In March 2020, the Graves Gallery in Sheffield put on an exhibition curated by Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson, titled ‘Invisible Wounds: Landscape and Memory in Photography’. This exhibition was the culmination of a long-standing collaboration between the University of Sheffield and Museums Sheffield, and displayed artworks by 7 internationally acclaimed artists whose photography encapsulates, in various ways, the visible and invisible scars inflicted on the landscape. It was accompanied by a book and an online symposium on the production and memorialisation of trauma in the landscape, both of which featured contributions by researchers, artistic practitioners and construction experts to explore how we might interpret and respond to places with difficult or violent histories through the lens of art and creative practice.
While ‘Invisible Wounds’ was forced to close prematurely due to Covid-19, several significant strands of interest arose from the exhibition (and symposium) prior to its closure, which were only made more relevant by effects of the pandemic – as well as the Black Lives Matter protests – on the ways in which we inhabit and conceptualise public space. These strands concerned the identification and bearing witness of unmarked spaces of trauma that often surround us, yet which have come to be forgotten, overlooked or actively repressed; the multiple ways in which memory is inscribed within the landscape and its local communities; how lingering spatial trauma disproportionately affects minorities; and, finally, how artistic intervention can serve to repair and reclaim these environments in creative and novel ways.
The restorative function of art is at the heart of ‘Landscapes of Repair’, a new collaborative transnational project between the University of Sheffield and the forumZFD Kosovo on post-traumatic landscapes in Kosovo. This partnership emerged directly from forumZFD’s encounter with the ‘Invisible Wounds’ book, and builds on the diverse strands of place-making identified above within a more localised geographical context. ‘Landscapes of Repair’ brings together University of Sheffield research on post-traumatic landscapes with forumZFD expertise in dealing with the past in the Western Balkans, to foreground the role of Kosovan artists, organisations and civil actors in thinking about, as well as enacting, community-led repair. The reparative frame of the project manifests in several different ways, from tracing the cultural revitalisation of specific industries, such as visual and cinema culture, to the architectural reconstruction of heritage and other buildings.