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Losing Site Architecture, Memory and Place
Ashgate Studies in Architecture Series series editor: eamonn canniffe, manchester school of architecture, manchester metropolitan university, uk The discipline of Architecture is undergoing subtle transformation as design awareness permeates our visually dominated culture. Technological change, the search for sustainability and debates around the value of place and meaning of the architectural gesture are aspects which will affect the cities we inhabit. This series seeks to address such topics, both theoretically and in practice, through the publication of high quality original research, written and visual. Other titles in this series The Political Unconscious of Architecture Re-opening Jameson’s Narrative Edited by Nadir Lahiji ISBN 978 1 4094 2639 4 Architecture and Science-Fiction Film Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home David T. Fortin ISBN 978 1 4094 0748 5 Symbolic Houses in Judaism How Objects and Metaphors Construct Hybrid Places of Belonging Mimi Levy Lipis ISBN 978 1 4094 2104 7 Forthcoming titles in this series French Encounters with the American Counterculture 1960–1980 Caroline Maniaque-Benton ISBN 978 1 4094 2386 7 An Architecture of Ineloquence A Carmelite Convent by José Luis Sert J.K. Birksted ISBN 978 0 7546 7801 4
Losing Site Architecture, Memory and Place
© Shelley Hornstein 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Shelley Hornstein has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Wey Court East Union Road Farnham Surrey GU9 7PT England
Ashgate Publishing Company Suite 420 101 Cherry Street Burlington, VT 05401-4405 USA
www.ashgate.com British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Hornstein, Shelley. Losing site : architecture, memory and place. – (Ashgate studies in architecture) 1. Architecture–Psychological aspects. 2. Architecture and history. 3. Architecture and society. 4. Memorialization. I. Title II. Series 720.1’9-dc22 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Hornstein, Shelley. Losing site : architecture, memory, and place / by Shelley Hornstein. p. cm. – (Ashgate studies in architecture) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4094-0871-0 (hardback : alk. paper) – ISBN 978-1-4094-0872-7 (ebook) 1. Place (Philosophy) in architecture. 2. Memory–Social aspects. I. Title. II. Title: Architecture, memory, and place. NA2500.H67 2011 720.1–dc22 2011005821
ISBN 9781409408710 (hbk) ISBN 9781409408727 (ebk)
II Printed and bound in Great Britain by the MPG Books Group, UK
For Ariel, Elias, Lara and Sam
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List of Figures Preface
Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
Curating Site: Museums, Itineraries and Networks Beyond Borders 103
Erasing Sites: Spies on the Other Side of the Full Moon
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List of Figures
1.1 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 3.1 3.2 4.1
4.2 4.3 5.1 5.2
6.1 6.2 7.1
Dani Karavan, Passages, 1994, Portbou. Credit: Shelley Hornstein. 16 Georges Pingusson, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, 1962, Paris. Credit: Simon Texier. 27 Georges Pingusson, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, 1962, Paris. Credit: Simon Texier. 30 Daniel Libeskind, Jewish Museum, 2001, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp. Peter Eisenman, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2005, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp. 46 Peter Eisenman, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2005, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp. 46 Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen, Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims, 2008, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp. 53 Capernaum (Ruins of an old synagogue), n.d. Credit: Palphot Ltd. 65 Jacob Benor-Kalter, Tel-Aviv, On the Seaside, n.d. Credit: Jacob Benor-Kalter for Palphot Ltd. 67 Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993 (demolished 1994), London. Credit: Commissioned and produced by Artangel. Photograph: John Davies. 