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Landscapes of the strange

Paysage(s) de l’étrange

Art and research relating to the visible and invisible traces of conflicts - interdisciplinary and inter-artistic approaches to war heritag

Art et recherche sur les traces visibles et invisibles des conflits : approches interdisciplinaires et inter-artistiques des patrimoines de guerre

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Published on Wednesday, June 28, 2017


This symposium is part of the research project “landscape(s) of the strange. On visible and invisible traces of a regional heritage in transformation. Artistic and theoretical (re)-constructions of a cross-border history marked by major conflicts” started in 2016. To begin with, the project approached the notion of “trace” or “mark” in its material (heritage, architecture, vegetation) and immaterial (memory, culture) dimensions, especially those related to the concrete landscape of Lorraine which bears the mark of a conflictual history opposing Frenchmen and Germans, especially during the two World Wars.


2017, 16-17 November


The recent commemorations of the Centenary of the Great War show the vivid interest for the scars of conflicts attached to certain regions located along the front lines. Furthermore, in France, we can notice a rising emphasis on German legacy stemming from the first annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany (1871-1918), an insistence particularly striking through architectural considerations, as shown by the focus on Strasbourg Neustadt and Metz Imperial area, both places playing a central role in the inscription of these towns as Unesco sites. Should we see this as the sign of an enlightened position towards a painful past, or as the symbol of a collective oblivion as the last witnesses are vanishing? Or on the contrary, does it reveal an inner awareness on the part of the necessity to constantly keep renewing itself of the commemorative approach. By way of comparison, one could look at other regions from Europe where the conflictual past is perceived under different lights over decades. The time frame chosen as a basis for the lectures of our symposium covers hundred and fifty years (from 1870 to nowadays), including both World Wars (1914-1918, 1940-1945) as well as the War of 1870 which concerns French and German people. The Moselle, and more broadly, the new Grand Est region, as well as neighbouring countries and areas (the Hauts-de-France, Saarland, Luxembourg and Wallonia), appear as places in which a deep historical rupture occurred at the heart of Central Europe which provoked some dislocations in families (such was the case with French soldiers who were forced to enroll in the German army).

Our aim here is to transmit such local or global memories to future generations despite but also because of their painful nature. As we are confronted to the current European crisis, it seems proper to remember that centuries of bloody battles were what made unavoidable the prospect of building a stable community. This symposium will examine through art-based practices the remnants of wars and frontier movements in the context of annexations and occupations in France and anywhere else in the world. In this regard, we need to mention the Battle lines of both World Wars but also areas which in the wake of colonization, genocides or the Cold War evoke more recent conflicts and the ones concerns with states restructuration in Europe (for example following the war in Ex-Yugoslavia) as well.

Creation is able to take over memory and its potentially lacunary stories to reveal the shortcomings of the latter. Furthermore, it is built on an actual subject: landscape. Why so? Because landscape bears the marks of particularly intense battles in Lorraine (Verdun Battle Fields among many), but also strives to gradually erase these traces. In fact, as it is constantly evolving, it reflects at any given time the history it went through. The concept of strangeness, as applied to landscape suggests breaking off our familiar environment, transgressing it and troubling it (Cf. Das Unheimlich – The Uncanny, as defined by Freud). In the aftermath of a war, an annexation, an occupation or any kind of violent confrontation, landscape keeps strange traces that surge into a once familiar place. A landscape is not only the extent of a territory, or the perception we have of it. It should be considered as much from its physical perspectives as from its mental ones. The concept of landscape is an unstable construct that shapes itself within a perpetual space ranging across disciplines which question it. As François Dagognet points it out in his foreword to Mort du paysage : philosophie et esthétique du paysage, a “concern” for landscape emerged during the mid-nineteenth century and got stronger in the twentieth century with the enactment of a law, in France (1930) which supported landscape preservation and defined it as genuine heritage. There is a most significant relation to be established between landscape thought as emerging from our cultural heritage (with the marks left by war on the territory) and the visible and invisible transformations on the actual sites of this heritage places which very often end up wrapped with strangeness.

The concept of “mark” or “trace” helps give a concreteness to the multiple interpretations given to this cultural heritage and, above all it helps putting these visions into a cultural context which the acts of creation highlight from different angles according to the approach. Marks capture the reality of the present which is built on multiple strata and layers. They constitute a substantial evidence of something which, while it is bound to disappear, remains as a material or psychological impression.

Hence, this scientific project asks the following question: what are these new forms of expression, restitution and dissemination of a layered history, whose marks are sometimes hard to fathom?

Proposals should explore one of the following themes:

Cultural landscape or traces in the transformation of patrimony

Patrimony is understood as a common heritage passed to collectivities by previous generations. It is approached in material (particularly architectural) and immaterial forms (particularly linguistic). To be more precise, the issue for us is to foreground an invisible, partly neglected or even repressed patrimony, as, for example, in Moselle, forts built by German people at the end of the nineteenth century and bunkers, blockhouses and Second War Flaktürme that we find today in places once occupied by German people. The matter of reconstructing and transcribing historical events provided by storytelling will be tackled from the angle of landscapes and marks. We also refer to the question of memory and the transmission of facts (true or not), which contribute to the construction of a multiple identity inherited from conflicts revealed by concrete landscape.

