Cover picture: View from the bedroom, Hospedería Santa Cruz, Valley of the Fallen (Cuelgamuros) | Silvia Marimon, 2018.
By Jordi Guixé, director of the European Observatory on Memories (EUROM) of the University of Barcelona’s Solidarity Foundation
A year ago we published the first issue of Observing Memories, a digital magazine that aimed to offer a new space for the debate around memory. A space that would give the readers tools to analyse, compare, understand, take a stance and participate in the different conflicts and debates related to the past surrounding us. The participation of “top experts” in the field of memory studies was a great asset, and the good feedback of the readers encouraged us to publish this second issue, with more content and collaborators.
From the beginning, we wanted to focus on one of the most burning issues, not only within the academy but also in the public arena: the memory of the perpetrators and their legacies. The number of studies about perpetrators and guilty parties is constantly increasing, as well as the resignification of memory places that refer to repression. This memory is in itself conflictive. It brings us into very contemporary dilemmas about the political memory of nostalgia, the negative commemoration and the need to reflect on democratic pedagogy. Many uncomfortable memories arise when we deal with the memory of the dictators, their disciples or the important State crimes they committed. There arises a prosecution of memory, an interpretative danger, negationism or revisionism. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore those crimes and avoid studying them, as some would prefer. Therefore, we have contacted international experts and prepared a new issue of our e-magazine.
The experts Valentina Salvi and Leigh A. Payne have written, from very different perspectives, two sharp, thoughtful and incisive articles about the figure of the repressor in Argentina. Salvi describes the evolution of the discourse of the State violence committed by the military institution: the transformation of the “nation saviour” into a “victim of terrorism”, trying to adjust to the socially accepted stereotype of the victim to dilute its responsibility in the crimes committed against humanity. On the other hand, Payne analyses the elements shaping the processes of public confession of violence of the revolutionary left, and how these can have a social impact and a very different result depending on the timing or political moment. We have asked Enzo Traverso about the state of the studies on the memory of the perpetrators. He is one of the most experienced experts in the causes and effects of the political and ideological conflicts of memory. We could not help asking him, among other things, about the memory policies developed in Europe, and what should be done with the legacy of dictatorships. We also wanted to give EUROM’s point of view presenting two projects in which we have been recently involved: the transformation of the Valley of the Fallen in Madrid and the Monument to the Fallen of Pamplona. Similarly, as an example of a symbolic place of dictatorship reshaped during democracy, Kirsten John Stucke explains the experience of the Wewelsburg Memorial Museum. The way this exceptional museum was conceived represents a turning point in the worldview of the SS.
In this second issue of Observing Memories we also wanted to introduce a new section dedicated to the memory policies in Europe. In a provocative article, the historian Georges Mink warns us of the growing interventionism of the States through new legal frameworks and government measures to create stories about the past. The historian Markus J. Prutsch clearly talks about the memory policies developed by the European Union and the challenges of this regulation. In this sense, we also publish an interview with Gilles Pelayo, head of unit of the Europe for Citizens’s programme at the Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), in which he explains how the programme will evolve in the near future. In addition,
we have also included articles by different experts such as the political scientist Ana Miloševic, who questions the success of memorials in overcoming wounds caused by social traumas, or the historian Fernando Hernández Holgado, who discusses the complex debate that arose after the initiative of the City Council of Madrid to build a memorial at the cemetery of Almudena with all the names of those executed by Franco’s regime. One of our constant elements is the relation between art and memory, and we wanted to reflect it with an article by one of the most renowned artists in this field, Horst Hoheisel, who explains different aspects of some of his most prominent projects. We also included the audio-visual work of the artist Kristina Norman, “Festive Spaces”, exhibited at Art Hall in Tallinn, in which she explores the link between art and the different political regimes experienced in Estonia. Furthermore, the corresponding reviews of books, exhibitions, and museums can be found between the pages of this second issue of Observing Memories. We hope you enjoy a good and interesting reading.