THE BLIND SPOTS OF THE HISTORICAL MEMORY ACT. A DEBATE
The Conde Duque Cultural Center (Madrid) will host a round-table discussion on what constitutes an appropriate destination for the remains of 13 soldiers from the Spanish Civil War that were discovered during an archaeological excavation, but have not been identified nor claimed.
The remains will travel to Madrid from the laboratory of Incipit-CSIC in Santiago de Compostela. After the round-table they will be transferred to the municipality where they were originally found, in Abánades (Guadalajara).
This intervention is part of “La ruta más larga” (The longest route), a project developed by the artists Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum in collaboration with the archaeologist Alfredo González Ruibal, member of Incipit-CSIC, and Madrid City Hall’s Office for Memory and Human Rights.
Political and social debate on the basis of a concrete case study
The basis for a discussion on the Historical Memory Act, its function, limits and blind spots will be provided by a concrete case study: the procedures that are applied to the remains of 13 soldiers from the Spanish Civil War encountered during archaeological excavations in Guadalajara between 2012 and 2013.
The exhumed remains belong to soldiers of both the Republican army and that of the Insurgents, fallen during the so-called Forgotten Battle, a republican offensive in Guadalajara whose purpose was to alleviate the pressure exerted by Francoist troops in Aragon during their March and April offensives in 1938. The battle ended in an impasse and never found a place in collective memory because it didn’t change the outcome of the war. The landscape, however, was filled with cadavers and military detritus which became part of the local scenery.
The remains of the 13 soldiers appeared by chance during archaeological excavations, and have not been identified nor claimed. Since the official protocol is very ambiguous in such cases, the decision on what to do with them, once the scientific investigation is finished, remains in the hands of the archaeologist who found them. Should they be buried in individual and distinct graves? What epitaph should be applied to the unidentified remains? What kind of ceremony would be appropriate, today? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in the round-table discussion which will take place on Saturday 14 October, from 12:00 to 13:30, in the conference hall of the Conde Duque Cultural Center.
The round-table will be moderated by the art historian Jesús Carrillo and will include, among others, Juan Pablo Calero (historian), Pedro Corral (journalist and writer), Francisco Ferrándiz (anthropologist), Alfredo González-Ruibal (archaeologist), Queralt Solé (historian) and Guillermo Zapata (councilor of the City Hall of Madrid).
From Santiago de Compostela to Abánades, with a stopover in Madrid
The human remains are currently kept in boxes inside the laboratory of Incipit-CSIC in Santiagode Compostela, where they have been conserved for the last four years.
On the 13th of October, they will be transported to Madrid by the artists and the archaeologist responsible for the investigation.
After the round-table the remains will return to Abánades, the municipality where they were exhumed, and where they will be buried anew in March 2018. Until then, they will be in custody of the Civil War Museum of Abánades.
“La ruta más larga”, a collaboration between artistic, archaeological and political disciplines
“La ruta más larga” is an investigative project by the artists Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum in collaboration with the archaeologist Alfredo González Ruibal, with whom they have been working since 2015. It grew out of a shared interest in the practical problems provoked by the indeterminate status of archaeological artifacts, which are a direct consequence of the lack of a common historical narrative on the war and the dictatorship in Spain. By sharing these problems in public, the artists and the archaeologist hope to trigger a necessary debate on the place this part of history occupies in contemporary society.
Their collaboration has been developed within the framework of the European project NEARCH – New scenarios for a community-involved archaeology, in collaboration with INCIPIT – CSIC in Santiago de Compostela, and the Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht.
The round-table has been organized together with the Madrid City Hall’s Office for Memory and Human Rights.
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