The Townhouse Gallery in Cairo is organizing an international symposium on archival
initiatives and other strategies for the preservation and (re)activation of cultural
memory. Borrowing from the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic autobiography1,
Speak, memory is a three-day event structured around presentations, panel discussions,
screenings, and artist talks exploring the rich array of methodologies that can
be adopted to unearth, revisit or reactivate past artistic practices.
Recently, the Middle East has seen the emergence of a series of archival and historiographic
endeavors focused on a local and regional history of modern and contemporary
art. In response to the scarce and scattered art historical documentation of
the region’s most recent past, a growing number of researchers, curators and artists
have begun collecting documents and recording the oral histories of artistic practices
and exhibitions that have seemingly been forgotten, misinterpreted or dismissed.
As these research projects gain momentum, private collectors and newly created
museums are also slowly acquiring artists’ archives, magazines and other remnants
of the region’s 20th century cultural history. These developments are not unique to
the Middle East. A similar phenomenon has been taking place in Latin America,
where private collectors, foreign museums and universities have been buying and
exporting privately held archives related to artistic production of the 60’s and 70’s2.
The current situation calls for a critical discussion between institutions, collectors,
artists, curators, and researchers interested in reactivating recent cultural memory
in a way that enables the creation of a multiplicity of narratives and ready access to
these histories. Speak, memory seeks to instigate an informed debate on the challenges
and strategies for the preservation of modern and contemporary art histories,
focusing on those that have been scarcely documented or are underrepresented in
dominant art historical narratives. In addition, the symposium will present archival
initiatives that stand out for their successful organizational model, accessibility and
discursive potential, as well as online platforms that are already providing possibilities
for collaboration. Rather than being a one-time event, the symposium aims to create
a network of archival initiatives and broader historiographic endeavors that can facilitate
a series of ongoing conversations and collaborations.
Speak, memory will take place at the Rawabet Theater by the Townhouse Gallery
in Cairo on October 28-30, 2010 and will coincide with the exhibition of the Bidoun
Library Project3 in the First Floor Gallery. The language of the symposium will be
English and simultaneous translation into Arabic will be provided. Due to limited
seating, registration is required4. To register for the symposium, please send an email
to email@example.com by September 15, 2010. Places will be allocated on a first
come first serve basis.
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