The second activation of “Ente di Decolonizzazione – Borgo Rizza” took place at the Akademie der Künste in the Hansa Quarter in Berlin built in 1957 for the International Building Exhibition (Interbau). On this occasion, we were interested in exploring how modernist architecture was deployed for the representation of a democratic Germany. Today, Interbau (1957) and the Karl-Marx-Allee are on the way to becoming UNESCO world heritage sites for their Post-war architectural and urban modernism. With the participation of the public visiting the biennial, members of local associations, and students from New York University Abu Dhabi we looked into what the rhetoric of modernity is hiding, and how it has been mobilized in different contexts. Modernist architectures, both in the former colonies and the colonizing countries, have been built as isolated sacred objects to be admired; therefore, for us, it is not enough just to reuse them, they need to be profaned, to be used against themselves, and open for new common uses different from those they were designed for.
The Royal Institute of Art and Tensta konsthall are inviting you to a higher seminar and the book launch of Refugee Heritage by DAAR – Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, with a Photographic Dossier by Luca Capuano, on May 24, 2–5 pm at Tensta konsthall within the frame of the group exhibition Hurting and Healing: Let’s Imagine a Different Heritage.
Starting from the book-dossier and the installation Refugee Heritage at Tensta konsthall, the seminar will revolve around the following fundamental questions: who has the right to define what constitutes heritage? How can modernist and patriarchal conceptions of heritage be challenged? Are there other forms of heritage outside the nation-state that include all the people who belong to more than one place simultaneously?
The Refugee Heritage book-dossier attempts to deactivate the claims of objectivity and universalism contained within conventions followed by UNESCO in determining World Heritage status; it presents different narratives that do not fit within such statist discourse, reorienting heritage towards non-hegemonic forms of life and collective memory. By reusing, misusing and redirecting UNESCO World Heritage guidelines and criteria, Refugee Heritage challenges definitions of heritage and their colonial foundations, asking instead how architecture is mobilized as an agent of political transformation.
Stateless Heritage confronts dominant Western conceptions of heritage and presents different narratives, reorienting heritage towards nonhegemonic forms of life and collective memory. Dheisheh refugee camp is at the heart of the project, however, we believe this approach could extend to other camps, and forms of subjugated heritage, bringing a new perspective on notions of restitution, repair and return.
The exhibition presents an installation of large freestanding lightboxes of photographs of Dheisheh camp by photographer Luca Capuano. In 2010 the photographer was commissioned by UNESCO to record Italy’s world heritage sites. In 2016, DAAR commissioned Capuano to photograph Dheisheh camp, taking the same care to document this living monument of ‘permanent temporariness’. The spatial placement of the light boxes evokes the topography of the camp giving visitors an insight into its urban and social fabric. In a separate space, a series of open books placed on top of plinths of varying heights will display photographs of the 44 villages from where refugees in Dheisheh originally came, also taken by Capuano. The undulating heights of the plinths form a kind of landscape, or ruin, within the gallery.
The final part of the exhibition is a space of discussion and action. Stateless Heritage presents a call for the official international recognition of the cultural heritage of the refugee, through proposing a refugee camp as a UNESCO world heritage site. A nomination dossier will be available for visitors to read, and a plaque claiming Dheisheh’s world heritage status installed on the gallery wall. Visitors will be invited to consider if the camp should be recognised as a World Heritage Site. This space will also host a live element activated by talks and events by community members, artists, activists and thinkers. These artworks are part of a wider movement, in which heritage is being used as a tool to challenge and resist colonialism and occupation in Palestine. They have wider pertinence too, as calls grow to recognise how heritage and conservation can expose colonial and imperial legacies. The exhibition also raises issues of migrant and refugee justice, at time when UK government is enacting its New Deal on asylum, and as the fundamental right to claim asylum is under threat internationally.
13 October 2021 — 30 January 2022
On the occasion of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition, Venice Biennale, (22 May to 21 November 2021), the Stockholm-based, DAAR presents a new installation in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini entitled Stateless Heritage. The intervention is part of an ongoing effort to challenge dominant western conceptions of heritage and open to emancipatory forms of collective narration. Accompanying the art installation is a book nomination dossier which attempts to deactivate the claims of objectivity and universalism contained in the conventions followed by UNESCO in determining World Heritage status; the book presents different narratives that do not fit within such statist discourse, reorienting heritage towards non-hegemonic forms of life and collective memory. Here an informal conversation with Sven-Olov Wallenstein.
