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Hidden Site Workshop at Äskhult

News: Dec 13, 2018

CCHS cluster Curating the City hosted the second Hidden Site workshop at Äskhult, Sweden, November 29-30, 2018.

The workshop was co-arranged by Curating the City CCHS, University of Gothenburg and the ArtInsideOut residency, Region Halland. The focus for the days was on heritage management and creative practice in making heritage places. Special interest lay on practice and methods from a cross- and transdisciplinary perspective. The workshop invitees were stakeholders related to Äskhult, artists in residence, scholars and heritage practitioners. The aim was to discuss, but also to give individual experiences from on-site artistic workshops.

– The idea was for the workshop to enable conversations over new challenges for management of heritage sites, and how creative practice can contribute in giving new perspectives, says Ingrid Martins Holmberg, cluster leader CCHS/Curating the City.

The Äskhult workshop was an extension of the ArtInsideOut residency at Äskhult and built upon the conversations from the first Hidden Sites workshop that took place at House Mill, London, in May 2018, as well as the round-table discussion on “Out of site, out of mind” held at HDK, UGOT October 26th this year.

Why Äskhult?
– Äskhult is a tiny deserted agrarian village with a uniquely intact pattern of historical surrounding fields, says Ingrid Martins Holmberg. The site is today run as a visitors’ destination by the organization Västkuststiftelsen in collaboration with local municipalities, and managed in an 18th century manner in line with previous reconstruction projects of the cultivated fields. The historical landscape of Äskhult can be read as an open book: the varying cultivation strategies over thousands of years are traceable in for example the palimpsest character of walls, mounds and ditches.

Reflections about the workshop from participating PhD candidates
We arrived in Äskhult – a tiny village that was abandoned in the 1960’s and later curated to retain the form it had in earlier times – on a cold and rainy day. As such, this place changed much over these two days. From being a hidden site in a static repetition of itself, ideas developed that allowed us to see how it reached beyond the muddy fields, dreaming of futures that lie beyond its captivity in 1825. Under the surface, there were of course struggles and stories of care, collective living, vulnerability and resilience. A feeling remained that one would need to dwell in this place for longer to have deeper reflections about it, as such. This place, however, became an active participant in the workshop, with its own affordances, enabling and initiating thoughts and talks that might not have come up in a typical meeting room at the university. In this respect, the format of a situated workshop has the potential for fruitful conversations about the role of the past in the future.

Some of these conversations circled around the challenges that occur when creative practices meet the practices of heritage professionals. The meeting with the creative practices of artists reconfigures this conception of authenticity and this is where the value of the Hidden Sites format lies. In completely abstract terms, the different perceptions of the concept of ‘authenticity’ by the heritage professional and the artist boil down to perceptions of time and direction; the authentic artwork is creative, innovative and, in its very nature, pointing towards a perceived future. The modernist heritage professional, on the other hand, is tasked not with creating, but re-creating a certain point in the past ‘wie es eigentlich gewesen’. This means that there is an inherent danger in the collaboration between the two: the heritage professional risks getting lost in dystopian futurism and the artist in a Kafkaesque trope of repetition, rethinking only the golden age in which life was unspoiled by modern ways of life and modernist ways of thinking. One way of safeguarding the authenticity of both is however presented in the very fact that Äskhult was deserted: The people of the village did possess dreams of future in time and place – dreams that were not realised in Äskhult, but by deserting it. This crude juxtaposition of the creative artist and the modernist heritage professional emphasizes the need for the two to work alongside each other.

Reflections by:
Moniek Driesse, PhD candidate, Department of Conservation, University of Gothenburg
Sjamme Van de Voort, PhD candidate, Centre for Research on Cuba, University of Nottingham
Sigrun Thorgrimsdottir, PhD candidate, Department of Conservation, University of Gothenburg
Photo credit: Sjamme Van de Voort

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Originally published on: criticalheritagestudies.gu.se

Page Manager: Henrik Thelin|Last update: 5/16/2016
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