{ palimpsestic }


To call something palimpsestic points to it having the ability to be altered; to its purpose being able to extend to one other than its original intent. Simultaneously, the term indicates that what caused this alteration or change is a physically demanding process of reworking, and a conscious act of reformulation. It is rooted in the 1660s Latin palimpsestus and Greek palimpsestos, meaning ‘scraped or rubbed again’, with palin meaning ‘again, back’. A palimpsest refers to a handwritten document whose text has been scraped off from the surface — though not completely erased — to give space for a new one.

The key is in the meeting between layers of utterances or expressions — the one placed on top appears most clear, though is transparent enough to let through the traces of past events beneath. The remains have been left visible on the material surface, often legible as a protocol over its process — a palimpsest.

A palimpsestic approach to sites doesn’t deny their past, nor does it treat history as a perpetual narration. Rather, it keeps history open to reformulations through active bodily engagement.

As chairperson of a 75-year old art association which rests upon its distinct nordic history to frame its current organization — today, driven independently as a residency — I would like to suggest palimpsestic as a tool for us, the board of the organization, to reposition this history. Pushing the organization’s history to the background — whilst keeping it present as a link to the past — would make room for more urgent and pertinent statements in the foreground.

Material at work in this process is the protocol of the Open Call — a form reformulated over time that sets the rules and structure of who can attend the residency and the quid pro quo such a protocol suggests. How could we, the board of NKF, engage more physically in the reworking of this protocol, to harness the spirit of the palimpsest?


Sara Rossling