85 Iris Häussler, He Named Her Amber, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2008– 2010, Toronto. Credit: Iris Häussler. 93 Iris Häussler, Honest Threads, Honest Ed’s, 2009, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum. 95 Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, 1997 (photo 2005), Bilbao, Spain. Credit: Lara Rabinovitch. 104 Edouard Denis Baldus, Cour Napoleon, Chantier du nouveau Louvre, Paris Musée Carnavalet, c. 1855. Credit: © Baldus/ Rogier-Viollet/The Image Works. 111 Nina Levitt, Installation view: Quonset Hut (for Vera Atkins), Koffler Gallery, 2008, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum. 119 Nina Levitt, Installation view: Parachute (for Hannah Senesh), Koffler Gallery, 2008, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum. 121 Kristina Rostorotsky, The Man Who Swam into History, 2008. Credit: Design by Kristina Rostorotsky. 129
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For the last ten years my projects have focussed, in disparate ways, on issues of memory and place, yet I never saw the links between them. I only connected the dots, however, when a colleague and friend, Reesa Greenberg, made me realize that a book had been in the works all that time. This book is the result of that realization. Rather than stitching together a narrative, this book attempts, in some small way, to offer unique, even idiosyncratic, examples of the relationship between architecture as place-holders, and the memories we have of it: between things and emotions, between material objects and what is so difficult to put into words. In these pages I hope I’ve opened up the possibility for readers to see their own memories in places so that, in the words of Walter Benjamin, they might enter those buildings and ‘disappear inside, as is only fitting’.2 While I take full responsibility for writing this book, it was a collaborative endeavour that would have been impossible for me to undertake alone. Each of my thoughts was strengthened by those of colleagues, students, friends and family, all of whom shared ideas with me generously, and rescued me when I travelled too far afield. In addition, significant research for the completion of this work was made possible by a Walter L. Gordon Fellowship in 2007–2008, as well as by grants from the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. The value of the assistance I received from the archivists at the Imperial War Museum Collections and Research Room, London, from Miriam Dorfzaun at Palphot, Tel Aviv, and Mark Antman at The Image Works/Roger Viollet, New York, cannot be underestimated. Conservator Françoise Reynaud, and the staff of the Collections photographiques and Jean-Baptiste Woloch at the Musée Carnavalet, the Centre de documentation juive contemporaine, the Institut français d’architecture, and the Direction de la mémoire, du patrimoine et des archives, Paris, also offered valuable help, while providing me with inspiring reading rooms in which to conduct research. And on very short notice, Simon Texier, Axel Lapp and Mary Pepchinski arranged to take photographs in Paris and Berlin when my camera failed, and gave me their own personal tours
of their cities of memory. Much of the testing ground for this book emerged during my course ‘Memory and Place’. I was blessed with wonderfully engaged and engaging undergraduate and graduate students. A few deserve particular mention: Keith Bresnahan, Kate Bride, Martha Crombie, Nicole DeBrabandere, Claire Eckert, Adrian Fish, Elisabeth Friedman, Sarah Hollenberg, Nadia Kurd, Meaghan Lowe, Anne Merrill, Steve Marano, Laura Milligan, Jenny Western and Jay Worthing. Most recently my course entitled ‘Cultural Cartographies’ afforded me a final, trial-by-fire to test some of the ideas for this book. My gratitude extends to the contributions of those graduate students as well: Juan De Villa, Alexandra Duncan, Michelle Hannah, Sarah Hewitt, Genevieve Kang, Jeremy Mathers, Brendan Mcgeagh, Jonathan Montes, Kayla Ramlochand, Brigid Tierney, Barry Wallace and Nicola Waugh. A year-long seminar held at York University, entitled ‘Visual Culture and Digital Media’, gave me the opportunity to consider Google Earth as