WP5: Lifetimes of Heritage

WP5 Leader: Brita Brenna

In both WPs 5 and 6, dealing with heritage and future histories respectively, the temporal arrangements, in which lifetimes become entangled and synchronized, are classified and organized according to their own temporal indexes. Traditionally, heritage classifies the past as something that is sealed off from possible futures, whereas the future histories of science fiction are seen to be disconnected from any past. However, these specific temporal regimes are neither absolute nor stable, but historically contingent arrangements of lifetimes as well as historical events.

This WP takes another starting point: Heritage is no longer understood or practiced as a freezing of memory (Agamben 2007). Today an understanding of nature and culture as entangled and continuously remade (Haraway 2016; Tsing 2015; Barad 2007) has shattered the heritage time-regime and its biological, geological and historical underpinnings. The hesitant establishment of World Heritage mixed sites (nature and culture), the new significance put on indigenous museologies (with their site-specific preservation and valuation techniques, Kreps 2016), as well as repatriation projects where valued heritage objects are left to natural decay (totem-poles brought from museums to natural sites to decay, Björklund 2016), are enabling new conceptions, practices and materializations of heritage. Concurrently climate change is putting heritage protection under enormous pressure, from the melting tundra causing literally frozen heritage to melt to the rapid deterioration of buildings and sites due to changing weather conditions. In this WP, we explore heritage as it materializes bio-geo-cosmo-lifetimes, as well as how its conceptual content oscillates between the frozen and the fluid, the monumental and the vulnerable. Like WP3, this WP also overlaps with the on-going Geological Times-project. One PhD and one PD are in the process of completing projects, in which they explore how natural materials such as oil, rocks and turf contain different time scales in museums and at heritage sites. Further, these natural materials permit theoretical explorations of passages between life and non-life as flexible processes. Turf, for instance, is seen as a materialized process of slow-death where human interference may speed up or slow down the velocity of dying. They investigate to what extent natural materials are brought to life or silenced to death, and which temporal arrangements they exhibit when they are molded as heritage and displayed.

1) In the Lifetimes Project, the first part of WP5 explores how heritage governance and practices negotiate time as climate change forces a radical temporal shift. On the one hand, reactions are determined by an international heritage regime, most notably UNESCO. On the other hand, the negotiations of time and time scales can be studied in their many different enactments in heritage practices within local communities. In particular we are interested in how industrial heritage contributes to negotiations about geological time and resources (cf. WP3), as well as how natural heritage sites are produced as wilderness and “nature”. In these projects biological and geological times seem to be renegotiated as fluid and uncertain, even as vulnerable times.

2) The second part studies cultural and natural heritage in Syria, especially the inscriptions of heritage as discourse in the “aftermath” of crisis evinced by the ongoing destruction. Remnants of partially destroyed physical structures become the battleground for inscribing memory as the true value of human progress, a means to transcend the ephemerality of the biological aggregate first through the semi-permanence of geological substance and second through the permanence of advancing human knowledge. We trace the history and the work of media events at the hands of filmmakers and archivists in moving between different timescales, from the life of the individual, to the life of the body politic, to the life of the ruler, alongside the event of disappearing heritage and permanent cultural loss. This WP thus intersects with the focus on mediality in WP2 and the fissures between ruler and ruled in the timescales of the body politic in WP4.