Al Madhafah

AL Madhafa: The Living Room By Sandi Hilal

Al Madhafah in the Yellow House is an artistic project by the architect and artist Sandi Hilal. The project took place in Boden, the north of Sweden and included the refugee and Swedish community. This is the story of hospitality and existing power structures within the domain of refugee integration. For the Shared History Hilal went back to her experiences, to think about the meaning of hosting, as both a right and a responsibiltity. Graphic design by Isabel Mager and Gabriel Maher. Pdf/print version.

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A journey through differences and similarities

A Journey through Differences and Similarities By Rasha Alqasim (scroll down for Arabic) The nations of the world are diverse, each one featuring its own varieties of form, color, language and history. A nation can even differ greatly from its immediate neighbors. However, what is surprising is to find two nations so geographically, politically and linguistically separated that nevertheless harbor a great number of similar moral and historical characteristics. It is the search for such similarities that shall be the focus of this article. Somebody may be born in an environment in which he finds that he is very much different from the people around him. Such a person may end up travelling the world in search of those whom he more closely resembles. Perhaps such a person will be seeking the comfort found in associating with people with whom one has more in common, thus joining a kind of spiritual family to make up for an actual lost family, through the normal passage of time or through war, war being the greatest wound on humanity. Major conflicts and wars have destroyed, and continue to destroy, a great number of human habitations, resulting in millions of people having to flee their homes and to attempt to find nations and lifestyles that are familiar to them. "My Experience as a Poet" My experience in Sweden was like that of any immigrant moving to a country that hardly resembles the homeland at all. Like anyone else in my situation, my eye was immediately drawn to anything that was far removed from anything I would see in my own country. Perhaps the kind of things available to me here simply served as a reminder of the emptiness I felt inside. This emptiness is what kept driving me to look for what I wanted, and yet I did not find it. So, the poems I wrote in Sweden express a comparison and provide an illustration of the great differences to be found between here and there. the child, knowing the details of its environment, easily recognises the clapping sound of the windows, While a woman wears the place  like a strange costume every time she hears the slightest noise, she twitches and wonders which splash of blood  caused all that noise? This poem sheds light on the shifting inner life of someone growing up within war and someone outside of it. It serves merely as an explanation for the differences of the concerns facing both of them, due to their respective circumstances and locations. Two countries can be so different that people’s concerns, fears and reactions towards the simplest things in life can be different as well. Perhaps this was my reason for observing and contemplating the differences rather than the similarities.  I thought it was important to talk about my experience in observing the differences, contrary to the purpose of this article. However, I only mention this to point out that the idea of ​​finding a common history came in the wake of me, as a poet, having noticed the differences that this project revealed, and now I observe the similarities. What inspired me to take part, seeking to find a common history between my homeland and Sweden, was the difficult challenge in finding an issue that has not been discussed before. Through a review of the history, I found many qualities that are common to the two countries, in spite of being so geographically, linguistically and climatically separated from each other, that deserve attention and discussion. "Common Ethical Values" As I remember, Iraq is diverse and makes for a microcosm of different races and colors. Iraq was an incubator of scientific progress during in the Abbasid era, and it was also a haven for many Europeans fleeing the ravages of war and various conflicts.Those values are also clearly apparent in Sweden as they were previously apparent in Iraq. In order to discuss the characteristics of such similarities in more immediate and human terms, we can talk about ethical values. Shared ethical values include the protection for the stranger in one’s midst and in helping the needy, as well as extending kindness towards young children and helping them, as individuals, to integrate into society. Such traditional Iraqi customs live on into our day and continue to have an impact in spite of the continuing wars in Iraq. "Discovering Heritage through Literature" One thing I would like to mention is that the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is considered by some to be the oldest story written, was composed by someone to clarify the legacy of Iraqi traditions. If we compare this poem to the poetry of the Swedish poet Esaias Tegnér, who wrote a series of legendary tales of Scandinavian history, we will find that Sweden and Iraq discussed their mythological heritage through literature, and this similarity in itself is interesting. 'For the Time Being' Perhaps at present there is no clear similarity between Iraq and Sweden, beyond both being countries and both having flags. However, it should be added that us immigrants to Sweden or to other countries consider ourselves to be nexuses between the two countries. I am now a common point between my first homeland, Iraq, and my second homeland, Sweden. Rasha Alqasim is a poet and writer who lives in Gothemburg, Sweden