possible subject matter, through lively discussions with Laura Berazadi, John Bonnet, Rodolphe el-Khoury, Mary Lou Lobsinger, Mary Leigh Morbey and Reesa Greenberg. Over the years I was honoured to have a dynamic crop of Research Assistants, all of whom understood and tolerated my irregular working patterns and email addictions. They gathered a wealth of information for me and frequently provided imaginative input for me to consider. I’m grateful to Amanda Brason, Emma Jenkin. Karie Liao, Christian Martius and Julian Smith. At Ashgate, Valerie Rose enthusiastically received this book and shepherded it through its various stages of development. Sarah Horsley and Carolyn Court facilitated many other aspects of the production, to make the submission an organized and smooth process. Helen Dyer worked tirelessly and rigorously on the copy-editing phase of the manuscript, and I am so very thankful that she found the time to devote to it. During its various stages of development, the manuscript benefitted from the considered reflections and encouragement warmly afforded me by Annmarie Adams, Shaul Bassi, Christine Boyer, Mark Cheetham, the late (and missed) Giovanna Franci, Vita Fortunati, Reesa Greenberg, Elizabeth Harvey, Louis Kaplan, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Leslie Korrick, Elena Lamberti, Berel Lang, Laura Levitt, Eric Michaud, Oriana Palusci, Melissa Schiff, Jeffrey Shandler, Larry Silberstein and Carol Zemel. Each of these scholars and colleagues offered insights and advice that I treasure. Brief moments with Gabriela Eigensatz in Berlin, and Tracey Eve Winton in Cambridge, Ontario took my thoughts in new directions. I am grateful for all they contributed, and I continue to value their scholarship and friendship. As well, Julia Brauch, Cynthia Hammond, Anna Lipphardt and Alexandra Nocke generously shared advice regarding their own publications. Throughout the preparation of each chapter, many of the artists, writers and architects were more than willing to enrich the dialogue. I am indebted to Peter Eisenman, Iris Häussler,
Dani Karavan, Nina Levitt, Daniel Libeskind, Robert Rosenstone and Rachel Whiteread. Whenever I’ve read acknowledgements in other books, I’ve always felt a warm pang when families and friends are mentioned. It is true that writing at a desk in solitude for hours on end, or escaping to a nearby café seems odd to those who have other, more traditional, schedules. For appreciating this configuration of space and time, I want, more than anything, to thank my loved ones. I am blessed with a patient and forgiving family, for I have far too often indulged my need to use time that could have been theirs. To my parents and in-laws, who have often asked how I am able to travel to conferences all over the world, but rarely visit them, I hope to make it up to you soon. My late grandmother, Ruth Hornstein, left me her postcards and so much more: my greatest experience of place was initiated thanks to her. My husband, Sam Rabinovitch, continues to teach me the meaning of being grounded, and indeed what it means to lose sight, and to show me what really matters, and what does not. My own travel spirit is matched only by his and together, through our journeys, we have come to understand the meaning of place. He and our children frequently force me to recognize the need to not take myself so seriously, and instead, to play a bit. Lara, my daughter, would often read my work at a moment’s notice and serve up her food for thought. Our trip to Romania chasing after nostalgia, Suceava and pastrama, added another memory and place component to this book, and with our fearless guide, Eduard Popescu, being an important link to it. My sons, Ariel and Elias, who have put up with many zany family adventures around the globe, value more than anything the times when I would simply sit still, enjoy them and their music-making without any conditions or remarks such as ‘I’ll be there in a minute’. To Sam and my children, this book is for you. Shelley Hornstein
Notes 1 Walter Benjamin, ‘Unpacking My Library; A Talk about Book Collecting’, in Illuminations, (ed.) Hannah Arendt, (trans.) Harry Zohn, (New York: Schocken Books), p. 67.
