Voicesandplaces.com is an online documentary website where Seed Box PhD Lene Asp shares her research collected at Danish-Transatlantic cultural heritage sites.
Voicesandplaces.com is an online documentary website where Seed Box PhD Lene Asp shares her research as work in progress which among other things involves traveling to and documenting voices and places in globally entangled, by consequence of European colonialism, cultural heritage sites.
– These sites or “nature-culture archives”, as I conceptualize them, function as a cultural commons or shared archive transcending the interest of a single state or single people perspective while they have been molded over time by a combination of local and global actors through for instance Transatlantic slavery, trade, crop cultivation, free and forced migration, land erosion, international diplomacy, etc..
– All my case study examples pertain to Danish colonial history and trace what you might call Danish ambiences in so far as this influence or cultural impact in the colonial “contact zone” is the main principle of linkage between them, but all sites of course also partake in a larger historical European-turned-global endeavor, a proto-globalization, marked by for instance market expansion and nation building, which has shaped the world order since the so-called Age of Discovery, resulting in the socially and environmentally stratified capitalist global world order we inhabit today with its new media-sustained “planetary nomos”.
What is your research about?
– First of all, I ask: How do we interact in the present with the “accidental remains” of the past? So the emphasis is on how places and their histories become a template for continual creation. Classical Western historiographical concepts of linear time and center-periphery organized space, usually bound to the perspective of the nation state world order, are still central to most academic and artistic configurations of the colonial past, but I would like to shift emphasis and explore colonial sites, perspectivally and materially. I also consider the grain of the voice material in my audio documentaries. Through such an approach I engage a dynamic exchange between the present and its ‘current pasts’: from critical evaluations of the institutional framework and legacies of the kingdoms, travel companies, and nation-states; to explorations of how contemporary artists including my own academic practice-led documentary work negotiate the sites and stories told in and about them.
– In addition, I wish to show how sites as nature-culture archives themselves have a share in the agential power of storytelling. There is also a decolonial dimension to my work in that I gesture toward delinking narratives about colonial history from the typical Western “progressive”, linear history paradigm that we are usually met with through written historiography by shifting media to audio and multi-media documentaries.
– The sonic approach to history suggests an altogether different “writing of history”, one which lets a multiplicity of voices speak while also letting ambiences work as historical agents in their own right. In other words, audio makes for a sensual and perhaps even intimate storytelling with other affordances than written historiography: It is multi-perspectival, multi-modal, multi-layered, not (necessarily) human-centered, and not least, non-linear. This allows me to explore how relationality to sites of historical significance unfolds not just as a detached “objective” relation to textually documented historiography but as a sensual and affective meeting on site and in sound through the resonating body.
Why is this research important?
– By attending to the materiality of history and the materialness of its archives, I challenge the inherited Kantian aesthetic regime based on visual distinctions and of separation between for instance subject and object, nature and culture. This becomes evident when, through my material and environmental enframing, slavery is not (only) considered a thing of the past in the usual mytho-historical sense, but rather a geo-morphic event – uncanny – that continues to shape our living conditions and inscribes itself into the geo-archive. Another important point, and underlying assumption of my research, is that our concept of history is constantly renegotiated, which means that our view of the colonial era is under direct influence of the changed terms of access to historical sources and our response to old and new archives. We are, as Jacques Derrida already argued in Mal d’archive haunted by the past. By the same token involvement in cultural heritage is important for the development of our political discourses today, including our perception of what it means to be part of a national – or any other – community.