    رحلة الاختلاف والتشابه    تتمتع شعوب العالم بالتنوع والاختلاف في الشكل واللون واللغة والجغرافية والتاريخ حتى لتجد الاختلاف كبيرا وواسعا بين الشعوب المتجاورة. ولكن ما يدعو للعجب ان تجد شعبين متباعدين جغرافيا وسياسيا ولغويا يحملان الكثير من الصفات الاخلاقية والتاريخية المتشابهة او المشتركة وهو محور هذا المقال (البحث عن التشابه) ان هذا التشابه في بعض الاحيان ضروري حتى ان الانسان منا قد يولد مختلفا عن سائر قومه فتجده يجوب الدنيا بحثا عمن يشبهونه. او قد يكون الانسان منا مضطرا للبحث عن ذلك التشابه المريح الذي يكون عائلة روحية تعوضه عن عائلته الكبيرة التي خسرها في الظروف الطبيعية او في الحروب وهذا الاخير (الحرب) اصبح الجرح الاكبر في جسد البشرية، حيث ان النزاعات والحروب الكبيرة التي دمرت الكثير من المستعمرات البشرية المتشابهة ما تزال مستمرة حتى حدت بالملايين الى الهجرة والبحث عن الحياة والشعوب المشابهة لهم..       " تجربتي كشاعرة"   تجربتي في السويد كانت كأي مهاجر ينتقل الى بلد يكاد يكون لا يشبه بلده الام بشيء، كنت كأي مهاجر إلتقطت عيني كل ماهو نقيض عن بلدي  ربما ما وجدته متاحا هنا دلني دائما على الفراغ الموجود داخلي، دلني الى ما بحثت عنه هناك ولم اجده. لذا كانت قصائدي التي كتبتها في السويد اشبه بالمقارنة والايضاح للفرق الهائل بين الهنا والهناك.   " الطفلُ العارف بتفاصيل بيئته.. بسهولةٍ ميّز صوت  ارتطام النوافذ، بينما امرأةٌ ترتدي المكان  مثل زيٍّ غريب تجفلُ من أدنى جلبة، كلما سمعت صوتاً ما راحت تسألُ أي لطخةِ دمٍ  أحدثت كلَّ هذا الصخب؟"     هذه القصيدة تسلط الضوء على الفرق بين مشاعر الانسان الذي ينمو داخل الحرب وبين آخر يعيش خارجها، هذه القصيدة ماهي الا ايضاح لإختلاف هواجس الاثنين بسبب اختلاف الظروف والامكنة. بلدين مختلفين لدرجة اختلاف الهواجس والمخاوف وردات الفعل اتجاه ابسط الامور الحياتية، ربما هذا كان سببي في رصد وتقصي الاختلاف لا التشابه.  رأيت من المهم ان اتحدث عن تجربتي في رصد الاختلاف والتي هي بحد ذاتها نقيض لهدف هذا المقال لكن ذكرها ماهو الا اعتراف بان فكرة ايجاد تاريخ مشترك اضافت لي كشاعرة رصدت الاختلاف كما انها اليوم ترصد التشابه بفضل هذا المشروع. ماجعلني اشارك في مشروع ايجاد تاريخ مشترك بين بلدي الام والسويد هو الصعوبة في ايجاد شيء لم يتم الحديث عنه من قبل ربما لصعوبه اكتشافه، ومن خلال العودة للتاريخ وجدت العديد من الصفات  المشتركة بين بلدين        متباعدين جغرافيا ولغويا ومناخيا من المهم التوقف عندها والحديث عنها،   "الصفات الاخلاقية المشتركة"   ما زلت اذكر اننا في العراق متنوعين كعالم مصغر يلم مختلف الاعراق والالوان  فقد كان العراق قِبلة للعلوم في زمن العصر العباسي كما كان ايضا ملاذا للكثير من الاوربيين الفارين من فتك الحروب والصراعات المتنوعة .. تلك الصفات المثالية اراها مشرقة ايضا هنا في السويد كما كانت سابقا مشرقة في العراق. لنكتشف صفات هذا التشابه الى ما هو اكثر مباشرة وانسانية ، نتحدث عن الصفات الاخلاقية فنجد صفات حماية الدخيل ونجدة المحتاج والرفق بالصغير واعانته على الاندماج في المجتمع كفرد منها وهذا على مستوى العادات العراقية القديمة ما يزال حتى يومنا هذا له اثره الذي لم يزل رغم توالي الحروب على العراق.     "التحدث عن التراث من خلال الادب"   من الاشياء التي احببت ذكرها هو ان ملحمة كلكامش (قصيدة أسطورية) والتي يعتبرها البعض اقدم قصة كتبها الانسان، كتبها أحدهم ليوضح عراقة فكر العراق القديم. لو أردنا المقاربة، بين تلك القصيدة وقصيدة الشاعر السويدي Esaias Tegner التي كانت سلسلة من الحكايات الاسطورية عن التاريخ الاسكندنافي، لوجدنا ان السويد والعراق تحدثا عن تراثيهما الاسطوري من خلال الأدب وهذا التشابه بحد ذاته مثير للاهتمام.    "في الوقت الراهن"   ربما الآن لايوجد وجه تشابه واضح بين العراق والسويد اذا استثنينا ان كلاهما يطلق عليه تسمية(بلد) وكلاهما له علم.  بالاضافة الى اننا كمهاجرين من بلدنا الام الى السويد او الى بلدان اخرى  نعتبر نقاط مشتركة بين البلد الاول والاخير. انا الان نقطة مشتركة بين بلدي الاول العراق وبلدي الثاني السويد.

