Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture
Edited By Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel
8 Negotiating (In)Visibilities in German Memory Culture
In recent decades, Germany has been characterised by a so-called Erinnerungskultur, or memory culture, which remembers and commemorates in particular its National Socialist past.1 Evidence of this is visible in the high-profile cultural and geographical landmarks of the capital Berlin, such as Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Yet even such initially prominent and controversial memorial projects have come to occupy a more established and thus less conspicuous place in the city. The position of memorials between visibility and invisibility is nothing new – as Musil famously remarked, there is nothing so inconspicuous as a monument – but (in)visibility is a particular feature of Germany’s recent memory culture and the memorials that have been made in this context.2 Indeed, the play between visibility and invisibility underpinned the so-called countermonuments of the 1980s and 1990s, which quite literally undid the form of conventional memorials. Artists like Horst Hoheisel and Jochen Gerz sought provocative alternatives in order to show how grand, imposing structures were not appropriate to the commemoration of the Holocaust, and to challenge how communities engaged with the legacy of National Socialism. For his 2146 Stones – Monument against Racism (1993), Gerz removed cobbles from the castle square in Saarbrücken and inscribed on their bases the names of Germany’s ← 159 | 160 → Jewish cemeteries in use before the Second World War. Since this act was carried out at night and the stones replaced with their new inscriptions face down, its provocative force lay...
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