How can we use art to rethink the past, present and future? How can a historical memory of a political struggle continue to actively live and inform the present? How can art explore and activate the concept of solidarity in thinking and practice? These are question that we pose in this project. In a time when the social climate is hardening and groups are positioned against each other, we see the necessity to revisit the concept of solidarity and ask ourselves if it is still possible to use it in art to imagine and create alternative realities beyond present conditions.
We explore a specific history of solidarity – the Swedish engagement in the South African resistance movement against the apartheid regime. In 1950’s the struggle against apartheid started to grow strong and it engaged institutions and individuals on both a private and public level in Sweden. This history points towards how collective international engagement effected the outcome of political events in South Africa. Among other things, Swedish aid money was transferred through secret channels to the resistance movement in South Africa. The exchange of private letters between families in South Africa and Sweden was used as a cover for this operation. However, apart from being a transport channel for money, the letters also testify, through mundane stories about everyday life, to the impact of political history on personal experiences and lives. But the letters also address both the possibilities and limitations of private acts of solidarity. The research project will take the letters as a point of departure in order to reflect on this very history.
As there will be two research groups considering the same history, but from two different positions and geographical locations, this project further asks important questions of how different political and social contexts effect our ways of seeing, interpreting, reflecting, organising, and shaping histories and materials.
With this as a background, we will consider how artistic production can help deconstructing history and suggest new interpretations and readings; we will revisit history but anchor its political and artistic strategies in a contemporary context.
The project is run in collaboration with curator and professor Gabi Ngcobo at the Wits School of Arts, Johannesburg; Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; artist and professor Petra Bauer at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm; The South African artist group Title in Transgression, and the Swedish artist group Study Group for Solidarity and TransActions (Petra Hultman, Theresa Traore Dahlberg, Linda Sestrajcic and Cristian Quinteros Soto). (2017)