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On mapping spaces, drifting through Riga, Hala Alnaji

On mapping spaces; drifting throuhg Riga, by Hala Alnaji Roaming without the influence of a mapDuring my visit to Riga and by chance; I got more than three maps of the city; each with a different design, none of them look like the other (Image No.1). Each of them tempts you at some point and leads you towards something that maybe is not your goal at all! Typically, following a map is an easy and concise way for the newcomer to recognise the city and interacting with the city’s urban spaces easily. But what if people want to discover the city out of their own rather than these maps? What if people want to get to know themselves through the city? What if people want to discover to what extent this city resembles them? Roaming without the influence of a map and without the dependency of the other gives the opportunity to observe pure social phenomena, which enables us to reach full awareness of the reality.

During this short journey; I decided to get lost in the city and try to draw my own map, which is coding many ideas and feelings rooted in my historical consciousness. (Image No.2). These codes embody a relationship between me and the elements of the space in the city and confirm the idea of a permanent existence of shared human history!

Riga was a good place to get lost. Giving Riga the chance to introduce herself to a stranger in her own way. By listening to the stones speaking to everyone who passes through, dancing on the rhythm of spaces between roadblocks, having a seat in one of the parks watching the public argue around, traveling between detours, getting lost into the mysterious alleys, tasting tiredness and testing the taste of the hot coffee after long hours of walking! To the end; where you discover how the city reacts and interact with your fears! Contradictions themselves are a sort of relation. I have been stopped by a variety of contradictions in Riga, a city that has been ruled by Germans, Poles, Swedes and Russians; the architectural variety styles of buildings; Pre-war art Nouveau, Romanesque and Gothic Style, Soviet box-type modernism, and the neo-classical architecture, etc. In Riga, it is difficult to talk about a certain dominant theme or pattern in the facades of buildings, in food dishes, in fashion and clothing, in restaurants, even the features of people look different and show obvious ethnic diversity. The many differences in the midst of this beautiful calm of the city make you feel mad and fascinated at the same time, and you may feel at one point that there is an explosion about to happen and break this silence! This disorder is very similar to what I experienced about two years ago when I came to Sweden loaded with all the pains of my occupied land of Palestine. Today I live in contradiction and great internal conflict as a newcomer to Sweden, one of the most prosperous and safe countries in the world; a feeling of gratitude for the safe living I have had in Sweden and a feeling of abandonment towards a homeland hanging in memory until further notice. However, this paradox, which Riga lives today, is no different from my inner conflict. All the incongruities in cities are in fact human feelings and emotions that reflect the life and history we live in. As an architect, my main task is to recreate spaces to achieve comfort and to promote the values of belonging, sense of security and responsibility. I was looking for a way out and a solution to this psychological conflict believing that there should be a container that embraces any differences and makes them more harmonious. Could nature be this container? Could it work as a real link that can solve this contradiction and create harmony with flexibility and intelligence? While these ideas fluttered in me, urging to be proved or denied, we accidentally visited the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA), where I was intrigued by an artwork by the artist Diana Lelonek, who founded the Center for Living Things (2016–18) which is a research institution established in order to examine, collect and popularize knowledge of new hybrid forms of nature. Diana has exhibited a collection of used abandoned and no longer needed objects, a waste that has become the natural environment for many living organisms. These specimens were found in illegal waste dumps, where hybrids of man-made objects and plant tissues are formed, and in urban environments where nature has taken over. (Riga Biennial, 2018) (Image No.3).

In contrast to the process of capitalist overproduction, the man-made production and consumption processes and the huge amounts of waste that the artist is trying to highlight, the way in which these objects have become an integral part of the natural system is interesting. Although there is a great difference in composition, there is also a great deal of harmony, interdependence, balance and the formation of new hybrid forms.   Hala Alnaji is an arcitecht and artist from Palestine, living in Stockholm. She is also one of  the artists who participated in the Shared History exhibition in Stockholm.

