Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe
VICTOR-E is the acronym for Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe and the title of an international research project that explores non-fiction films about the rebuilding of local, national and transnational communities across Europe in the period from 1945-1956. VICTOR-E raises the following question: How have audiovisual representations of public spaces – and particularly the documentation of war damage and of reconstruction efforts –, shaped the politics, policies and polities of post-WW II Europe?
VICTOR-E is a collaborative research project of Goethe University Frankfurt am Main Germany, Università degli Studi di Udine Italy, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Czech Republic, and Université Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne France, in cooperation with the Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum Frankfurt, the Centre National de la Cinématographie Paris, the National Film Archive in Prague, the Archivio Nazionale Cinema Impresa in Ivrea, and the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE).
It was selected as one of 21 projects to be part of HERA’s (Humanities in the European Research Area) fourth joint research programme addressing ‘Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe’. Funded mainly within the framework of the EU research funding program Horizon 2020, HERA focuses on developing funding opportunities for leading humanities researchers in Europe
Framing post-war culture as a culture of trauma and transition and looking at public space as a privileged site for the discursive construction of regional, national and supra-national communities, VICTOR-E studies the political iconography of public spaces in non-fiction film from the cessation of hostilities (1944-45) until the Thaw (1956) in a transnational, comparative perspective and with regard to a wider historical visual culture, including photographs, maps or popular culture. This scope encompasses different national experiences of war destruction and post-war reconstruction across Europe as lived, captured and remembered in Germany, Italy, France and Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic. VICTOR-E assumes that through the cinematic configuration of public spaces, non-fiction films contribute towards the formation of distinctive notions of the demos and, by implication, of different and competing visions of democracy.
VICTOR-E unites scholars of non-fiction film from four European countries with film archives and combines archival research, media literacy, oral histories and public history in order to provide context for previously digitized as well as newly digitized content. Apart from scholarly publications and conferences, the main deliverable is a suitable, multilingual (F, I, D, CZ, EN) virtual exhibition connected with European Film Gateway, which presents the research results to scholars, schools and lay public and furthers our understanding on how audiovisual media shape notions of public space as site of commemoration and political and social action.
Call for papers
for the online conference organised by ViCTOR-E
Migrating Archives of Reality . Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-fiction Film
6/7 May 2021
The digital turn, which has created new modes of access and circulation for films, underscores and amplifies what has been the fate of non-fiction film since the beginning of its existence - it has always been, and continues to be, a migrating archive of reality. While non-fiction films featured prominently in early cinema programs, the ascendancy of the feature-length fiction film as the dominant format of distribution and exhibition since the 1910s has rendered the position of nonfiction film in mainstream movie theatres contested and malleable, both restricted and supported by various legislative measures. At the same time, an intensive international circulation of non-fiction films developed beyond the cinema, through the exchange of newsreel shots, the exhibition of non-fiction films in circuits of alternative/nontheatrical distribution (notably educational, etc.), and later at festivals. Non-fiction footage also found its place in both documentaries and fiction films, etc. Driven by the massive digitization of cultural heritage and possibilities of content sharing platforms and new streaming services, which enable non-fiction film content to constantly migrate across venues, platforms, but also cultures, geopolitical barriers, artworks etc., these movements intensified in the digital media ecology.
As they increasingly appear in (but also often disappear again from) online archives, channels, virtual exhibitions, social media, YouTube etc., non-fiction films can be easily appropriated by artists, fans, and memory communities. The push towards mass digitization and public access to historical materials offers new avenues for decanonization and decolonization. As the established power differentials between official and private collections change, works and topics which were hitherto barred from view or even forbidden can now become visible. However, practices of digitization, online programming, digital curation, appropriation (including colorization of black and white archival footage), and sharing, open up new spaces and layers of meaning. Moreover, they also alter and sometimes overwrite the original or historical meaning of non-fiction films, with significant epistemic, political, and ethical consequences. In particular, the new modes of digital access carry the danger of misuses or misunderstandings of the historical content (and in some cases also of the form, aesthetics, and the materiality) of non-fiction film. Thus, the digital circulation of non-fiction films contributes to both the consolidation and the disintegration of public spaces for debate, and as such, it calls for responsible and sustainable curatorial practices based on thorough contextualization.
