Urban Space and Memory Skopje

posted by Katalin Teller on 2009/04/16 09:37

[ Workshop ]

An international workshop Reading the City: Urban Space and Memory will be held at the Cultural Centre Tocka in Skopje from May 10-16, 2009. The hypothesis of the workshop "Reading the city: Urban space and memory" in Skopje is that every historical, political, and social development and trend is mirrored in the city's built environment. Cities, accordingly, consist of a multitude of layers of narratives and thus become an image of individual and collective memory. Deadline for applications: April 26, 2009.

Due to the intimate relationship between memory and identity, the city itself and its urban spaces play an important role in the shaping of collective identities.

The city, its urban spaces and architectural shape, are subject of politics of identity and memory, its "sites of memory" and the cityscape turn into "symbolic capital" (Pierre Bourdieu), which is used to accomplish political agendas.

The Austrian art historian and pioneer of modern heritage preservation Alois Riegl suggested that we distinguish between two different kinds of memorials: those erected purposefully by the local power structures, and those which became a monument - a "lieu de mémoire" (Pierre Nora) - in the course of time. While planned "sites of memory" like museums or statues are created with the intention to remember certain historical events or personalities, there are also locations, venues, or buildings which become "sites of memory" through the association with certain events, experienced individually or collectively.

The objective of the workshop is to explore monuments and "sites of memory" in Skopje, including the not yet materialized (like the planned statue of Alexander the Great on the central square etc.). Who is using these "sites of memory", how, and why? Which roles do they play in the texture of the city?

In picking up the questions advanced and the problems identified in the study of „sites of memory", the workshop is to discuss how history is reflected in the urban space of Skopje today, how it is perceived and constructed, and which historical periods influence the city's current planning discourse; how the city deals with its material "lieux de mémoire", the historical architectural heritage, and what kind of history is remembered in ongoing urban and architectural transformations.

In consideration of the multi-ethnic past and present of the city of Skopje, also the question over the community-building function of memory must be raised. What kind of common history does a diverse urban society produce to in order to identify with its place of residence? How can this be related to the ambivalence of memory, not only concerning the differences between collective and individual memory, but also the parallel existence of different constructions of memories in different parts of the society, or even in one society?

While the workshop it will also be discussed how Skopje's "sites of memory" are reflected in the mass media. Beside the materially existing "sites of memory", also non-material sites of memory" like the city's narrative of the earthquake of 1963 could be analyzed.

The participants will be students from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the Technical University Berlin and students as well as architects, city planners and other interested persons from Macedonia with a curiosity in working in an international group on the subject in question. The workshop will start with a theoretical introduction to memory and city planning, and the relation of history, identity, and urban space. Lectures will be given by a number of international experts (historians, city planers, architects).

In the second part the participants will work in smaller groups on questions pertaining to memory and space by analyzing various sites of memory in Skopje. The participants contribute through their interdisciplinary viewpoints as well as through their different national backgrounds and will "read the city" on the basis of their specific theoretical and artistic approaches. As product of the workshop the results should be visualized in different ways.

The workshop will conclude with a public presentation of the findings and will be documented in an exhibition in Skopje and Berlin, as well as in a printed publication.

The working language of the workshop will be English.

For the workshop we invite 15 participants from the fields of art, architecture, urban planning, geography and literature/journalism to explore the city's memory in different ways.

To apply please send your CV and a one-page motivation letter (or an outline of your potential contribution) in English or German to julia.lechler@kulturmanager.net.

For further information please contact julia.lechler@kulturmanager.net, cell: 00389-75-441 764.

The project is supported by the foundation "Remembrance, responsibility and Future" (Geschichtswerkstatt Europa), the Goethe-Institut and the Technical University Berlin.


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