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CDCD – Contested Desires: Constructive Dialogues

The project's website

Europe’s artistic heritage is partly made up of artefacts from former colonies by means of war, plunder and misappropriation. Some collections have been built with the profits of colonialism, and increasingly to the public exploitation of this heritage for politically populist and nationalist discourse. With pressure from the grassroots pushing for a more democratic and egalitarian society, we have seen a strong public debate around issues related to the way in which our histories are edited and our heritage is presented, demands that are still valid today. From the removal of historic statues and proposals for new memorials, to demands for educational reform, the repatriation of looted artefacts and reparations; We are questioning the connection between past and present, questioning how national identities are forged and how systems and structures of oppression are upheld.

Contested Desires: Constructive Dialogues – CDCD wants to creatively respond to one of the most important, and divisive, issues now facing culture: the legacy of European colonisation. In full recognition of the complexities of heritage, and of the ways in which it can provide identity and rootedness for some, whilst generating alienation and distress for others, the project will co-create spaces for difficult conversations using a bottom-up and collaborative approach based on artistic processes and capacity building activities.

22 artists from 11 countries will be commissioned to work with heritage partners and local communities, responding to contentious collections and sites. They will create new art works and exhibitions, enriched by workshops and public events, resulting in a body of new work that explores the issues from different social and cultural perspectives. A focus on social inclusion and audiences will mean that each commission is a driver of innovation and change, and the new interpretations and relationships will have a lasting impact on the partner institutions and their local communities.

In addition, thanks to ECCOM’s capacity building programme for museum staff and artists will further explore the experience of the commission so that the learning they produce is widely shared in good practice guidance, publications and online. The most important outcome of the project will be to provide heritage professionals with methods, resources and – above all – the confidence to use contested heritage as a focus for constructive, democratic dialogue that reflects the best of European values and contributes to reconciliation across the divisions of the past.

Contested Desires: Constructive Dialogues is a project funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

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