A symposium on the silencing of colonialism, anti-Semitism, and contemporary turbo-fascist nationalism in Belgium, Austria, and former Yugoslavia.
The international and interdisciplinary symposium, open to public audiences, is built as a podium for research and exchange, dissemination of knowledge, and discussion.
The two-day-long symposium hosted invited speakers that cover the central topics of our research in the three respective territories: memory and history, archives, and the axis of power and knowledge. The general objective of the symposium was to denote gaps between processes of institutionalized silencing, hegemonic processes of oblivion and amnesia, and processes of instituting power through building counter-memory and counter-history projects, interventions, and resistance. The aim was to demonstrate how processes for the establishment of counter-memory and counter-history can open up spaces for new ways of forming radicalized constituent politics. Collective struggles and oppositionality were investigated as the basis of a possible dismantling of neoliberal and necrocapitalist societies by means of re-empowering history that crushes silences.
A series of three lectures by Marina Grzinic and Sophie Uitz is held during the summer term 2018 at the Post-Conceptual Art Practices study programme (Vienna Academy of Fine Arts). Each of the lecture includes a screening of documentary film and introduces one of the three research territories of the “Genealogy of Amnesa” to the students.
Part I Belgian Colonialism in the Congo
23 April 2018, 4-7 PM
Presentation of the research project “Genealogy of Amnesia: Rethinking the Past for a New Future of Conviviality”, by Marina Grzinic and Sophie Uitz.
Introduction, screening and discussion of “King Leopold’s Ghost” (2006, 108min, documentary) by Pippa Scott and Oreet Rees – a documentary about the exploitation of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium, based on the book by Adam Hochschild King Leopold Ghost from 1998.
Part II The Yugoslavian War
14 May 2018, 4-7 PM
Introduction, screening and discussion of Valentini Areh’s documentary “Radovan Karadzic’s Secret Plans” (2016, 51min, documentary for television).
The TV film shows newly retrieved materials and accounts obtained at the trial of Radovan Daradzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Hague Tribunal. The documentary was premiered two days before the final sentence to Karadzic at the Haag Tribunal, 24 March 2016. Karadzic was sentenced to fourty years for Srebrenica genocide in BiH, Amont other criminal acts.
Valentin Areh is a Slovenian journalist, war correspondent and writer. He participated in 1991 as a soldier in the short Slovenian war for independence. He subsequently attended Ljubljana University, studying history and sociology. Areh has fiftenn years of experience as a war correspondent in places such as Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was one of the few journalists to remain in Kosovo during the Kosovo War of 1999 and he survived a tortuous escape out of the country during NATO’s war to expel Serbian forces.
Part III Remembrance and oblivion of Nazi crimes in Austria
4 June 2018, 4-7 PM
Screening of “Night and Fog” (French original title: Nuit et brouillard; 1956, 32min, documentary short film). Directed by Alain Resnais, it was made ten years after the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. The title is taken from the notorious “Nacht und Nebel” (German for “Night and Fog”) program of abductions and disappearances decreed by the Nazis on 7 December 1941.
Screening of “East of War” (German original title: Jenseits des Krieges; 1996), a film by Ruth Beckermann (cinematography Peter Roehsler, editing Gertraud Luschützky).
White-tiled rooms, neon lighting; on the walls black and white photographs documenting the atrocities committed by the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front in WW2. Against this background former soldiers talk about their experiences beyond the bounds of “normal” warfare. An uncompromising film on remembrance and oblivion. Ruth Beckermann’s film doesn’t duplicate the exhibition, but begins where it ends: in a commentary. Its subject-matter is less about history than remembering, less about the past than the present.
The images and chronologies in these displayed materials are coming from the catalogue/publication Words Precede Actions with the subtitle The Context of Language, Racism, Economy and Power by Marika Schmiedt published in 2018 that displays racist genealogies of discrimination and the ghettoization of the Roma people in the West and East of Europe.
One part of her analysis consists of the research of racism, linking them to histories of the relationship between race and physical anthropology. As “racist scientific results” are used in sorting and exposing bones and crania collections in the museum. This takes us via Schmiedt to the Natural History Museum (NHM) in Vienna that has one of the biggest crania collections, assembled by the Austrian anthropologist Augustin Weisbach (1837–1914) in the second half of the nineteenth century in Europe. The anthropological collection at the Natural History Museum in Vienna includes 40,000 objects, human remains, including skulls, bones, hair, and body drains. The collection mostly contains relics from historical and prehistoric times, but also problematic chapters of human remains that mark colonial and National Socialist times.
The other part presents a gallery of “skeletons of important Austrian men” falling out of the closet of Austrian history. All these men are not solely vicious racists, having programmatic anti-Romaism agendas, but they are all anti-Semites:
Albert Geßmann (1852–1920)
Karl Lueger (1844–1910),
Josef Weinheber (1892–1945)
Taras Borodajkewycz (1902‒1984)
Josef Weinheber (1892 – 1945) a “respected” Austrian man, poet and essayist, who was largely under the literary influences of Rainer Maria Rilke, Anton Wildgans and Karl Kraus, was a member of the Nazi Party from 1931 until 1933 and from 1944 on. He committed at the time of the advance of the Red Army, leaving behind a clear-sighted parting letter. He was buried in the village of Kirchstetten, Austria, where he had lived since 1936. The municipality and the citizens of Kirchstetten, have honored for years the “great poet” Weinheber by transforming his house into a museum, dedicating a street, a square and a highway bridge in his name, decided to name a kindergarten in his honor. (From the text by Marina Grzinic in Words Precede Actions, 2018).
Lecture and introduction to Marika Schmiedt’s catalogue
by Marina Grzinic
[…] Words precede actions: language, words, and discourses have a powerful impact on concrete social issues, political decisions, media content, knowledge institutions, labor markets, the shaping of histories, memories, and subjectivities and defining of citizenship. Through mass media, public opinions, and widespread anti-Roma graffiti in public space, words have set in motion actions of constant dehumanization of the Roma, leading their conditions of poverty, segregation, and seclusion to become part of another rhetoric – the rhetoric of naturalization of these conditions. We can find at least three forms of displaying these processes of racialization in Schmiedt’s work. The second form that is as well central to the research Genealogies of amnesia displays mechanisms that I will label the gallery of “skeletons of important Austrian men” falling out of the closet of Austrian history. All these men, we are soon to learn, almost dumbstruck, are not solely vicious racists, having programmatic anti-Romaism agendas, but are all anti-Semites. Reviewing this frightening collection of men, which is by no means exclusively historical, but instead, reverberates persistently in present times, identified by generations of critical positions in Austria as the nation’s post-Nazi times. This past is preoccupying as hyper right wing neoliberal necrocapitalism is at its full power here and now.
The catalogue presentation at the VBKÖ was contextualized by an exhibition of Marika Schmiedt’s recent investigations on the Nazi-past of the Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs (VBKÖ).