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The future is certain; it is only the past that is unpredictable By Anna Domańska The ever changing past “The future is certain; it is only the past that is unpredictable”. This old Soviet joke points out to the authoritarian regime’s habit of editing and airbrushing history books and controlling the narration over history as the key to political legitimacy. Therefore, the unpredictability of the past is no laughing matter, neither to historians nor the general public. History is a fluid creature and can easily be contaminated. The temptation to use it for particular ambitions is not exclusive to non-democratic systems. The battle over the narrative is as important and real as the political arguments and armed conflicts. Nowadays with widely available technology and means of communication, history revels even more dangerous potentialities. It’s increasingly often used to polarize society, to end the dialog and exclude those who present different points of view. European migration trails and changing attitudes The Shared History project lasted two years. I participated in a few of its events taking various roles. During this period, I also visited many places on migration trails - Greece, Balkan, Belarus – working as a journalist and filmmaker. This was a very significant time. Since the project was initiated in 2016, Europe is no longer the same Europe. We have moved to a different reality. The changes that have happened throughout the duration of the project have reshaped the social and civic landscapes and have shifted the political balance within Europe. By the end of 2018, questions that had been identified as important at the beginning of the project are becoming burning. Although the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe has dropped in the meantime, the common attitude towards them has become more hostile. Immigration raises cultural and security concerns and some politicians intentionally stir up anti-migrant sentiments. In the polarized debate, migrants are dehumanized, deprived of their rights, and reduced to political squabbles. A deliberately fueled sense of insecurity is used as catalyst for retreat from the humanitarian values that laid the foundations of the European Union. In 2016 many governments took a hardstand and slammed their doors in front of people coming to Europe in search of safety and a dignified life. Nationalism and nostalgia When parties proclaiming the idea of defending Europe, they exploit emotional nostalgia. Policies once considered extreme are now mainstream, with populist and nationalist slogans increasingly gaining support. Electoral credibility at the European and global level is taking an openly antidemocratic course in some countries. Nationalism is presented as an idea of defense against a more or less imaginary threat, but it has a very dangerous hidden agenda. It may start as an innocent patriotic pride, but it will hardly stop there. It will be accompanied by the temptation to dehumanize, reject, and finally eliminate those who are defined as "others". I do carry the warning inside of me. Some of my family members were either killed by Nazis (my grandmother’s first husband was killed in the Stuthof concentration camp), while others were deported to Siberia. But I’m not an exception. Almost every Polish family has such a painful memory and thus, it’s hard to believe that cautionary stories from a very personal past are so easily forgotten, ignored or, in more radical cases, reversed in Polish social and political debate. Polarized narration Looking at the present tensions and polarized narration, it seems that we are at war over the practices of democratic societies. People feel disconnected from their political representatives and tired of a political system that is deaf to their needs and interests. Disappointment with mainstream parties and institutions, which are viewed as ineffective and failed, undermines democratic principles. Thus, many seek to follow strong leaders and ideologies offering simplified, black and white stories. The ideas of equality and the possibility of a multiethnic society are being severely questioned. New methods of communication and spreading information create confusion and deepen bitter divisions and anxiety. With all the shock of this multiplicity of voices it’s even harder to find a shared ground that could include various stories and different perspectives. Fighting over tha past, an example from Gdańsk Gdańsk, my hometown and home to one of the partners of Shared History, is currently a ground for the fight over the past. The dispute concerns the way history is told in Gdańsk at the new Museum of the Second World War. The exhibition was designed with a great solicitude for almost a decade. Its content is a result of a dialogue between historians, researchers and curators from all over the world involving a major input from the public, who answered a national call and donated historical artifacts as well as shared their own stories about those unimaginable times. The museum offers a multi-layered narration of the war where military strategists’ plans and display of weapons are framed as a background, while the fates of individual people – civilians and soldiers - come to the fore. It is a place for many voices and different perspective, in terms of politics and ideology. The exhibition is focused on the impact that the war had on civilians, but not just in Poland, in other European countries as well. The goal was to present cruel realities and individual responses to them, including instances where Poles were the wrongdoers. This, however, is unacceptable for the nationalistic Law and Justice government, who claims that our nation can only be portrayed as victims and accuses the