Artistic Research in Museums and Communities in the process of Repatriation from Europe
Horizon 2020 European Research Council Consolidator Grant, 2021-2026
Artistic Research team of PI, Post Docs, PhDs, artists, curators and project manager based in Mexico, Australia, Nigeria and Namibia, with partners in Paris, Berlin, London and Vienna.
What innovations to the repatriation of cultural property can be performed by making new originals?
The project REPATRIATES brings together internationally art-based research actions that respond to repatriation, to learn from exchanges between French, German, Austrian and British institutions and stakeholder indigenous communities. REPATRIATES and the “new originals” stand in for contested objects – whose ownership may remain unclear – and explore how these can be exhibited sensitively. It develops strategies for making artistic responses to this material, to propose ways forward for the decolonization of cultural property. This research aspires to shape a response to the complex political, historical, legal, and affective dimensions of the repatriation of cultural assets.
We study major European museums’ approaches to concrete, current repatriation processes. Can different modes of property be learnt from cultures whose emphasis is on reciprocal relationships rather than individual material accumulations? Comparing repatriation processes to Mexico, Australia, Nigeria and Namibia, REPATRIATES proposes new models of co-ownership. This is essential to redress historical power imbalances and their display as national heritage.
What questions can be asked of repatriated objects, as in what personalities, powers, and performances do they bring with them? REPATRIATES’ synthesizes artistic, legal and stakeholder community dimensions heretofore underrepresented in repatriation debates. Multiple voices gathered in artistic research and fieldwork, from milieus of museum professionals that may be sceptical of repatriation, and those working in politics, jurists, and academics, together produce a series of new artworks, films, books, workshops and exhibitions that define the significance and future potential of repatriation.
August 6 and 7th at La Strada Festival in Graz, Austria – Iyagbon’s Mirror is a continuing exchange with the Nigerian/Austrian sculptor Samson Ogiamien and the performance group Onyrikon to which I am contributing a Radio Play and Video. Ogiamien belongs to the royal guild of Benin City`s bronze casters, today the questions related to the provenance of thousands of African artefacts exhibited in European ethnographic museums, (among them the famous Benin bronzes), are at the centre of a great debate; this artistic initiative aims to be a stimulus for cross-cultural reflection, traversing different spaces and artistic forms.
“These objects, which for a large part have been ripped away from their cultures of origin by wayof colonial violence, but which were welcomed and cared for by generations of curators in their new places of residence, from now on bear within them an irremediable piece of Europe and Africa. Having incorporated several regimes of meaning, they become sites of the creolization of cultures and as a result they are equipped to serve as mediators of a new relationality.”
— Felwine Sarr, Bénédicte Savoy, The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics, 2018