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Open invitation for dialogue
To stimulate further dialogue, a series of seminars and debates are organised during the exhibitions. These seminars and debates allow invited speakers and audience members to reflect about the role of history, memory and identity in Cyprus. They are open to the public.
A seminar has been organised in the Photography lab room at Hero square (corner Pavlou Mela and Vasilou Makedonos), Limassol, on January 23, 2016 from 18:00-20:00.
Monuments and Memorials as rhetoric / Objectivity as male
“Memories are not ready-made reflections of the past, but eclectic, selective reconstructions based on subsequent actions and perceptions and on ever-changing codes by which we delineate, symbolise, and classify the world around us.” (David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, p. 210).
The recent renewed interest in what may be seen as augmenting a Cypriot collective memory through examining our public history is fed by the desire to improve the relations between the two main communities in Cyprus. Negotiation and (possible) reconciliation about a shared past, in combination with education, then become significant tools to turn this desire into a cultural reality.
Understanding the loaded narratives of public monuments and memorials, since mainly all are commissioned by political parties in power and not private individuals, is a fundamental area for analysis and reflection. It is worth noting that commemorating heroes of past conflict means privileging some versions of history and discounting others. As such, memorials and monuments are a means of forgetting as well as remembering.
Art historian and critic Arthur Danto states a relevant clarification that the term ‘monument’ signifies celebration, positive remembrance, and the eternal present, while the term ‘memorial’ denotes the sacred, mourning, and the finality of the past. Danto’s definition together with the 80’s feminist slogan: Objectivity is male subjectivity frame the seminar’s discussion about the dominant ideas on patriotism, heroism, service and sacrifice. In nearly all cases, the masculine interpretation becomes the voice of our idea of history because patriarchy had the means to create this visual legacy of public commemoration. Traditional commemorative representational memorials, using socially unconnected modernist formalism, promote a rhetoric which is a synthetic version of a past reality. They are carefully crafted to promote a heroic translation of events and are equally imbued with a subtext expressing not the imitation of actual reality but a desired reality or political outcome fraught with historical contingency.
Nietzsche in his “On the Utility and Liability of History for Life” states that history inscribed in the physicality of monuments represents “a belief in the coherence and continuity of what is great in all ages, it is a protest against the change of generations and against transitoriness”. History, of course, and especially very recent history in our immediate region, has proved that the concepts of continuity and coherence of place or ideals have been replaced with a forceful scale of insecurity and transitoriness.
Two debates were organised in the Home for Cooperation (H4C) in Ledra Palace, Nicosia, on November 18th and 19th, from 18:00-20:00.
"Monuments and memories" - November 18th 2015, 18:00 to 20:00 at the H4C
The debate focussed on the importance of memory (in the form of History) and monuments (as a specific form of representation of the past) in a post-conflict, peacebuilding context both in Cyprus and globally. More specifically, three issues were discussed. The first issue dealt with the importance of History in representing the past, and the limitations of History in creating valid representations of the past. Secondly, the debate focussed on whether and how historical conflict should be memorialized through monuments, museums and other historical accounts. Again, the opportunities and limitations of these more institutionalized forms of memorialization were scrutinized. The third issue focussed more on monuments, and raised the questions whether monuments can assist positively in coming to terms with the past or whether, in fact, they act as continuous reminders of past trauma and thus, prevent the peacebuilding process. Another question was what kinds of monuments does Cyprus need at this stage to help with peace-building?
"Covering the Cyprus conflict" - November 19th 2015, 18:00 to 20:00 at the H4C
The debate aims to provide insight, examine and discuss how the conflict in terms of antagonism among the two main communities of Cyprus (Greek-Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot) affects media attention (and coverage). The debate will examine the impact the media has in the construction of public beliefs and attitudes in regards to inter-communal views and relations, as well as its relationship to social change and the negotiations.