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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture

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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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8 Negotiating (In)Visibilities in German Memory Culture

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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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