2 – 11 July 2015
PRIMARY SOURCES AT WORK
Nazi Looted Art – the Parisian scene
The Bibliothèque Kandinsky’s Summer University is a Centre Pompidou research program installed on the very premises of the museum. It focuses on modern and contemporary art primary sources: archives, documentary materials (both written and visual), interviews, records and appropriations. As interdisciplinary initiative, the Summer University brings together young researchers: historians, art historians, anthropologists, sociologists, artists, critics and curators which share a collective reflection with art professionals and various scholars around source materials. It will be held in the
museum’s space all around a conference table acting at the same time as an exhibition device displaying documents until September 2015. The space will be invested with facsimiles, reproductions and archival material invoked during the working sessions. Conceived following the Atlas model, it will be photographed each day. The working material will be annotated and commented by the participants during writing workshops. The editorial production of this material will be assembled in the format of a journal – “Journal de l’Université d’été de la Bibliothèque Kandinsky”- as a critical anthology
registering the debates during the sessions and as a graphic production.
During the last twenty years, the crimes of plundered art and its subsequent restitutions were the object of various forms of discourse: historical, institutional, juridical or artistic. Numerous symposia as well as artistic projects are permeated by the crucial, even though technical, question of patrimonial legacy. For the next edition of its Summer University, the Bibliothèque Kandinsky will re-examine this question going along the primary sources.
Getting back to the topic of primary sources convokes the entire spectrum of their meanings and uses. Sources have a pivotal role in the writing and understanding of history. They also shed light on the often tortuous trajectory of some objects and on the legitimacy of restitution requests. They are frequently invested by complex intellectual and artistic operations seeking to find out the right distance in bringing up this phenomenon and the meanings of a past which inscribes itself in our present.
Nevertheless, a source “in itself” says very little. To make sense, it has to be articulated by multiple contextual connectors capable of conveying the stakes, scale and layers of the plundering process. A selection of sources will be availableduring the Summer University; participants are invited to bring up and contribute with their own resources, used in their research. Confronted to a diverse repertoire of sources, each participant will be expected to put together historiographical thinking, critical sense and inventiveness. The Bibliothèque Kandinsky Summer University 2015 edition will give the opportunity to put the sources “at work” and to bring together young researchers, curators and artists around the poignant subject of Nazi looted art on the Parisian scene.
The Summer University will be a singular experience held on the very premises of the museum. Key-note speakers from various disciplines will animate and invest its program. It will be structured as a series of workshops exclusively focusing on original sources and around five core sections:
· Biographies of works and collections
The museum is the institutional framework preserving works of art. A collection’s legibility is insured by displays and catalogues through historical and aesthetic narratives where works act like words. Sometimes there is a lack of modulation and historical depth that eclipses the singular identity of each item. Works of art are always loaded with their past. Plunder broke connections (economic, political, aesthetic, emotional) consecutive collectors developed with their works. Plunder dismantled collections. How many collections have been devastated during the World War II and how much they are missed? Works survive only through some words on lists that fail to reconstruct the intentions of collecting
act; they represent damaged sources for the history of taste and reception. By going back to primary sources, the Summer University intends to rebuild, at the heart of the conservation site, biographies of works and collections and bring into collision the aesthetic discourse with the historical concern.
· Biographies of archives and written sources
The history of looted art and of its restitutions is profoundly linked to the history of its archives. The historic legacy is at the same time intentional and random: some sources survive by accident; some others have been deliberately destroyed. By their very material existence they transform the places which host them. The most important body of archive is the institutional one, but there are also other forms of archive: professional or personal. We often ignore other existing ones.
This second core section will explore archives’ improbable life: open or restricted, accessible or lost, looted, displaced, recovered, destroyed, rendered. Crossed-discipline research will expand the limits of provenance research. Each list of looted art is sometimes far more eloquent than the sum of information it gathers.
· The life of images and representations
Sources are also visual. Archival images abound (photos, news films, sketches and drawings). Photography regularly accompanies the entire process: from the moment of acquisition and collection, to plundering and all the way to the restitution procedure. After all, Hitler himself knew the quality of his Linz ideal museum only through monumental photo albums. Images act at the same time as places and pretexts that trigger contemporary artistic interventions (destined also to enrich the future archival database). Learning to read images and between them is at stake in any reassessment of the
plundering and restitution phenomena. It is important to investigate the paradox which made possible that the same images that were used in the looting were convoked during the restitution process.