The conference strives to address these challenges, taking into account the diverse views of (media and film) historians, archivists, (digital) curators, and artists, who could comment on issues of programming, curation and appropriation (especially archival) of non-fiction film in history and today.
Please send your abstracts (200 words, short bio) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Deadline for abstracts: February 1, 2021, acceptance announcement February 19, 2021.
- Participants will be asked to send a 10-15 min. video of their presentation by April 9, 2021.
- The presentations will be published on a special conference website on April 22, 2021, and there will be an interactive discussion of the individual panels via the zoom platform according to the program on the days of the conference.
- This discussion will be attended by panelists, pre-established respondents and a registered audience.
- Institute for Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences
in cooperation with
- Goethe University Frankfurt am Main
- Università degli Studi di Udine
- Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
- European Film Gateway
You can download the Call for Paper as pdf here:
The Academy called (not that Academy, the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature, which was co-founded by Alfred Döblin) and we responded in a podcast about our research on wartime destruction, post-war reconstruction and non-fiction film.
Listen to the podcast here (in German):
Our French researcher Perrine Val is featured in the last issue of #1257, the in-house research magazine of the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne with a report on her research trip with fellow researcher Ondřej Haváč from Prague for the oral history part of our project: "Sure les routes des France avec Perrine Val, Historienne du Cinema"
Read article below (in French):
Our Principal Investigators and researchers Johannes Praetorius-Rhein, Lucie Česálková , Paolo Vila, Francesco Pitassio and Perrine Valnwill contribute to the virtual conference
MemWar – Memorie e oblii delle guerre e dei traumi del XX secolo
with a panel on
Rubbles and Vaults. Making Use of the Non-Fiction Film Heritage for Reassessing Trauma and Reconstruction Culture
on Thursday, December 10th
09:00 Panel Victor-E: Rubbles and Vaults. Making Use of the Non-Fiction Film Heritage for Reassessing Trauma and Reconstruction Culture
Modera: Elisa Bricco
Johannes Praetorius-Rhein: The use of digitized non-fiction footage in local memory cultures – Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Perrine Val: Reconstructed towns: symbols of trauma overcome and contemporary urban challenges – Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Lucie Česálková: Tanks among Lilacs. Visual Memory of the Liberation of Prague – Institute of Contemporary History (Akademie věd).
Francesco Pitassio, Paolo Villa: Mediating Memories. Bridging Gaps Between Non-fiction Film Heritage, Public History, Media Studies– Università di Udine
More info on the whole conference and how to attend here https://memwarunige.hypotheses.org/195
Or register directly per Email email@example.com
In November 2020 the four research units of ViCTOR-E organised an international online seminar for students from the universities of our project (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy and Sorbonne Panthéon, France).
The seminar focused on issues of film and media history, visual culture, curatorial practices, trauma studies, archive platforms and digital humanities and presenting case studies from the ongoing project.
For more info about the online seminar: go to seminar page
VICTOR-E and The European Film Gateway
The European Film Gateway (EFG) is an online platform run by members of the Association des Cinémathèques Européenes (www.ace-film.eu) that provides access to digitised collections from currently 39 European film archives. The EFG portal was launched in 2011 and today gives you access to over 700,000 photos, posters, programmes, periodicals, censorship documents, rare feature and documentary films, newsreels and other materials. Associated partners of VICTOR-E like Narodni Filmovy Archiv (Prague), DFF - Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (Frankfurt) and EYE Film museum (Amsterdam) already contribute to the EFG.
Researchers working on the VICTOR-E project collaborate with EFG to make a curated collection of films and contextual materials available. These films have partly already been digitised, other will be digitised in the course of the project. The selected films will be made searchable through the EFG portal where they will be featured in a dedicated area.
In addition, excerpts from relevant films will be presented in a Virtual Exhibition, which presents the research results to scholars and the general public and helps further our understanding of how audiovisual media shape notions of public space as a site of commemoration and political and social action. VICTOR-E invites archives holding films that document public spaces, particularly after war damage and during reconstruction efforts, to make these films available to a wider public on the EFG portal or in the Victor-E Virtual Exhibition.
Find more information on EFG at europeanfilmgateway.eu
The EFG already contains a comprehensive online collection of film related to the First World War provided by film archives from around 15 European countries.