Natural landscape, overlay or camouflage

The notion of patrimony is here questioned through transformations induced by nature on the characteristic sites of conflict. The idea is to study several layers formed by the combined action of human and nature in those bruised areas. The concept of “camouflage” as a dialectic figure between visible and invisible and as a simultaneously natural (mimicry), military and artistic phenomenon (cf. Camouflage! Symposium, Heidelberg, 2015) will question landscape in demarcated territories. Indeed, looking at the marks of conflicts through landscape reveals a subdivision/fragmentation of buildings whose abandonment (because one could not use them anymore and they reflect a tumultuous period) reinforces the concealment process within the territory of the Grand Est Region notably, but also within regions which were confronted to similar events.

Mental landscape or psychological representation as the mark of memory and forgetfulness.

This axis aims at exploring psychic representations in history and the way or ways in which past can be reconsidered, rebuilt, or even reinvented in the light of artistic processes which appropriate this very history. Besides, the survival concept [Nachleben] (Warburg, Didi-Huberman) as a mark left on the unconscious sheds new light on the relation to mental landscape. The approach which consists in using archival documents to create a work of art brings the artist closer to the historian. Why do some marks remain while others vanish ? This outlook is entirely interdependent with the dialectic between private and public memory and between sensitive experience and appropriation of historic facts which is at the heart of many literary and artistic works.

Here are some possible lines of approach for your presentations:

  • a personal research-creation approach including a description and analysis focusing on the aforementioned notions
  • the study of a work of art (including photography, cinema, literature, architecture, music for instance) which belongs to contemporary art (from the 1990s on preferably) and which tackles landscape in its present dimension but also looks at the visible marks of conflict within it
  • approaches be them psychological, geographical, sociological whose very methodologies would feed the insight into the aforementioned notions
  • a historical study shedding a new light on one or several specific episodes related to armed conflicts which had an enduring impact on the current landscapes of a specific region
  • any approach on the Franco-German enmity, on the concrete marks from the tumultuous past of these two countries in the cross-bordered landscapes (Lorraine, Alsace, Sarre) or on the specific situation of the other countries located on the East Front (Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands) will be particularly appreciated

Proposal submission

Proposals are to be submitted to the following mail addresses: susanne.muller@univ-lorraine.fr – aurelie.michel@univ-lorraine.fr

Submissions close on August 15, 2017.

The proposals (in French, German or English) should include:

  • a biography of the author
  • a summary (300 words), with the title of the proposal, the chosen angle and the subject which will be tackled.

The authors will be contacted before August 31, 2017. A publication of the acts is planned for 2018.

Scientific Committee

  • CHIRON, Éliane (PR émérite en Arts, Université Paris 1)
  • COMMAILLE, Laurent (MCF en Histoire, Université de Lorraine)
  • DAHM Johannes (MCF en Études germaniques avec une spécialité en linguistique, Université de Nantes)
  • HÜSER, Dietmar (PR en Histoire européenne, Universität des Saarlandes)
  • KOUAMÉ, Yao (MCF en Art et littératures françaises, Université Alassane Ouattara Bouaké, Côte-d’Ivoire
  • KOSTKA, Alexandre (PR en Histoire culturelle européenne, Université de Strasbourg) LACHENY, Marc (PR en Études germaniques et en traductologie, Université de Lorraine)
  • LAGEIRA, Jacinto (PR en Esthétique, Université Paris 1)
  • LEBRETON, Marie-Aimée (MCF en Arts et Sciences de l’art, IUT de l’’Université de Lorraine
  • LOWY, Vincent (PR en Sciences de l'information et de la communication, Université de Lorraine)
  • MARCOWITZ, Reiner (PR en Études germaniques, historien, Université de Lorraine)
  • MATHIS, Denis (MCF en Géographie, Université de Lorraine)
  • MATSUI, Hiromi (Chargé de recherche en Histoire de l'art, Nagoya University)
  • NARDIN, Patrick (MCF HDR en Arts et Sciences de l’art, Université Paris 8)
  • PAPP, Kornelia (Docteure HDR en Études germaniques, Universität Potsdam)
  • RAAD, Fadi (Docteur en Arts et Sciences de l’Art, Université Paris 1, Université catholique de Beirut, Liban)
  • MANERO, Edgardo (Chargé de recherche en Sociologie, CNRS)
  • TENKOUL, Abderrahman (PR en Littérature française, Université Ibn Tofail Kénitra)
  • URBAN, Urs (docteur en Études des langues et littératures romanes, directeur du Centre d'information du DAAD à Buenos Aires)


  • Université de Lorraine - Île du Saulcy
    Metz, France (57)


  • Tuesday, August 15, 2017


  • paysage, trace, recherche-création, patrimoine, art contemporain, transmission, commémoration


  • Susanne Müller
    courriel : susanne [dot] muller [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr
  • Aurélie Michel
    courriel : aurelie [dot] michel [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr

Information source

  • Susanne Müller
    courriel : susanne [dot] muller [at] univ-lorraine [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Landscapes of the strange », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, https://calenda.org/410477

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