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Before the Internet, before mobile devices, and even before the invention of the aeroplane, a cancellation mark on the stamp of a postcard, validating one’s physical presence at the top platform of the Eiffel Tower when it was inaugurated during the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, was the closest thing, for the recipient of that postcard, to being there. Until web surfing to any place on the planet became a possibility, ‘travel’ was never so easy. All it took was imagination to put a static image into performative play. The arrival of a card, with its image, handwritten message, stamp, and postmark noting the time, date and location of the sender, shifted the recipient’s physical site to the place in that space between her fingertips. The card, having been posted by the sender, travelled across space and time to touch down at a destination elsewhere on the globe. In a sense, we could say that the Eiffel Tower changed location, or existed simultaneously in many parallel sites: in its physical place in Paris, in the two-dimensional photograph on the postcard, and wherever copies of the postcard were expedited. The constructed, physical world, then, is supported by the visual and textual imagery that, taken together, enable us to ‘transport’ architecture back and forth (in a sense), from its physical site to locations in the imagination. This book is about losing site, and finding it again in the many different places where architecture exists. We have memories of a place, but these will live on in a postcard depicting it, or an aspect of it, as a visual spark, an aide-mémoire. And if we have never visited it, but hold the postcard image in front of us, we have a two-dimensional reminder of it that we take – or imagine – to be real. In these pages, I want to explore the relationship between memory and place, and ways in which architecture captures and triggers memory. As the ancient poet Horace so fervently describes in his Odes, his name, and thus his work, will live on forever: its immortality guaranteed because his name will be remembered always in the physical aidememoire that is his poetry: ’I will not all die and a great part of me will shun the goddess of death.’1 John Ruskin suggests, in a celebrated passage from his Seven Lamps of Architecture, that memories are subject to arbitrary recall through material objects: ‘We may live within [architecture], and worship
without her, but we cannot remember without her.’2 Ruskin was right, I think, to claim that our relationship to the built environment, to objects in our everyday surroundings, to buildings and places that take up, surround and affect the space of our lives, must, in some important way, say something more to us that simply shaping where we are. We remember best when we experience an event in a place. Victor Shklovsky captures the sense of the materiality of place when he describes the ‘thing-ness’ of objects: ‘And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.’3 But what happens when we leave that place, or that place no longer exists? What happens to the memory of an event if the site where that memory was recorded is demolished, or we only know it through movies or photographs or the story someone recounted to us about it? In this study, I explore whether, if the actual building is no longer standing, the postcard can operate as a surrogate or stand in for and create a picture of an entire city, or nation. Similarly, when warfare is responsible for the destruction of architecture, it is often strategic, targeting sites of political power or cultural importance in order to wreak havoc and psychologically devastate a community, a city, or a place. While I am not questioning the enormity of human loss in these circumstances, it is still important to look at the loss of our constructed world. For even as it appears to be solid and permanent, architecture is really only a fragile shell – an illusion of protection against destruction within which we live and build our memories. Natural disasters, too: earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, or even accidents such as fires, bring about disfigurement or eradication to all forms of architectural structures (vernacular and monumental), often symbolizing the human devastation as well.4 Demolition, the intentional, voluntary destruction of architecture, is no less difficult to witness, as it aggressively eliminates, even eradicates, a site in order to make way for new buildings in its place, and for cause. It is emblematic of death, a phenomenon often complicated by politics and value shifts that pushes our emotional balance over the edge. Architecture under physical attack, and even in a state of progressive decay beyond the point of no return, is a reminder of our own eventual death, and a brutal announcement of the irretrievable. The art of memory, according to Frances Yates, was based on the recall of parts of a speech.5 This technique was tied to mnemonic mapping exercises that located ideas in imaginary theatres of the mind: the speaker imagined an interior and then strategically placed parts of the oration in different locations within the room (in a corner, on a table or chair in the centre of a room, or near the door). As the speaker figuratively walked around the theatre or the building, the sequence of the discourse could be reassembled. According to this theory of image-as-aide-mémoire or through allegorical associations, the exercise of recall, strategically placed within an imagined architectural space, emerges from a visually imagined experience of a place. In much the same way, we understand places by the architecture that defines them. What is the relationship, then, between the actual built site and architecture we imagine