museum of anti Polish narration. Last year, the Polish Minister of Culture decided to merge the Museum of the Second World War with the recently created Museum of Westerplatte. Despite keeping the old name of the museum, it establishes a new institutional body under changed management; a maneuver imposing a vision that focuses on Polish suffering and unambiguously presents the participation of Poles in the war. Since coming to power in Poland in 2015 the Law and Justice party has significantly influenced cultural policy in order to promote a patriotic and nationalistic content. This case is an example of a broader struggle or a new culture war between those who see society as a monolith with an undisputed vision of history to be steered from above, and those who want to include a multiplicity of voices. Sharing history in the Balkans At the end of the Shared History project it expanded its operation area to include the Balkans. It was an interesting turn for me. I had visited this region a few times previously in 2018 while working on different projects, and those experiences led me to some thought-provoking observations. In the summer of 2018, I was traveling from Zagreb to Velika Kladusa working on a documentary project on migration. In the preceding months Bosnia-Herzegovina had become a new busy route for people seeking asylum and a new emergency spot on the humanitarian failure’s map of Europe. After tightening controls at the neighboring Serbian-Croatian border, it seemed to be the last hope to enter the European Union for a few thousand people who were stuck in a country that struggle with its own problems. A great majority of them were living in dire conditions with no support from big humanitarian organizations or the European Union. They regularly experienced asylum’s seekers rights violations and brutal attacks from Croatian and increasingly Slovenian border guards. Unfortunately, at the moment, half a year later the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina hasn’t changed, besides tents being covered with snow. Velika Kladusa is a Bosnian border town, located in a mountainous area extending farthest northwest in the territory of Croatia. The distance from Zagreb is just 3 hours by car but with bus, because of the border, it takes a much longer detour. Desperate to save time I planned to skip an extended journey and to hitchhike in the border area instead. When I told my contact in Velika Kladusa about it, he advised me strongly against it. Finally I fallowed his warnings and it took me two days to reach the destination. I talked about my dismissed hitchhike concept with local people and in response most of them echoed reservations expressed by the Bosnian activist. Recurring motives were a lack of trust and limited faith in belonging to a shared community. On the contrary, some of them recalled the period before the war. And it was not only nostalgia that romanticizes the past; I heard personal stories that drew different pictures of reality. In their memories, although former Yugoslavia was a political concept with many problems and people were united under a top-down imposed official idea, on the level of social relationships whey could peacefully live together despite the differences. Inciting nationalist sentiments after the disintegration of Yugoslavia had led not only to terrible civil war in the region, but also left its citizens divided and anxious. This is fruitful soil for inciting hatred and further separation. On the other hand, lesson learned from the recent tragic history make people in the Balkans more sensitive to symptoms, which can go unnoticed or ignored in countries lethargically convinced of a stable order. The “mapping conversation” that took place in Belgrade in November as the final event of the Shared History project explored some common and differential grounds and methods in the approach to history and heritage – areas especially challenging in the multicultural societies that are connected to migration issues. The meeting was attended by specialists in the fields of education, research, and curatorial and artistic practice from the Balkans. The invited experts all endeavored to develop very inspiring and useful practices towards more inclusive historical consciousness that aim to prevent dangerous history repeating. During the limited time for the meeting, the discussion was focused on Balkan ethnic tensions and how to approach history in this particular context, but not as much on the current situation of people who recently arrived in Europe in search of asylum. Developing and implementing this specialized knowledge towards current migration issues would benefit both migrants and hosting communities and is a topic important to keep discussing, now and in the future. Epilogue This text was written in November 2018 as a conclusion at the end of the Shared History project. Unfortunately, tragic events that took place on January 18th 2019 in Gdansk made me add another disturbing paragraph: The mayor of Gdansk, Paweł Adamowicz, was stabbed to death at the stage during big charity event, in the spotlight. He was actively promoting solidarity, defending rights of minorities and unprivileged groups. He took courageous stance on migration, exceptional among Polish rulers. He was considered a public enemy and targeted by the ruling government and radical organizations. The hostile atmosphere has taken its highest toll. Faced with events like this, the call to calm down the atmosphere and social tensions is becoming compelling. There’s urgent need to counteract hatred spreading. History, heritage and their interpretations are essential components of the polarized discourse and require a responsible and well-balanced approach. Anna Domańska is an independant film-maker and reporter.

