Vienna notes

Hard Facts goal

is to make visible and to appreciate the unofficial histories of our continent while capturing a universal experience: how the particular objects that we keep in personal possession make it easier for us to cope with the transience of our lives.

The Hard Facts research kicked off in Vienna in September 2012. Nemanja Cvijanović, Juan de Nieves, Alenka Pirman and Jani Pirnat engaged in several discussions. With a kind help of SOHO in Ottakring we organised also a public round table where Ula Schneider, Andrea Hubin, Kerstin Kellermann, Alja Piry, and James P Kinsella significantly contributed to the initial idea. Evidently, the latter became a subject of change.

The notes are clustered in more or less loose topics.

authority of an object

Has an object ever disappointed you?
Isn’t it that the object itself, its mere presence, can already be considered authoritative?

It is the foundation of our material culture (heritage).

authority of the owner

Everybody is an authority on his/her object. Even if ‘wrong’. The owner is writing history.
Self-authorisation = challenging the institution. How to provide a platform for it.

But also – why would he/she collaborate with us? What’s in it for him/her? What energy is it that makes you want to (re)write history? A need to transform a process that is hegemonic?

There needs to be a shared interestThe collaboration is not an accident.

A transformation should happen.

our authority (i.e. the Hard Facts team)

Can a decision to trust the owner be authoritative?

What are our criteria, filters?

How are we going to say NO to an owner?

Are we giving the floor to the underprivileged’ (museum of migrants, Roma…)?! If not, to whom then?

object without a history

What about if the owner doesn’t want to insert his/her object in History (official or not)? It is not about lending it or not but a sort of refusal to inscribe it in any historical frame, to participate in this “history busines“: Objects safe from History. Keeping an object just for oneself.

Why is the owner keeping the object? Whose business is it? Is it none of our business? Whose business is it?

What is the owner protecting the object from? It remains important, it is his/her representation (> cf. the transformation of antlers into a trophy)

memory without an object (object is obsolete I)

Consider the powerful impact of the encounter with an object. Even if the owner doesn’t possess it or it doesn’t exist any more, it still has an important place in his/her memory. It remains on his/her mind (e.g. the tobacco container made out of human scrotum in Angola).

Consider the power, the strength of an absent object.

document as an object

Consider drawings, photos, documents (of the object but not only) as hard facts.

serial proxy

Remember the Milano cathedral souvenir (Duomo di Milano) that hit Berlusconi? In this case you don’t need the one that was actually thrown – any other would evoke the event! (Read more…)

object is obsolete II

For a museum, the object is obsolete. After the processing it can be replaced by a replika, copy, document or moved to a depo for ever.

object evokes affection

Think about the proposition by Deleuze.


The object and the owner are connected through the story. Without the text, the narration, the ‘explanation’, the object is dumb.

Intimate stories. Emotional, sentimental relationship.

The caption (label) enables a museum of paraphernalia, a simple catalogue of recognised events.

Are we to record the story?

object is obsolete III

What if we don’t need the object either? Maybe we just need to understand (capture?) the relationship between the owner and his/her object?


Isn’t it that fiction is just another kind of truth?

Children cannot tell the difference between a reality and a dream. At the age of 2 they start to discern the objects (mine vs yours). Apply to artist.

authority vs alternative

Are we building a virtual museum? Are we interested in an alternative musealisation? A musealisation is a dislocation.

Only an authority can question the authority. 

Let’s consider “the wrong”, behind it there’s always truth. Are we making a system of “wrong” objects that can change the history, the ones that can challenge the official story? We are detecting “mistakes”. We are interested in unexpected objects & results. Confusion. Is this a violent process?

sentimental vs commercial

How much is our personal affection towards certain object worth in a market?


A public event is validated at present through the media. The museum validates on a larger time scale.
For a moment we thought it would be easier to deal with the objects deriving from one important event (earthquake, plane accident and political meeting were mentioned).
Are we to discern between SIMPLE or SPECIAL objects and TRIVIAL and IMPORTANT events?!

historisation as a ritual

How do experts do it? (cf. religion as a ritual)

The method of crowdsourcing exists in the institutional environment as well (eg. Europeana 1914-1918SEM web exhibitions…). What are its principles and guidelines, how is it incorporated in the existing system of knowledge management?

Let’s discuss the historisation through different positions – what becomes important and what is omitted?

Consider the notion of relevance. Are we interested in non-written, non-referential history of events?

Fragmentation – “everything is falling apart, we can only think in fragments” (Dubravka Ugrešić)

forbidden history

In ex-Yugoslavia the antifascist memorials (once established as part of the official historical heritage) have been censored, reconsidered, banned. People keep such objects at home or actively protect certain memorial places from change (eg. ?).

… to protect ideology from oblivion …

status of an object

An important consideration. Is it #scientific, #historical …
We are interested in shifting the capacity of an object.

Which are the authorities that we look for to back up the object?

murdered objects

The future museum of the KZ Loibl (concentration camp Ljubelj) considers inclusion of the wooden cradle, made by one of the detained people. He was killed but the cradle and the baby survived (the latter is in Canada). “The piece is murdered.” Or the suit with the hole from a shot (the person was killed)., it remains a piece of resistance.

As long as the piece remains ambivalent it is alive (against the mainstream).

Consider the layers of deadness of an object. Cf. Claes Oldenburg’s notion of fetish (onion layers).

Children collect dead objects (bones).


Exhibition as an experience!
How to show the system of the objects? Do we present the reference of the objects themselves?
The combination with the newspaper article is too didactic. Why reproduce the mainstream mechanism of constructing a public relevance (media as a filter)? We should be looking for another system of building a possible (plausible?) history.

museum vs fair

The museum is maybe the most obvious public environment for the isolated objects but there are also fairs!

What if the Hard Facts are presented in the format of the 1st International Fair of Unofficial History?
(associations: Vanity Fair, populism, charity)

object without a story

What’s more important to us? An object or its story? Could we separate the two and let the objects speak on their behalf? What kind of power would these objects emanate? What would they convey if stripped of their owners and stories?

Based on the discussions in Vienna, the initial emphasis moved from the media-proven public event to the owner as the authority on his/her object:

hard fact = object + public event (media)  hard fact = object + owner (public event)

The Hard Facts has 2 critical phases:

  • how to reach people with objects?
    (personal network, rhizomatic communication)
  • how to present them to the public? 
    (fair vs museum)

One comment

  1. Pingback: Sodobna umetnost in neizbežnost institucionalizacije. Primer policijske kape 2010-2013 | Hard Facts

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