Herengracht 401 (H401) has received funding by the European Commission SUPPORT TO EUROPEAN COOPERATION PROJECTS 2018 to realise a two year project Heritage Contact Zones with 7 partners across Europe:
H401, Amsterdam (NL), Goethe-Institut Lyon (DE), Human Platform: Living Memorial Budapest (HU), Etz Hayyim Synagogue Hania (GR),Timisoara European Capital of Culture (RO), European University Institute Florence (IT), Culture Action Europe Brussels (BE).
Heritage Contact Zone (HCZ) works with contested heritage. The consortium of organizations from Germany, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Romania will present a sample of the neglected or contested heritages that the project will focus on.
Point of departure is the notion that European history is as much a history of shared cultural accomplishment as it is a history of violence, – violence of wars, colonisation, totalitarian and imperial regimes, religious violence, economic violence leading to social injustice, racial violence and generally the suppression of ‘others’. Only by recognition of all aspects of history also that of conflict and dissent, and by actively engaging with those citizens that still suffer exclusion because of this history being marginalised in mainstream heritage representation, Europe will be able to transgress its impasse and move forward towards more unity.
Cultural mediators and artists play a key role in this project to open up current heritage structures as ‚contact zones‘ towards more inclusive narratives.
The project runs from September 2018 to August 2020 and realizes 5 local exhibitions showcasing co-curated, creative and experimental heritage representation, testing new approaches and narratives for the organizations involved. The exhibitions are accompanied by workshops in which artists involve citizens in participatory ‘memory-making’. Project partners also collect other examples of innovative and inclusive heritage representation that use heritage as a space for dialogue and artistic creation. Those are published, together with the findings from the exhibitions and workshops in a toolkit.
All heritage has both tangible and intangible aspects. Despite the separation between these two ‘types’ that has helped UNESCO and others to give greater – and much needed – recognition to intangible heritage, much of the conflict around heritage is around material objects or places. This makes tangible heritage sites, places and objects powerful tools for working with communities. Objects and places evoke and make the past real. The late British anthropologist Alfred Gell wrote about the ‘agency’ of artworks, the power that they have to embody not only the ideas of their creators but also the networks of relationships within which they were created and had meaning. This ‘agency’ of material culture is perhaps equally applicable to heritage. Many of the HCZ projects work with objects and places that manifest the ‘agency’ of heritage in very real ways. Here objects, buildings, monuments and places do more than just convey symbolic and cultural values, they can provoke reactions and reconfigure social networks and ideas about the past.