Photo: Marjoca de Greef
Nostalgia for ruins
In the context of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the CDCM project in the Netherlands
examines artistic affiliations with collected and protected objects, to explore and reinforce unorthodox
approaches and associations with cultural heritage collections.
The desire and urge to gather and protect chosen objects from the past is often associated with nostalgia.
The preoccupation with the past is perceived as a manifesto of the end of a culture, it "precludes creative
change, dooming society to inertia and decline". Nostalgia is often described as the antipode of progress,
it has been brushed aside as reactionary and sentimental by cultural critics, historians and artists.
"Of all the ways of using history, nostalgia is the most general, looks the most innocent, and is perhaps
the most dangerous". The politics of nostalgia are considered to glorify the past and are characterised as
conservative, exclusionary and uncritical.
On the other hand nostalgia "can also be a strategy for coping with change, loss, or anomie". It can help
immigrants and refugees to face the loss of home. Unhinged western tourists often travel in pursuance of
the experience of nostalgia. Critical nostalgia can be used as a tool to evaluate the notion of progress,
to decide which aspects of change must be rejected or embraced.
In the Netherlands, museum depots are congested with heritage. The preservation and collecting obsession
of our era has grown into a distressing accumulation of objects. The abundance of collections is almost
perverse, the significance of the chosen objects, the reason why an object is chosen has often become
inconceivable. Collected and protected objects, piled up in depots, can barely be accessed, moreover some
of these objects have lost their meaning in life, since it has become infeasible to even determine their
identity. Critical nostalgia might be the looking glass through which these once chosen objects can
be reevaluated and redeem their significance and role in the past, present and future.
Art residencies, January/February 2020
Symposium and exhibition, February 2020