Theme “History Now” – Magnus Bärtås, Editor of VIS Issue 3

The writing of history and the interpretation of events from the past become incredibly powerful and emotive questions of identity in families, local contexts, and nations. Ways of dealing with historical events, cultural inheritance matters and cultural canon issues are constantly being negotiated, forever becoming questions of national self-image, of remembering and forgetting, of inclusion and exclusion, of elimination and (re)discovery. Our stories and interpretations of history give rise to the fundamental questions of existential politics: where do we come from, where are we, and where are we going?

For this issue, we’re looking for expositions in which artistic practice addresses manifestations of history in the present. There has long since been reciprocal exchange between artistic methods and practice and historical theory, music history, and history of science, broadening discussions about the relationships between history and literature, word and image, fiction and reality, film and historical material. Archival practices have taken a prominent role in contemporary art. Historico-performative practices such as re-enactments and other recreation and re-views of events, historical material and historical techniques have emerged in theatre, performance, dance, film and music. Here, there are possibilities to activate affect and knowledge that do not necessarily concern the battle for memory, history and culture. The philosopher Paul Ricœur calls doing a re-enactment a re-affectation of the past in the present.(1) Re-enactment is a task of re-thinking [re-penser] and not of reliving [revivre]. Someone, or something, acts as a stand-in for the past in such situations. With the stand-in, a self acts as an other, temporarily freeing the I, but also offering a fundamental opportunity for knowledge and insight. With History Now, VIS extends an invitation to re-think, to tread new paths alongside the ruts of history, and to try to understand ourselves through history.

(1) Paul Ricœur, ”Den berättande tiden”, in Från text till handling, en antologi om hermeneutik, red. Peter Kemp & Bengt Kristensson, Stockholm: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion 1993, p. 223.