Famagusta/Varosha: Damnatio Memoriae
Through the Roadblocks – Zagreb
Re-collecting City/Re-Collecting Time was launched in 2006 with the aim of preserving cultural memory – especially urban immaterial memory. In societies undergoing transition in the form of brutal capitalism, cities are going through radical and dramatic changes, often to the detriment of immaterial cultural heritage. Hence preserving urban immaterial memory is of vital importance for their continuity.
Since 2006 Re-collecting City/Re-Collecting Time has featured various incarnations, expanding meanwhile from Zagreb to the entire region of the Western Balkans and Europe. The core of Re-collecting City/Re-Collecting Time’s interest is the research (detecting, archiving, studying and exhibiting) of traces of past events in public spaces of a city – mainly artistic actions and political protests/acts – that, at the time of their unfolding, did not aim at any permanent presence but inscribed themselves in the (un)read history of the city.
Re-collecting City/Re-Collecting Time strives to capture those fragile and ephemeral aspects of the past by collecting and studying memories of individuals – artists themselves, their collaborators, journalists, historians, accidental passersby – in various forms: from material ones (photographs, films, videos, written testimonies) to spoken recollections.
The materials were shaped and made visible to the public through two communication outputs: Open Offices and Wall Displays – both having in common the temporary inhabitation of public spaces.
Wall Displays (WD) were launched in 2007 in seven street display boxes of the former Croatian Cinematheque as a communication channel/window of the invisible part of the project Re-Collecting City/ Re-Collecting Time. It evolved as an independent project from 2010 on. It is the visible part of the research and reflection on the city, public and private space, urbanity, co-existence and identity.
The WD edition Famagusta/Varosha: Damnatio Memoriae deals with the tragic and particular destiny of the city that was the target of conquests and disputes many times throughout the tumultuous history of Cyprus, the latest of them producing a 38-year long quagmire between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots and over 26,000 displaced people, leaving an entire section of the city – Varosha – as a ghost town with UN peace forces as guardians of that uncanny situation.
The very title of the project, evoking an Ancient Roman legal term, which reveals a complex relation towards collective memory as such, suggests that dealing with the history of Famagusta means entering a zone of different perspectives, hidden facts and manipulating interpretations. Shadow Casters strove to include in their project all those different readings – historical, etymological, geopolitical, economical, climatic – in order to produce an open field of interpretation for each visitor of this Wall Display edition. F/V: DM thus unfolds the story of Famagusta in a thematically multilayered and non-linear way from the point of view of its various conquerors, and rulers. It reveals the contradictions of recent history of Greek and Turkish Cypriot enmities, the crucial role of the USA and Great Britain in shaping the fate of modern-day Cyprus, the tragic events of August 1974 with consequences lived to this day, and even beyond: one of the displays features the chronology of events that anticipate in a utopian way the future of Famagusta and Cyprus. This chronology, in a manner of docu-fiction licentia poetica, bestows to the projects of NeMe, their Cypriot colleagues from Omada One/Off and Shadow Casters the role of triggers of positive developments – both real and fictitious – in resolving the separation and conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. Among other, this utopian perspective projects the re-birth of Famagusta as an enlightened international architectural, urbanistic and human project.
In each display, the central theme of Famagusta/Varosha is framed with two meta-layers: one is a series of quotations from the essay Damnatio Memoriae by Bosnian/Croatian poet, translator and essayist Sinan Gudžević, which elaborate more in-depth the Roman legal practice of determining both the benefit and the damage of collective memory depending on the context; the other layer, juxtaposes the Famagusta tragedy with the history of smaller or greater tragedies that have occurred in Zagreb throughout its history. This layer adds an external viewpoint as a reminder that one’s own experience of tragic events narrows down the perspective and is often oblivious of the wider context.
Hence, in a reverse version of the custom of the Hopi Indians who continue the conversation with the interlocutor even when he is gone, Shadow Casters have initiated through this project a conversation with the past, the present and the interlocutor who is still not there: the future. This conversation contains a humorous note yet with full awareness of the present-day reality coordinates in which Famagusta dwells.
The utopian coda on the entire project of Famagusta/Varosha: Damnatio Memoriae is meant as a call for open public deliberation on the desired future of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities outside the divisions that impede them both politically and economically and continually expose them to geo-strategic manipulations. The entire project is also a story on societies as open thermodynamic systems, on their conditioning by the global world order, and a food for thought on the possibilities of local changes through radical thinking and acting, especially on the issues of identity and identification.
Curators: Shadow Casters (Katarina Pejovic, Boris Bakal)
Croatian Ministry of Culture, Roberto Cimetta Fund, National Foundation of Civil Society Development