· Constructing narratives
What prospects are to be expected for this archival material? The future of the archive stands in its narrative potential. Each source can be a part of a great virtual narrative that will fail to be written in its entirety. The narrative construction starts with the production process: the photographer or the cameraman chooses a certain point of view and a certain frame; lists, reports, letters, obey some linear logics; places and sites speak. But the narrative constructions develop further away. The exegetic discourse (historical case studies, memoirs, literary and artistic fiction) ends up taking the
place in the public sphere. Interrogating the narrative strategies will allow addressing the crucial stakes of a structurally politic phenomenon. The restitution process in its turn calls for new specific narrative devices: archive, enquiry, compensation, restitution.
· Sites of history – the Parisian landscape
This transversal theme takes into its focal point the places and sites linked to the history of looted art and restitution. We will try to draw a Parisian cartography for these two forms of politic intervention that will lead to two different experiences: the permanent presence of preserved sites; the permanent voids, when those sites disappeared during the inexorable urban evolution. It will also draw the transfer of these primary sources from their production sites to archival repositories (ERR lists and reclaiming dossiers now at La Courneuve, circuits for the works of art from Jeu de Paume to museum deposits, “aryanisation” files from CGQJ today at Pierrefitte). We will try to invest these urban sites and understand at what extent specific moments of history come at the surface of the present.
· Documenting the story
The Summer University’s “work history” will be daily documented through visual billboards inspired by Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. The museum’s general public will be able to follow the conceptual storyboard and its highlights. The different sheets of the Atlas will be gathered, at the end of the Summer University, in a publication. During the Summer University, several visits are programmed in different symptomatic places and sites related with the phenomenon of plundered art on the Parisian scene – Musée de Jeu de Paume, Austerlitz, Palais de Tokyo. Several sessions will be dedicated to exploring archival material at Les Archives diplomatiques du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, les Archives Nationales, les Archives Photographiques du Fort de Saint-Cyr, Specialists, renowned researchers, archivists and curators will be invited to share their experience and knowledge : Eric
Michaud, Bénédicte Savoy, Leora Auslander, Christian Fuhrmeister, Ines Rotermund-Reynard, Isabelle Chave, Clothilde Rouiller, Iris Lauterbach, Marcel Cohen, Sarah Gensburger (sous réserve), Corinne Bouchoux, Philippe Dagen (sous réserve), Marie-Josée Mondzain (sous réserve).
The Bibliothèque Kandinsky’s Summer University is addressed to young historians, art historians, anthropologists, sociologists, curators and artists.
Post-graduate students (PhD candidates, PhDs, post-doctoral researchers), artists and curators who wish to take part in the Summer University are invited to submit a proposal, as well as a CV, which should clearly assess the candidate’s language proficiency. In order to apply is important to have a good command in both English and French.
The proposal, which should be composed of circa 4,500 characters/700 words, may be written either in English or in French. It should be submitted in the form of a PDF document and should include the applicant’s name, postal and electronic addresses, as well as the country the candidate belongs to, and the institution the candidate is affiliated with.
Candidates are expected to bring along a selection of sources used in their research.
The proposal dossier will be sent to: email@example.com by April, 19th 2015
The proposals will be evaluated by a scientific committee, in charge of drawing up the final Summer University program.
The Committee will retain 25 projects.
All applicants, whether selected or not, will be personally contacted before May, 8th 2015.
A participation of € 100 will be required from each participant, who will be provided with tuition. The participation will cover transportation on site and eventual institutional entries. Accommodation can be offered under special conditions yet to be determined.
If requested, the Centre Pompidou will be able to issue any required certificate in order to apply for scholarship orfunding from foundations, museums, universities or research institutes.
Subject to financial modification, some expenses for a limited number of participants without any external financing might be granted.
Didier Schulmann, chief curator, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Mica Gherghescu, art historian, Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris
Florent Brayard, historian, director of Centre of Historical Research, in charge of « Holocaust History and historiography »
Research cluster, EHESS-CNRS, Paris
Arno Gisinger, artist, associate professor, Université Paris 8
Johanna Linsler, historian, IHTP-CNRS
For any inquiry :
Tel : +33 (0)1 44 78 46 65
Associate partners :
Centre de recherches historiques, Equipe « Histoire et historiographie de la Shoah », EHESS-CNRS
LABEX Arts H2H, LABORATOIRE D’EXCELLENCE DES ARTS ET MÉDIATIONS HUMAINES
Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte/ Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art