{ conversing heritage }


I am looking for an ideal between private and public, where feelings and affections maintain the same trust and care, in our private conduct as in our public actions.

Perhaps the most pertinent question to ask, when dealing with heritage is “why do we still care?”. In my case, a very important question is how the act of inheriting a historical house unravels a double-meaning. In its historical perspective, private ownership and the right to inheritance indicate privilege over others. Private ownership of heritage implicates yet a coarser privilege, which is the appropriation and consumption of an historical object, as a confiscation of something whose belonging must be constantly negotiated, since heritage is, or should be, by definition, a collective right.

In the reality of colonial heritage the discourse is the very challenge of, on the one hand (architectural conservation as) the material responsibility, care and knowledge of the built heritage as evidence of colonial concurrence, and on the other hand, the needs for acts of sharing and learning as ways of emancipation, re-positioning or restitution.

In my particular case, the survival of an (original) atmosphere present in the built heritage is the actual (original) matter available to engage and converse with.
Can we work at the threshold between (original, historical) atmosphere and contemporaneity? Not stagnant, retrograde, but in motion. Not fixed, shut, but permeable, rechargeable with and susceptible to new meanings in dialogue. Can this threshold then be the actual shared space between historical concurrence and the practice of engaging with its aftermath and afterlife?

In conversation, I am trying to make sense of these questions, which move between private and public, individual and collective rights and our positions in history, as our positions in contemporaneity. Housing dialogues, gathering thoughts, bridging experiences happening in the interim between private and public, are acts towards a discursive space that has its starting point in the present, looking at the past, inhabiting the heritage site, (re)binding it in society. All its details matter, all aspects participate, and through it we gather for conversation, not detached nor immersed but active, creative, and responsible.


Roberta Kanan Burchardt