On November 24th, 2023, Situated Art and Design researcher, Eva Fotiadi, together with the artist Fotini Gouseti will present the paper ‘Art monuments and artistic research: diverse approaches to traumatic events of World War II and the Greek Civil War in the town of Kalavryta, and the public spaces that these approaches produce‘, at the International Conference Monuments for World War II: Memory and Oblivion in the Balkans and Central-East Europe.
The small town of Kalavryta in Northern Peloponnese is the symbol of the establishment of the Greek State thanks to the popular history myth according to which the Greeks’ revolution against the Ottomans in 1821 started in this region. On 13 December 1943, the Wehrmacht burned down the village, destroyed food reserves and executed all male inhabitants over the age of fourteen. Modern Kalavryta’s cultural identity is mainly structured on its traumatic memory.
Since 2012, artist Fotini Gouseti has been working on the research-based project The Present as a Result of the Past (PRP), through which she has been studying trauma in Kalavryta in pursue of an understanding of a persistent demand in the local community experienced as “a need for catharsis”. She focuses on the ways society evolves carrying their divided memory and collective trauma, by which she is referring both to the aforementioned massacre of 1943 as well as the local impact of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), the latter being a taboo subject for Kalavrytans. Throughout PRP Gouseti addresses such areas as divided memory, gender, class and the local versus the Other. Since the beginning of this research, her methodology has drawn from the field of anthropology and parts of its results have taken the form of artworks. Starting in 2018, the PRP project led her to undertake PhD research in anthropology. in her PhD thesis Gouseti uses the monuments of World War II as a narrative tool in her attempt to explore and analyse the functions of the past in the present of Kalavryta. At the same time, Gouseti’s entire artistic-ethnographic research and resulting artworks that relate to Kalavryta, propose a different approach to, and process of the remembrance of local events during the two consecutive wars, as well as of the population’s trauma.
In their shared paper, Gouseti will present her artistic research and work, and together with art historian Eva Fotiadi they will reflect on what kinds of public spaces are produced -or are aspired at- in Kalavryta by other monuments, as well by Gouseti’s artistic-ethnographic approach and work. Taking as analytical tools concepts that have received attention in public art discourses, such as Chantal Mouffe’s ‘agonistic public sphere’, and the recently popular ‘safe space’ that originates from feminism and queer activism, they will explore what kinds of impact art might have on working through historical, collective traumas in the present, as well as how the functions and forms of monuments could be revisited by contemporary artistic research.
For more information on the Conference, Monuments for World War II: Memory and Oblivion in the Balkans and Central-East Europe, click here