Making Memories. Contemporary Aesthetic Articulations of Norway in the Second World War
Foto: Paradox / Nordisk Film Distribusjon
(Photo: Paradox / Nordisk Film Distribusjon)
More than 70 years have passed since the end of World War II, but there is still great interest in the history of the war. There are still some remaining, living witnesses to the war, and many people know someone who has stories to tell. Historians and nonfiction writers bring new information to light, analyze events and testimonies from new perspectives, and hegemonic narratives are challenged. The war also provides material for new interpretations in fiction, film and television, and in other arts, and the general conception of the events of the war is to a large extent based on aesthetic representations. The ability of art to make people and situations come alive helps to create an interest in what has happened, to link it to our present, and to offer both credible and debatable interpretations. At the same time, artistic expressions provide space for counter-narratives, to contest the seemingly familiar, and to give a voice to marginalized perspectives.
The main focus of this project is how World War II in Norway is portrayed in contemporary arts. We examine which topics are addressed, how they are treated artistically, what discussions they enable, and what function they have in different public contexts (culture, politics, teaching). A central premise is that the past emerges in dynamic negotiations between existing interpretations and new interests, and that the war in Norway is created and recreated as a product of changing memories and aesthetics. Therefore, the project emphasizes examining how the war is presented as a complex product of various voices, texts, images, and objects, as well as memories based on the conditions and needs of contemporary society.
The project is an interdisciplinary study of various works in literature, film, theater, visual culture, and television, focusing on or referring to World War II in Norway. Based on our analyses and interpretations, the aim is to compare different perspectives, both within each medium and language, and across cultures and arts. These analyses may help address issues related to themes (the focal point of the individual work), expressions (how the aesthetic forms and strategies are used), norms (which attitudes are communicated), and politics (what are the ideological implications). Reception aesthetics and didactic perspectives are also utilised to understand the impact of the individual work in society.
In addition to the use of subject-specific methods and concepts for work analysis, reception analysis and didactic dissemination, the overall theoretical framework for the project is related to memory studies. A central premise in this international field of research, which has its roots in the studies of World War II and its consequences, is that the past cannot be regarded as an absolute entity, where actions and events have an objective character, but rather that every situation necessarily appears in a form mediated by interpretation - both for those involved and for those who subsequently try to explain and understand the events. The term 'memory studies' indicates that research is directed at memories of what has happened, but memories in this context should be regarded as different types of cultural manifestations, such as texts, pictures, films, monuments, and exhibitions. In addition, the project does not primarily focus on expressions of the past, but rather on their performative behavior and aesthetic practices in contemporary culture. In this guise, the representations also have agendas other than to merely represent, and the project is intended to provide an indication of what these potential agendas may consist of.