Mnemonic Aesthetics and Strategies in Popular Culture: Murals, Film, and Popular Music as Memory Work (MEMPOP)

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Popular culture informs our understanding of the present, as well as our ideas about the past, which, in turn influence our imaginaries of the future. Ample evidence is available about how various popular cultural forms transmit different messages about the past, referring to resonant events, objects, personae, and stories. Less is known about how different popular cultural forms converge in our understanding of our collective memories. Mnemonic Aesthetics and Strategies in Popular Culture: Murals, Film, and Popular Music as Memory Work (MEMPOP) is designed to offer insights into this broad topic, developing a new, interdisciplinary and transmedia approach to analyzing collective memory. Specifically, MEMPOP sets out to explore the various strategies employed by popular culture producers and curators interested in collective memory, and the aesthetics of such popular cultural forms.

A bilateral, cross-border project, bringing together interdisciplinary teams of researchers at the Cultural Studies departments of the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Arts) and the University of Rijeka (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences), MEMPOP will address this major theoretical and methodological challenge by zooming in on the memory of the 1990s in the post-Yugoslav space, and developing a digital platform allowing for simultaneous research into different popular cultural forms.

While most existing research on memory work in popular culture has focused on digital media (that is, content sharing platforms, fan forums, streaming services), overlooking the multidirectional impact of media convergence or, in other words, the relationship between participatory online cultures and offline popular-cultural phenomena, MEMPOP is designed to bridge this gap by focusing on three interrelated participatory popular-cultural sites: murals, film, and popular music, as well as on the intermedial and transmedial mechanisms that enable memory work. 

Led by Associate Professor Natalija Majsova from the University of Ljubljana and Professor Vjeran Pavlaković from the University of Rijeka, MEMPOP brings together some of the leading regional scholars in the fields of memory and popular culture studies (Mitja Velikonja, Diana Grgurić, Mila Orlić, Gal Kirn), promising early-career scholars (Jasmina Šepetavc, Boris Ružić, Jernej Kaluža, Nina Cvar), and PhD candidates (Robert Bobnič, Maruša Nardoni), and will benefit from a tailor-made digital-humanities approach advanced by the Cultural Complexity Lab led by Benedikt Perak. The MEMPOP website featuring research results, analysis, blogs, and lots of other exciting content will be launched soon.

The 3-year basic research project officially kicked off with an introductory meeting in Rijeka on November 17-18, 2023. The two-day intense, but fruitful kick-off meeting not only helped the teams identify the most urgent tasks at hand, but also resulted in an initial exploration of some of the research materials that the graffitiscape, memoryscape, and soundscape of Rijeka had to offer.

The project MEMPOP is financed by ARIS-HRZZ (WEAVE joint project scheme, no. J7-50215).

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