Contemporary French Civilization

Ruins, rhizomes, palimpsests, and traces-mémoires: Guadeloupe’s Mémorial ACTe and the art(s) of representation

Contemporary French Civilization (2021), 46, (4), 415–438.

Abstract

This study examines the degree to which the world’s largest slavery memorial and arts center enacts emerging theorizations of postcolonial memory to connect the Caribbean’s colonial history to legacies of human exploitation both transnationally and transtemporally. Situated literally on top of the former Darboussier sugar factory site, the Mémorial ACTe is a lieu de mémoire that invites a palimpsestic approach to its symbolic location, architecture, and museography. Through a consideration of contemporary art, first in the ephemeral occupation by artists of the Darboussier ruins pre-demolition and then in the MACTe’s permanent and temporary exhibitions, we argue that artists are not only uniquely positioned to preserve the memory traces of lesser-known histories, but that their work is particularly adept at articulating interconnections between various moments of racialized violence.

Cet article étudie la mesure à laquelle le plus grand centre commémoratif et artistique de l’esclavage au monde édifie les théories émergentes de la mémoire postcoloniale en reliant l’histoire coloniale des Caraïbes aux héritages de l’exploitation humaine transnationale et transtemporelle. Situé littéralement sur le site de l’ancienne sucrerie de Darboussier, le Mémorial ACTe est un lieu de mémoire qui invite une approche palimpsestique quant à sa localisation symbolique, son architecture et sa muséographie. A travers une réflexion sur l’art contemporain, d’abord lors de l’occupation éphémère par les artistes des ruines de Darboussier avant sa démolition, puis aux expositions permanentes et temporaires du MACTe, nous arguons que les artistes occupent non seulement une place unique pour ce qui est de préserver les traces mémorielles d’histoires moins connues, mais que leurs œuvres articulent aussi de manière particulièrement habile les interconnexions entre divers moments de violence racialisée.

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Gosson, Renée