From Real to Ideal: Visual Narrations of Collective Traumas and Identities

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: 313+314
Distributed Paper
Vicky KARAISKOU , Studies in Hellenic Culture, Cyprus Open University, Nicosia, Cyprus
The paper will focus on the commemorative sculpture in the Republic of Cyprus and comment the role attributed to individual actors in the process of narrating and preserving collective memory. The busts, statues and architectural complexes erected since 1960, when the country gained its independence, are consecrated to the dead and missing during the political inter-communal and inter-ethnic conflicts. In Cyprus the construction of national identity and the enhancement of memory mechanisms are achieved through the promotion of the individual exemplary distinction within the social body and the personification of heroic models.

Comparatively, the paper will examine an example which is placed at the opposite: the anonymity of membership in creating the nation and heroic concepts in China. Both countries are newborn states despite their long history and rich cultural background. However, their radically diverse cultural backgrounds determine in a dramatically different way the position and the role of the ‘self’ within the social group.

Greek-Orthodox tradition, under the hue of western Romanticism, mobilized personality cults in Cyprus. On the other hand, in China Socialist Realism summed up deeply rooted traditional behaviors and current political stands and revealed a different version of idealized interpretation of reality. Visual narration in China promotes the joy of the victorious results, the dynamics of the collective national struggles and the solid ground of today’s society heading to the future. Furthermore, in Chinese memorials male and female bodies are mundane vibrant actors vindicating the achievement of a shared goal. In contrast, Cyprus promotes martyrdom and orchestrates powerful connotations with a view to keep alive the collective traumas of the past. Commemoration focuses on the transcendental dimension of the individual heroes, on passivity and loss, and links them with familiar religious connotations.