From “At Memory’s Edge”

“At Memory’s Edge” by James E. Young.
The main question asked in the book is, “How is a Post – Holocaust generation of artists supposed to “remember” events they never experienced directly?” I will take examples of three artists in the book, the way they worked and in one way answered this question.

Shimon Attie
– The Writing on the Wall
“To peel back the wallpaper of today and reveal the history buried underneath.”
Working with hidden memories of Europe’s now-lost Jewish population Attie made photographical installations during 1991-1993 in Berlin. He projected photographs of Jews taken before World War II directly onto houses and locations where they original had been taken. Attie wanted to give the hidden past a voice. With his art he created a reminder of what was lost, not what was. He also documented every installation photographical. These photos have been travelling the world and hanged in many galleries.
Attie’s exhibitions show how important the exhibition location is. By projection pictures of the past onto its original location he reveals the history. He reminds the citizens now living and working around those locations about its history.


David Levinthal
– Mein Kampf
“These toys are my reality.”
Levinthal photographed Hitler figurine from the 30s that he found in an Austrian toy store. His photographs are meant to evoke, not mime, and to stimulate the imagination but not stimulate historical realities, these photographs are shot in a “narrative style”. The more ambiguous, underdetermined, and oblique the image, the more it seems to invite the viewer’s own narrative. The sharper the image, the more repellent it is of multiple readings, for it crowed out the reader’s projected story with the clutter of its own detail. He turns the traditional believes of photographic presentation against itself, extending the range of the camera inward to include the mind’s eye and imagination. Our eyes never rests on objects when looking at his photographs, they stay somewhere in the space between them and us, between us and our imagination. The piece of art has come to exist more in us, the viewers, and less on the wall.


Jochen Gerz (and Esther Shalev–Gerz)
-The Hamburg’s disappearing monument
“In the end, it is only we ourselves who can rise up against injustice.”
In Hamburg 1986 a forty-foot-high, three-foot-square pillar was made of hollow aluminium plated with a thin layer of soft, dark lead. Designed by Jochen Gerz, this was the winning proposal for a “Monument Against Fashism, War and Violence – and for Peace and Human Rights.” Visitors were invited to cover each section with their names when one section was filled the monument was lower into the ground, a chamber as deep as the column was high. This process was going on for seven years and finally 1993 the monument vanished with its last sinking. Nothing is left but the top surface of the monument, now covered with a burial stone inscribed to “Harburg’s Monument Against Fascism.” (The pillar is visible in a glass chamber below.)
During this seven years this monument worked as a social mirror, it became doubly troubling in that it reminded the community of what happened then and, even worse, how they responded now to the memory of this past.


None of this work are online exhibitions but they all contain interesting techniques and key points that we can think of when developing our project.
Attie’s projections show us how important the exhibition locations are for evoking the right effect. But also how a mixture of new techniques and old material can create great effects. Levinthal photographic art tells us a trick of how we involve the viewer if working with pictures. Gerz show us that a monument doesn’t have to be visible forever but it should involve the visitor in order to make it memorable. But also to reflect how today’s society respond to the monument.



4 Responses to “From “At Memory’s Edge””

  1. 1 Anders February 21, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Yes, Memory’s Edge is a great book.
    Much more useful than McLuhan I think.
    Other aspects of Jochen Geertz work (the memorial without a memorial..e.g.) may be of interest. Just saw this today:

    I did another comment on the Holocaust memorial thing the 16th (text used for other student)

    By the way is it possible to upload pictures of memorials? (as comments) on your blog?

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