Monuments in Flux & Porous Memorials

This workshop will be run by Eliot Moleba who is doing his PhD in artistic research at Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO), and co-tutored by Serge von Arx. The class builds on Eliot’s PhD research project “Alternative Histori[es]: A Place Where Something Happened” and on NTA’s long term research platform “Our Gruesome Cultural Heritage“, focusing on acts of commemoration in the public space to create awareness and trigger debate. The two weeks inquiry in Fredrikstad is based on Eliot’s artistic approach which he describes as “exploring narrative accounts of Norwegians who self-identify with an ‘immigration background’, to collect stories of their lived experiences, with special interest in an event that happened in a public space and was experienced as a life changing moment. The stories are to be used to produce monuments that will be installed on the sites or locations where the narrated events took place. The monuments will take over the public spaces and infuse them with gripping personal narratives to shift how we read and interact with those places and (re)negotiate their past/meaning, generating a ‘capital’ that will propose a ‘new’ way of relating to, and/or understanding the place, its people and history. This is to create an ‘alternative history’, dedicated to writing and inscribing these voices into public spaces and our broader collective imagination.” The term monument hereby is critically examined within in socio-cultural context, similar to the notion memorial in “Our Gruesome Cultural Heritage” and may rather operate as a subversive tool of communication.

The students will first discuss the topic, its context and what is at stake, socially, politically, and culturally, and subsequently develop and test simple interventions/intrusions in the public space in Fredrikstad which trigger movement as a form of remembering. Scenographic actions, like chalk writing in the streets, ephemeral materialized statements, etc. will be inserted into the public space. Their goal is to evoke distinct movement of the citizens and visitors of Fredrikstad, consciously or unconsciously, and thereby initiate a debate which emerges abstractly in the shape of movement, rather than verbally. How can a monument/memorial be abstract and still punctuate the spatial silence in the urban environment?

Results:

In the workshop, the students had to find a subject of interest to interview about an event that was central to their lives or had a big impact on them that happened in a public space, write a short story about the event, and then create a monument to commemorate that person’s narrated event. The workshop culminated in the creation of five monuments. Here’s a snippet of some of the monuments and a brief description of the story that inspired them.

The Fredrikstad Guestbook

This monument was based on the story of a young man who had attributed leaving the city of Fredrikstad as a life changing event. Even though his childhood and life was generally good, he felt like the city was relatively small and was curious about the world beyond its borders. This is a common trend in Fredrikstad, young people often leave, like in many other countries, for the bigger cities.

To commemorate his story, a monument titled, Fredrikstad Guestbook, was created and placed at the main train station, for him to reflect on the experiences of his stay(s) in the city, but also as an open invitation for others to do the same.

Thus, a big book was placed on a stand, with a pen tied to a string, for people to reflect on their encounters with the city. For people who wanted to leave a message not just in the guestbook for the general public to read, but for a specific person in (or outside) the city, the monument included the possibility for people to write on a page, rip it out of the book or tear a section of the page, put it inside an envelope that was provided, write an address of the recipient and then put it in a letter box. The students would then bring stamps and post the letters on their behalf. After only a weekend at the station, the monument had garnered many entries from the public, including letters which were later posted to the provided addresses.

The place for you who had your appointment canceled

This monument was inspired by a story of a 5 year old who said that they were most saddened and disappointed when people cancelled or didn’t show up for play dates. The artist was immediately intrigued by the idea of building a monument where people with cancelled appointments can go to. This translated into a bench that was placed next to the river.

Where the wind blows

This monument was based on a story of someone who is more of a professional couchsurfer. At the time he was interviewed, he was living in Oslo, on several sofas. His home, quite literally, is always the next couch he is invited to live on. Being fascinated by (t)his definition of a ‘home’ or what others might even call ‘homelessness’, a monument made of steel plates that were placed on different parts of the island near to where he attends college. As the wind blows, if you listen carefully whilst you walk past, you can hear the wind chimes sounding off in different locations.

*****

To see all the other monuments, please visit the students’ instagram page:

Theatre For Change

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