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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture


Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.
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5 Mendelsohn and Libeskind: A Hidden History – Jewish Identity, the Void, Architectural Metaphors and Traces through Twentieth-Century Berlin


For the negotiation of (in)visiblities in twentieth-century cityscapes, no other European city than Berlin offers such a wide range of different historical and cultural layers, trapped links and crossroads, as well as real excavation sites. Berlin itself stands for an immense commemorative ensemble, emblematic of the fundamental disruptions of modernity in the last century.← 89 | 90 → 1

Two striking artistic projects of the 1990s reveal the dimensions of the visible and invisible, as well as those of memory and oblivion, as essential for our understanding of contemporary Berlin. They address Berlin’s most tragic history, that is, the Nazi dictatorship, based on racist and anti-Semitic principles that precipitated the Second Word War and the Shoah, and finally the physical destruction of Berlin’s urban fabric. These projects are Shimon Attie’s 1991 installation, Mulack Street 37, a projection of Jewish remembrance that deals with the gap between the visible and the invisible, even more relevant after reunification in 1990,2 and the social sculpture of Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Orte des Erinnerns/Places of Remembrance: A Memorial for Jews Living in Berlin from 1933 to 1945, assembled in the Schöneberg district, called the Bavarian Neighbourhood, in Berlin 1992/93 (Fig. 5.1). This project visualises the banality and brutality of exclusionary, racist legislation that expelled Jews from the public space, causing segregation, deportation, and finally physical extinction, represented artistically by duplex signs that play with advertising emblems related to citations of Nazi laws on the reverse side.3

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