Remembering, Redeeming and Renouncing

REMEMBERING, REDEEMING AND RENOUNCING THROUGH ART.

MONUMENTS, MEMORIALS AND MOURNING THE HOLOCAUST.


Abstract

Monuments and memorials attempt to create a shared memorial experience unifying plural segments of population, even if it is only during a brief “memorial moment”. But, although past history is shared, the ways to remember cannot be unified.

By creating common shared spaces for memory, monuments spread the illusion of collective remembrance. But memory is always personal and disparate. Everyone memorializes something different. Context and circumstances change, politics and culture as well. So, without people’s intention to remember, these landmarks of remembrance are just inert fragments on the landscape.

Placing the weight of remembrance and regret on art’s unbearable lightness of being, a public redemption is advertised and performed under high-art’s tutelage. But, where genuine art is produced as self reflexive, public monuments are produced to be historically referential, to lead viewers beyond themselves to an understanding or evocation of events. Where art invites viewers to contemplate its own materiality, or its relationship to other works before and after itself, the aim of memorials is to draw attention to past events. Preserving and cultivating the memory of an historical moment through a nation’s idealized self-presentation. Instead of placing memory at the disposal of public awareness, traditional memorials and monuments close memory from the consciousness of its viewers. Transforming what should be an exercise in self-determination and non-conformity, into a servile response to a dissimulated standardization of memory.

Acknowledging such misconceptions and the impossibility of embodying memory-work. Some contemporary artists would question the status and representativeness of monuments, inquiring and breaking-down their purpose. As a result, the concepts of “vanishing monument” and “counter-monuments” emblematized Germany’s conflicted struggle with Holocaust memory. These “anti-monuments” formalize their impermanence and mutation of form in time and in space. In their conceptual self-destruction and self-negation, referring not only to physical impermanence, but also to the emergency of all meaning and memory, especially that embodied in a form that insists on its eternal fixity.
If from one side, an important shift from conventional monuments was nevertheless achieved, trying to get rid of a posture of pious obeisance. On the other hand, counter-monuments were still subject to appropriation into the meta-narrative of redemptive memorialization. Thus, becoming no more than an attenuation of the monument as representation.

By leaning specifically on the Holocaust and the German’s obligation to tangibly represent and atone their guilt. This work attempts to study the relation between landmarks of remembrance and collective memory versus collected memory. Baring the ambiguities and contradictions of this tantalizing altercation through a carefully selected body of works which show us how thinkers, artists and architects tackled with this daunting and stimulating task. Not only responding to a specific set of requests but also subverting and questioning the need for a catalyst of remembrance such as memorials and monuments.

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