Ana Adamovic and Zsuzsi Flohr

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Past as a work in progress

For more than a decade we are witnessing an enormous shift towards the past and memory – in the academic research, media, literature, visual culture, contemporary art. Are we really becoming a civilization obsessed with the past? Caretakers of “the museum of human history”, as Fukuyama suggested back in 1989? Or, might this be a symptom of the current moment burdened with economical crisis, conflicts, and overwhelming social injustices around the world? A sign that something is fundamentally wrong with the present we are living in? And, finally, what is the role and the responsibility of art when dealing with past and memory?

Starting from two, quite different art-based research projects, one dealing with the third generation after the Holocaust, the other with the history and the experience of the socialist Yugoslavia, we are trying to rethink the past, together with individual and collective memory, while using them as active agents in the process of re-contextualizing the present and negotiating potential futures. Starting from theoretical concepts such are multidirectional memory (Rothberg, 2009) and haunting (Gordon, 2008), the main questions we want to propose are why do we need another art exhibition about traumatic past(s) and what are our motives in working on exhibitions dealing with that past, suggesting that the exhibition, rather than a static display, could be seen as an active agent, a very space for a dialogue, participation, negotiation and rethinking of both past and present, but most importantly the future.