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Läs mer: The future is certain; it is only the past that is unpredictable, Anna Domańska

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Burcu Sahin Shared History conclusions

Behind decoration - an alternative project report By Burcu Sahin, poet

1.

I am looking at Reza Hazare he places a banana then the orange between two planks tightens the screws until the fruits burst open under the pressure I am looking at Vanja Sandell Billström she is standing in a doorway building a wall of cuddly toys the wall falls and she rebuilds it until she disappears behind it Winzip senses I don’t take the ferry to Latvia and walk to the Riga Bourse I am looking at a photograph I am looking at Alexey Murashko I am looking at Ieva Balode They are standing next to a display case filled with porcelain figures One of the figures is extending its hand She is leaning forward looking at her reflection I am not looking at Claire Holt or Ana Mendes or Andrejs Strokins or Minna Henriksson or Yan Xing or Tanel Rander or Ho Tzu Nyen or Ēriks Apaļais or Asnate Bockis or how the hands move over the site calling it to account ready or adapted work a new research-based work archival display a critical dictionary works on the general display intervention work I am not looking at Hala Alnaji I am not looking at Valeria Montte Colque I enter their forest stand Under skogens himmel I’m thinking of the grove behind the high-rise building the grass without roots the shadows I am not looking at Agnieszka Wołodźko I am waiting for Paolo Dall'Oglio’s return from the monastery in the mountain I am looking at Ibrahim Mouhanna behind the camera white faces take me to St John’s Centre

2.

