displaying immaterial culture
a lecture by Françoise Vergès
The presentation will address art in societies where immaterial culture dominates. Starting from Aimé Césaire’s statement about “people who invented neither the steam machine nor the compass but without whom the earth would never be the earth as we know it,” Françoise Vergès will explore the different forms of visualising immaterial culture—the encounter between human beings, what conversation is made of, friendship, feelings such as fear, courage, desire, love… visualising struggle and resistance, and memory as a site of resistance: the voice of the witness, the image, the souvenir against hegemonic narrative. Vergès will work around Achille Mbembe’s remark speaking of Reunion Island’s project for a museum of the living present: “Societies with silhouettes, ‘spectres’ which deserve space where their lives and productions are shown”. Vergès will explore these questions by taking us through a journey. She will evoke her project of a cultural centre and museum on Reunion Island she has been working on for the last six years; she will discuss a research she did in 2002 on Chinese restaurants in port cities of the African coast of the Indian Ocean; she will speak of millenary south/south exchanges which question the hegemonic cartography of the world (organised north/south). Vergès will show a short film (8 min) on the project and images of her research.
Françoise Vergès is currently the scientific and cultural director of the forthcoming museum of the living present on Reunion Island, Maison des civilisations et de l’unité réunionnaise (www.regionreunion.com, page MCUR). A museum without objects—the veritable “object” of the MCUR is the encounter with the other, with alterity—and a cultural centre dedicated to exchange and debate, the MCUR is scheduled to open in 2011. Vergès is also president of the Comité pour la Mémoire de l’Esclavage (www.comite-memoire-esclavage.fr), whose mission is to make the history of French colonial slavery known to the French public. She holds a Researching Professor post at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London. Vergès has written extensively on the memories of slavery and colonialism, on Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire, on postcolonialism and on postcolonial museums.
Public lecture in English on Thursday 9 July 2009 at 6.30 p.m. at Casino