On the seventy-third commemoration of the ongoing Nakba, May 14, 2021, the Common Assembly of the Stateless Nations and their allies, discussed the nomination to recognize Dheisheh refugee camp and the forty-four villages as World Heritage Sites.
The nomination book-dossier of Dheisheh refugee camp and the forty-four village of origin is available HERE.
Six years ago, in one of our gatherings inside the Concrete Tent, we asked: do refugee camps have a history? Is the camp just a site of misery or does it produce values that need to be acknowledged and protected? What is going to happen to the camp if Dheisheh is recognized as a World Heritage site? And how should the concept of heritage change in order to acknowledge the camp’s condition?
In 1940, the Fascist regime established the “Entity of Colonization of Sicilian Latifundia / Ente di Colonizzazione del Latifondo Siciliano” following the model of the “Entity of Colonization of Libya” and colonial architecture in Eritrea and Ethiopia. These territories were considered by the regime “empty,” “underdeveloped,” and “backward” and therefore in need to be “reclaimed,” “modernized,” and “repopulated.” For this purpose, the “Entity of Colonization” inaugurated in Sicily eight new rural towns and as many remained unfinished. Today most of these villages have fallen into ruin.
However, what does not seem to be in ruin in Italy is the persistence of colonial and fascist rhetoric, culture, and politics. Despite the fall of fascism following the Second World War, Italy’s de-fascistization remains an unfortunately unfinished process. This is one of the reasons why Italy still has visible architectures, monuments, plaques, and toponymy that celebrate the fascist regime. Furthermore, Italy – having lost its colonies during the Second World War – has never embarked on a real process of decolonization.
In 2017, the nomination of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its fascist and colonial architecture built during the period of Italian occupation, posed a series of fundamental questions for both the ex-colonized and the ex- colonizers: who has the right to preserve, reuse and re-narrate fascist colonial architecture?
The installation presented for the 2020 Quadriennale d´arte- FUORI at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, home to the First International Colonial Art Exhibition (1931) and other propaganda exhibitions of the regime, proposes to rethink the rural towns built by the “Entity of Colonization” in Sicily starting from the nomination of Asmara as a World Heritage Site. The installation is the first intervention ”Towards a Decolonization Entity / Verso un Ente di Decolonizzazione” that will be made up of those who feel the urgency to question the broad historical, cultural and political heritage steeped in colonialism and fascism, and thus begin a common path towards new practices of decolonization and reparation.
VERSO UN ENTE DI DECOLONIZZAZIONE, 2020
A project by Sandi Hilal e Alessandro Petti (DAAR)
Photographic dossier: Luca Capuano
Installation: Video projections, photographs and plexiglass
Research and texts: Emilio Distretti, Husam Abu Salem
Graphic design: Diego Segatto, Rosanna Lama
QUADRIENNALE D’ARTE 2020 | FUORI
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Roma
30 October 2020 > 17 January 2021 more
Hosted by Alserkal, join the Round table discussion “Mutual understanding” with Mary Ellen Carroll, Lumumba Di-Aping, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, Katya García-Antón, Basim Magdy, Jahnavi Phalkey and Akeel Bilgrami.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2020, 7PM (GST)
Watch the video recorded conversations between Katya García-Antón, Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti around the question “How will we Return?”
Meanwhile, the Israeli government, with the support of the United States of America, is planning to expropriate more land in Palestine, tonight Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem started its mutation reconnecting itself to the villages of origin.
Dheisheh camp is constituted by the assemblage of people that have been expelled since 1948 from 44 villages south of Jerusalem. Walking today from one neighbor to another is similar to walking from one village to another in 1948. The camp has preserved the names of the villages of origin, the languages, the memories. When colonial aggression intensifies, it becomes more urgent than ever to reconnect the refugee camps to their villages of origin. Images via www.karama.org; Map by DAAR
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