Memory Stations A participatory, digital archive project

BE A PUBLIC HISTORIAN was the call to visit the memory stations that ran in 9 locations in 5 cities in the spring of 2019. A Public Historian, in this context, is the person who contributes their personal, familial and communal memories towards mapping larger public and political histories. In this project personal memories are seen as legacies that expand when shared with others.

Everyone is an archive as everyone belongs to a time. The stations were developed as primary facilities for mobilizing public historians in various neighbourhoods. The stations in Bochum, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and Essen were designed and run by local artists, curators and art initiatives, in collaboration with ADKDW. Each station developed its own strategies to cultivate the memories of public cultures in each specific location, according to the artistic and political moorings of the host initiatives. Then the main stations developed more sub-stations through workshops, talks, walks, street installations, home visits, student meetups and community gatherings. The project spread through the region to energize and activate the knowledge and experiences hidden in forgotten archives, inhabited spaces, redundant factory premises, buzzing shopping malls, routes of food transport trucks, neighborhood by-lanes, endangered movie halls, cafés and book shops, and also in discarded research papers.

Memory Stations are to travel to and fro, to crisscross, to stay put, to carry things around.

ALTE FEUERWACHE, the 1890 building with multiple terraces, basements, mezzanines, labyrinths and staircases, began as a fire station, then became a film studio, community library, festival venue, art gallery, café, children’s park, activists’ meeting ground, wall for graffiti and so on. A performance paid tribute to the building that has witnessed the evolution of the neighbourhood through multiple centuries.

COPY IT at Academyspace, only for those who have sinned – stolen or copied books, artworks, ideas, presented various arguments for the rights to and strategies for duplicating knowledge and information toward sharing memories and experiences.

EMANZENEXPRESS_GEMEINSAM SIND WIR GEMEINER in Bochum was a space developed by atelier automatique for collective immersion into the history of feminist resistance and its current legacy in the area.

M.S. KALK mapped the district on the ‘other’ side of river Rhine, by organizing community walk-throughs, collective model-making, listening sessions, street parties and by activating homes and shops for storing and displaying memory objects.

NK TAXI by Noordkaap created dizzying rides mapping the routes of a redundant automobile industry in Cologne, anticipating a time in which analog cars will be but a memory in the digitally monitored, automated, data-driven future.

RE:FRAMING LICHTSTRASSE created niches within the CityLeaks Urban Art Festival in Ehrenfeld to map the former industrial neighborhood’s transformation into a creative quarter, and presented the works of artists and researchers in the context of street art.

SOLID SKILLS organized by WerkStadt/PACT Zollverein collated strategies of daily survival practiced by the immigrant communities that settled in the area of north Essen through writings, crafts, food, speech and performances.

STUDIO FRIENDSHIP facilitated a series of interfaces and testimonies in prominent public spaces between people of different ethnicities and affiliations in Düsseldorf.

TONSPUREN ZUR LINKEN, a recording and listening studio in Dortmund, engaged with the oral histories of the fluid moments of left-wing solidarity, recalling when Turkish migrant workers emerged as politicized citizens in the industrial region of Germany.

Some parts of these endeavors were purely experiential and yet some parts were tactile. A series of discursive events and conversations took place across the stations under the title Memory Lab. was yet another junction that collated the tactile parts of the project and laid them in digital labyrinths that could be traversed through a dense set of keywords and hotspots. The idea was to make numerous paths to travel from one memory to another and find some unexpected treasures on the way. We ran it as a public access portal for two years. Though the online portal is not available anymore, the spirit of the project can be traced to numerous autonomous local initiatives in the sector of archiving and public art practices that have sprung up since then in the region. As was hoped, personal memories have been ushered into the domain of public culture.

In this video we try to communicate the essence of the project – its imagination, its energy, its possibilities. We see it as a manifesto for future initiatives that would generate and activate more and more public historians, thus continuing to re-define the public culture.

Video compilation and editing: Claudia List