or recollect? What do we imagine if we never have a chance to visit a certain place? If, on the other hand, we have travelled to see a particular iconic sight and then return home, what is our visual recollection of that place? Or more dramatically, if architecture is demolished, do we, can we, or even should we still imagine it? How does architecture capture memory? If we lose sight of something, quite literally, have we lost sight/site of it, as well? Losing Site: Architecture, Memory, and Place argues two central points: first, and ostensibly the obvious, is that architecture exists as a physical entity and therefore registers as a place that we come to remember; and secondly, architecture, whether or not it still stands, can exist or be found beyond the physical site itself in our recollection of it. We function always with what I call, an ‘architecture of the heart’, or a place within us that holds onto the emoting memory of a place. That place is the symbolic construction that connects our idea or image of a place to its physicality. What is the relationship of a physical place or building to an idea with a site or object as the material match to cement or trigger the recollection? In what ways do ideas or images we remember of architecture endure in our memory? Maurice Halbwachs suggests that memories are always anchored in spatial frameworks.6 Writing on the aesthetics of Buddhist thought, Ananda Coomaraswamy describes the artistic object as a ‘support for contemplation: a simple dewdrop that can move someone to deep reflection.’7 For these writers, a physical object in a spatial framework is the vehicle connecting us to our memories (a string on our finger, or a souvenir). While it is true that we invest objects with memory so that spaces and places seem to come alive with meaning, I argue that places themselves are capable of generating memories. We may or may not know a site, or an object in a site, but visual images of sites can generate constructed images that in turn can create a memory of a place. Think of any specific and personal event of the past and, as you recall that event, note that it is being visually constructed in a three-dimensional representation in your imagination. Close your eyes and visualize the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Is that image a visual memory of your own experience, or is it assembled from the countless photos, films, postcards and other enduring images we retrieve from our personal, mental database? Indeed, you may never have visited it but may know something about the place or site. Alternately, with your eyes wide open, recall the most recent novel you’ve read. As you remember, a three-dimensional world pops into your mind, an image that visually present somewhere in a virtual space that is projected to you, parallel to the image and immediately before your eyes. As complex as this sounds, these two visual sights/sites operate as if in a splitscreen televised world. We are capable of orchestrating in tandem at least two parallel images of places. Moreover, each of the images we recall about the book’s narrative – or even the novel we’re in the process of reading – is an architectural image, or more precisely, an architectonic image in a threedimensional place constructed by our creative imagination. This personally constructed place is never a ‘real’ picture of that place: it is not set out by the
author or illustrator to provide advance indicators for your design. The only details you possess in order to build this place in your mind are in the words themselves; specifications for an elaborate building, neighbourhood, city or world. To continue that line of thought: when does that architecture, as a built, material object become iconic in non-architectural forms? Architecture is totemic, and symbolically carries far more than the structural element of which it is built. Indeed, as the events of 9/11 made powerfully clear, buildings, structures or cities stand for much more than the building materials of which they are made. This book, therefore, in considering memory and place, takes up the definition of architecture altogether, for it is not simply about buildings. Architecture, I argue, is the built environment, indeed a constructed environment – whether in natural, manufactured, or imagined materials – that demarcates space. In this way, architecture is the mapping of space – physical, mental or emotional. It follows then that architecture is the act of delineating and shaping space to carve a place. Indeed, Heidegger’s concept of a Gebild, as foregrounded by Edward Casey when he describes landscape painting, is ‘a structured image that restructures the world of which it is an image.’8 Casey adds that this image of the world is either framed or ready to be framed; that the image of the world has a ‘proclivity for being ordered in and through a frame.’9 Whether or not memories are evoked voluntarily or involuntarily, this anecdotal fact remains: each of us constructs an image of that memory in an architectural framework in our mind’s eye. To be sure, there is nothing new about the notion of the ‘mind’s eye’ and the process of visualizing internally or through the brain’s functions, especially when there is an occlusion of physical, visual elements, or sensory data. As Psychiatrist, John Ratey suggests, ‘… we have the ability to see with the mind’s eye – to have a perceptual experience in the absence of visual input.’10 Where is the intersection, I ask, between these sites: the place before our eyes and the one we hold perceptually in the absence of the physical site? Rather than resorting to scientific elaboration and inquiry (of which I am thoroughly incapable), I’m looking at examples of the meeting points of these parallel worlds, where they mingle, signal, underscore and boldly highlight their co-existence, since memory is at all times alive and changing always available and present in forms we don’t necessarily recognize. This book demonstrates the ability for architectural history to mean much more than, for example, the history of monolithic sites excised from their context (physical or imagined). Rather, we, as citizens, actively engage and perform in organizing or selecting pathways and markers within urban or rural space. This function is, in fact, a curatorial act in which we are all cultural agents, participating in the act of selecting and arranging and making choices from the larger place. The curatorial act, then, is properly an architectural act. This project proposes that we are all architects in some measure, as we
