In a globalized world, the polyphony of voices gaining and demanding recognition generates the necessity and the possibility to reconsider contested heritage.
The collective reckoning with controversial history and the processes of re-signification and restitution deal with complex issues that have to account for a multitude of claims. We therefore need a fresh, radically innovative outlook with a solutions-oriented approach to address the various forms of contested heritage – be they objects, monuments, sites – in a way that is fit for the 21st century.
A design-based approach, harnessing the potential of trans-disciplinary expertise and integrating participants’ diverse inputs with artistic, speculative and investigative design research methods has the potential to process contested heritage anew. The Hybrid Heritage project relies on such hybrid strategies, and considers heritage as a hybrid, shared cultural asset. Hybrid Heritage draws on creative methods and artistic endeavors, digital tools and persuasive media strategies, allowing us to envision ever-expanding domains for cultural heritage and memory making.
Next to integrating creative design research methods into the processing of heritage, the program bolsters innovative ideas on (the future of) heritage in the Digital Age: Digitally supported co-creative processes potentially eliminate boundaries to engagement and visualization, fostering radical re-signification of physical monuments and heritage. Dynamic, digital, networked archives enable the integration of sidelined voices within polyphonic heritage (sites). In doing so, they counter-balance the predominant narratives and pave the way from recognition to reconciliation.
Such strategies help navigate controversial debates and facilitate the transformation of heritage (sites) in a ‘detached’ way, without physically touching them. This method also values agile, light-format, flexible and temporary interventions allowing for thinking and re-thinking, looking and looking again under a different light.
By addressing the re-signification of contested heritage, the project also opens paths for the implementation of connected restitution processes. The program therefore contributes to a more practical, proactive attitude towards biased debates and conversations on restitution. As Hybrid Heritage works on the development of such new processes, its commitment builds on innovative ideas on the future of museums. This entails envisioning open, mobile museums, participatory heritage, platforms and discussion spaces supported by the combination of the digital and the physical, at once engaging with online and onsite reality.
By focusing on compelling case studies, the program’s solutions-oriented approach is a gateway to projecting speculative thinking into the future of heritage. It aims at proposing future possible affective landscapes for re-signifying heritage (sites) today, crafting an approach that is agile, transferable and context-sensitive.
To explore these questions, in November 2019 Hybrid Space Lab and Het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam launch the Hybrid Heritage program, providing a projective space opening up processes dealing with contested heritage (sites).
Hybrid Heritage is conceived as an international program – a travelling academy working with Dutch embassies across European capitals to co-create and promote design research methods and solutions on contested heritage (sites). Hybrid Heritage individuates a case-studies-based approach as the way to develop effectively transferable methods, retaining significance and potential across contexts and borders. With a commitment to problem solving, the program adopts a thoroughly trans-disciplinary approach. With a background assessment enriched by a diversity of expertise and fields, the program involves designers, architects and other creative professionals and combines participants’ input in design research processes.
Hybrid Heritage meaningfully addresses contested heritage, projecting design research into the future of heritage. The program has the objective to bolster collaborative, co-creative re-signification and restitution processes which work on physical heritage with digital platforms, light formats and mobile and temporary creative interventions.
How can design research contribute to the collective processing of contested heritage?
How to re-signify traditional physical monuments and heritage with the help of creative visions and hybrid (combined physical and digital) tools?
What could future heritage (sites) look, feel, sound like, and how could its digitally enriched features affect memory-making processes?