◦ working ethics of CCPs have to include precise collaborative copyright or creative commons contracts for the use of research results and art projects.

• the creation of open, pluralistic, democratic platforms where actual or potential conflict (rooted in heritage, or articulated with it) can be negotiated is conductive to a new European imagination, which is based on ways of dealing with conflict and difference in contrast to a fixed identitarian concept of European self-understanding.
As TRACES was built on the idea of co-production between researcher, artists and practitioners/educators on one hand and the critical investigation on these approaches on the other hand it was crucial that the whole project develops bases of debate and exchange that (a) included audiences and stakeholder on the local level (b) managed to bring together the experiences of the local cp-producations and research activities in an European perspective. This included
a) every CCP provided an exhibition, conferences and workshops to discuss critically the specific contentious heritage.
b) TRACES provided several research platforms to draw conclusions out of the local experiences;
* the overall meetings (Kick-off, Midterm) were based on workshops to analyse local findings (partly in cooperation with sister projects)
* the final conference and the internal analysing meeting TRACES developed the conclusions.
* the final exhibition by Suzana Milevska, its public program and catalogue contextualised the local projects in the Europen art discourse.
* The intense collaboration and exchange between WPs and CCPs resulted in exhibitions, workshops, publications.

Overall Publications
WP1 exhibition catalogue
WP2 the edited volume Art, Ethnography, Contentious Heritage (working title), edited by Arnd Schneider
WP3 educational material
WP4 and the whole consortium TRACES Contentious Heritage Companion, a comprehensive overview of the findings resulting from project activities
The whole CCP approach lead beyond the state of art as it originally developed collaborative teams between artists, researcher and heritage provider, to work together regarding every aspect of research, aesthetics and community inclusion. This regarded mainly four fields:
a) Instead of using artists for interventions, the CCP formed true working co-operations.
b) Art was not seen as an add-on but a way to produce knowledge.
c) it is beyond the state of art that ethnographic research permanently accompanied the process.
d) it was beyond the state of art that stakeholder and educational activities were included from the beginning and that educational communication was seen as a part of the research process.

Impact of the CCP approach
“CCP” became a new model of how to work together in the field of heritage transmission, art and institutions. Hence the whole approach provided an impact in this field hat will be recognised beyond the project through our well established networks and publications. Every local CCP managed to prove and to document how this working changed the attitude, the awareness approaching the ethics in the specific contentious heritage.