Maurice Halbwachs writes about memory      the reconstruction of the past       Maurice Halbwachs writes about cultural memory as knowledge and distinctions in relation to who belongs and who does not belong a collective consciousness and identification  I move in the darkness I walk around the lake there is no direction in the water there is rising and sinking there is survival and death     Maurice Halbwachs writes about the relationship of cultural memory to the past and how it is connected to a contemporary understanding of history  Europe     Maurice Halbwachs writes about the archive  have you already forgotten the journey across the Baltic Sea texts rules images monuments sea of (dis-)connections     Maurice Halbwachs writes that cultural memory comprises knowledge in relation to a normative self-image in a society in which a transparent system of values is presented        these central and peripheral symbols in the representation and the reproduction of the self-image reflexively act in such a manner that it can be explained criticised reinterpreted  we are still travelling cannot point to the place we come from you ask to which nation I belong I come from nowhere the movement is my home the dissolution of the borders here and there     Maurice Halbwachs writes that the cultural memory compromises the archive because our view of history cultivates stabilises reflects the self-image Maurice Halbwachs writes that the people we remember are no longer with us I try to remember a common story where no one had to give up their own voice       don’t give up your own voice Maurice Halbwachs writes that we can evoke places and times beyond our own       Maurice Halbwachs writes that we are our names    their past who will remember us in which books will our stories be written     Maurice Halbwachs writes that we transgress the boundary between dream and wakefulness our failures and loves     Maurice Halbwachs writes that we remember by the landmarks we carry inside I carve our names rest my head on the bark     Maurice Halbwachs writes that every word is attached to a memory we continue to arrive     Maurice Halbwachs writes that when we dream we understand the details of the dream what happens when the self-image is destroyed     Maurice Halbwachs writes that that which appeared to be a logical truth has become– Europe

3.

Shared History addresses how established and recently arrived artists based in Sweden, Poland and Latvia can explore community, migration and place together and thus create shared stories. However, who is “recently arrived” or “established”? Where and according to whom? Arriving entails a loss of language, tradition and knowledge. That which was valid there is not valid here. The migrant should be integrated and learn the codes of their new environment. At the same time, there is an idea that those who are already here do not have an experience of a there, which is part of the myth that Sweden has not had to endure war, even though there are people in this country who have experienced it. Shared History is described as a reaction towards contemporary nationalistic tendencies and the idea of a homogenous Europe in which the artistic work is informed by creating works and stories in which various experiences of flight and migration renegotiate both one’s own and the national self-image. The artistic works thus seem to respond to the question of what happens when these stories are brought together and on which terms they can become something shared when the conditions for being considered an artist are different. In parallel with the artistic work, an introspective thought process was carried out, involving experts who were invited to think critically about the project, including, among others, Isabel Mager and Gabriel Maher who deconstructed the linguistic as well as the formal aspects of the application submitted to Creative Europe. Navigating the website I discover a number of questions that led to the project: “Why do we use the language we do?” “How are bureaucracy, cultural policy and the prevailing culture linked?” Cultural projects are often funded by applying to government agencies for grants, which directly relates the artistic work to the kind of language that is possible to use in order to make oneself understood and obtain a grant. The manner of phrasing which problems and aspects of society that are important for culture may entail adapting not only language but also the actual work. When I read that Shared History is financed by the European Union while the project’s main issues deal with migration and collective stories, I imagine that there is a problem in the fact that the agency one is criticising is the very same that enables the critique. Europe’s border policy is violent and very much focused on maintaining economic, cultural and politic power, which is in conflict with the aim of Shared History. What are the effects on art if it speaks the language of power, and what room for manoeuvre is there for not doing so? Is it possible to construct Trojan horses that destroy from the inside? Needless to say, there are limits to what one can say, and thus, for what type of projects one can realise. Artistic projects with the express ambition of addressing political issues thus risk having to subordinate themselves to pre-determined directives and goals. At best, art is still able to criticise the prevailing order and work from a desire to push the boundaries for that which is possible to say and do in a time of fascism. In the worst case, art becomes a decorated screen behind which violence continues.Burcu Sahin (born 1993) lives Stockholm, works as a poet and teaches writing at the school Biskops Arnö.

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Läs mer: Burcu Sahin Shared History conclusions

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