contribute to curating place.11 Bourdieu remarked that the curator adds cultural meaning in the process of curating: … all those who have ties with art, who live for art and, to varying degrees, from it, and who confront each other in struggles where the imposition of not only a world view but also a vision of the art world is at stake, and who, through these struggles, participate in the production of the value of the artist and of art.12
Therefore, an architectural history must encompass this broad concept of place and our ongoing, dynamic contribution to how we experience it; a curatorial intervention in all of this is apparent when buildings and places are brought into a communicative relationship with each other and new narratives are formed.13 Organized into seven thematic chapters, this book takes up diverse case studies. In each I underscore the ways in which imagined and real representations of architecture or urban sites are formed. Rather than use the more obvious and even extreme examples of architectural destruction – collateral or targeted during wartime, or the devastation caused to built environments by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 or the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia – this book offers the opportunity to study less sensational examples, or the aftermath of purposeful destruction of cities during times of war (Berlin 50 years after World War II). It is far easier to examine the extreme destruction of property and far more difficult to understand what we remember or forget with everyday cases. Robert Bevan’s important work on the destruction of architecture suggests that when physical traces of a place are destroyed, even annihilated, the victors aim to create hegemony there by eliminating the memory of icons of that community.14 I examine projects by artists and architects whose principle preoccupation is played out in city space. Each of these projects ultimately conveys ideas about the intersections of memory and place. Can we, and should we preserve memory of a place if the architecture is no longer there? Do we forever search for it as a sign of our eternal state of mourning?15 Put another way, there is an open question as to where the site lives. In short, I argue that each of us carries around an architectural imaginary world constructed in our memory that is different, parallel and even compatible with the physical site. This everyday and ordinary occurrence makes us all architects and curators of our individual built and imagined worlds. The aim of this book is to examine the notion that these parallel worlds exist all the time, so that site is always present but also lost (in a physical sense), perhaps, and recuperated in imagined spheres.Yet the triggers must exist in the physical world for the recall to carry on into future generations. Marcel Proust touches precisely on this point with his cherished sentiments during the delectation of the madeleine cake whose smell and taste, as he describes it, ‘bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop
of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.’16 Or similarly, when he remarks that … in a moment all the flowers in our garden and M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, towns and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.17
Objects continue to provide the source material in his quest for truth, such as his anguish when he removes his boot and suddenly recalls his late grandmother. Proust’s experience is a fusion of the past and the present, or what has famously been described in his work as ‘involuntary memory.’ Without that hook to the past experiential context and through the assistance of a palpable trigger – the madeleine, or the boot – the present experience is a very different sensation. As Deleuze puts it, what occurs is that the involuntary memory ‘internalizes the context … [and] … renders the former context inseparable from the present sensation.’18 Yet Proust was clear that any recuperation of memories could not be willed; rather, the only possible means of accessing them was involuntarily through a material object that could serve as a trigger to the past. Working with and against his idea, I am suggesting that architecture is tethered to an imagined vision of a place and what it looks like in its physical reality, but that there is reciprocity between the places we imagine and the places we visit. We continue to imagine places we journey through, and therefore imagine cities, buildings and sites. By way of this peregrination, we lose sight/site of places when we are no longer before them, yet the images of them are waiting to be retrieved: remembered, or imagined, in another place. Some of the exciting architectural theories that have developed over the past decade provide strong links to what I might call a break-out of new architectural theory of the relationships between architecture and place. By bringing together their specific connections to ideas about architectural sites that no longer exist, I hope to bring clarity to an otherwise obscure and highly interdisciplinary set of issues. When art history became more open as a discipline, and thus became a broader container for visual culture, the association became more attractive. The more interdisciplinary ‘discipline’ and vaster cultural terrain of visual culture brings together the extensive collection of visual experiences, media or images that comprise our viewing field. Still, architecture sits at once comfortably and uneasily between geography, visual culture, sociology, urban studies and many of the fine arts such as theatre, performance, film, humanities and philosophy. This book operates on the premise that a conversation about architecture is not exclusively about formal, isolated buildings but instead needs to be deepened and broadened as spatialized visualizations and experiences of place, seen across all communications and digitized media.
