Memorial Mania

Posted on December 12, 2011

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Made some nice discoveries at a symposium at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, which they organised with the American Academy. It was centered around the book ‘Memorial Mania’ by Erika Doss, who spoke in the afternoon and showed some telling examples of memorials in the USA, for 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing. Many angles were covered: sociology, history, art history, architecture, art, American and Judaic studies. For me some highlights were sociologist Jennifer Jordan talking about her research on how memorials fit into the city’s fabric, and historian Manfred Hetting mentioning a quote from Robert Musil on how monuments are mostly invisible (like a spouse that you see every day becomes invisible too) and that they rely mostly on their activation in rituals, such as their resurrection. A great example of a monument was shown by artist Horst Hoheisel, who designed a ‘negative monument’ for the spot commemorating the destruction in 1939 of a pyramid fountain in Kassel, built by a Jewish benefactor (see here for more info). He rebuilt the pyramid and had it sunk top down into the ground, so on site you only see the outline of the bottom of the base, and of the shape the fountain used to have.

A lot of the discussion focused on topical examples of highly discussed monuments: the Martin Luther King memorial in Washington DC (which is indeed quite someting, see here, it reminds me of a memorial in Amsterdam for Surinam freedom fighter Anton de Kom, see here – same visual language); the design for the monument for German reunification in Berlin (see here, I can’t believe they will make this, as well as the Stadtschloss that is already in the artist impression) and the recent call for proposals for the same thing in Leipzig; and of course the Eisenman Holocaust monument in Berlin, which I think had equal amounts of fans and opponants. Horst Hoheisel mentioned how he was present the day all the artists making proposals for this were invited to see the location, he has a picture of all of them together on the site, thinking hard what they would come up with – that sounds like a great picture, pity he didn’t bring it.

For the programme of the symposium see here by the way.

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Posted in: monument