As for the theoretical framework for memory and place specifically outside of its direct associations with architecture or site-specific installation work, this book takes as a jumping-off point the foundational ideas launched by Pierre Nora about how we remember France in his dense ten volumes of collected essays by prominent French intellectuals, Les Lieux de Mémoire (Gallimard, 1992). In his introductory essay, Nora writes about location, or where memory crystallizes, and the ineluctable ties with notions of collective identity, nationhood, and national memory. But his work also considers place and its links to the built environment. Ultimately, I advocate a return to the way in which we think about objects and places where I argue for a rethinking of Cartesian space: tangible, material objects in space, and specifically the relationship between the two. Some authors take up the relationship of place to memory, to be sure, as do those who include commemorative works. But there are far fewer books that delve into the relationship of architecture, geography and the built environment to studies of memory. Eleni Bastea, Giuliana Bruno, Jennifer Jordan, Simon Schama, and Karen Till, among others, take up these relationships. Some recent work such as that by Eyal Ben-Ari and Yoram Bilu, Barbara Mann, Julia Brauch, Anna Lipphardt, Alexandra Nocke, and Mitchell Shwarzer explores the spatial turn as it relates to Jewish memory. But research on the ways memory and place relate to visual culture, architecture or urban forms, is in its early stages. This book considers the question of what it means to live in a world of material objects and physical place, yet be conjoined to the metaphysical. Edward Casey’s definitive The Fate of Place provides an in-depth historiographical overview of how philosophers have considered place in a general way, rather than in relationship to memory, or even architectural or sculptural objects. Casey’s earlier publication, Remembering waxes rhapsodic on the ‘mansions of memory’ from a phenomenological perspective, a fact that lends considerable weight to my own thinking. His work, coupled with the theories of Walter Benjamin, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy have inspired me to consider possible links between memory, place and architecture. Each chapter explores a different example of the manifold ways in which architectural form exists, and ways in which the physical place of architecture is made full by the completion of architecture in our mental space, our imaginary ‘toolbox’ when we think of a place and look at a photograph, or visit a site and describe it later, or when we send a postcard of a site we have visited but which the recipient has not. In this way, even Derrida’s notion of architecture as a ‘happening’ or an event (what he calls the now [maintenant]) applies. His ‘now’ of architecture is a temporal and spatial event that, regardless of when it was built, continues to occur. He declares that what we know of architecture, in its fundamental aspect, is that it is constructed and that ‘we inhabit it, it inhabits us …’ where architecture is that which is beyond the physical place, the maintenant and is literary, cinematographic or choreographic. Through this architecture, it transforms what we know of as the strictly material object into new, creative readings.19
One last comment is necessary regarding the a critical choice for some of the case studies in this book. Many are examples of Jewish memory, or what it means to Jewish culture and history to weave together architecture, memory and place. In some of my previous work on post-Holocaust sites I began to see how memory and place are inseparable. This book began its journey by bringing to the fore the layered relationship between the memories that many artists and architects sought to unearth, and to underscore how the memories are indissociable from the places where they were formed. My first invitation to Berlin in 1996, to contribute to a think-tank type conference on East-West relations after the fall of the Wall, catapulted my thinking on the subject and sparked profound emotions for all the participants20 Many of us went prepared to talk about the relationship of East Berlin to West Berlin after the city’s reunification, but without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching moments were experienced during post-Holocaust revelations by the subsequent generations of Germans whose burden is complex and still, even in the late twentieth century, not the subject of any public discussion. The conference coincided with the first round of decisions regarding the choice of architect for the Memorial to the Martyred Jews of Europe in Berlin (Peter Eisenman was ultimately chosen for this task), and prior to the official opening of the Jewish Museum in 2001. Designed by Daniel Libeskind – the building was. at that point, still empty of exhibition material, a display strategy and even a collection. Indeed, many of our intimate gatherings centred on discussions about what it meant and continues to mean to build on German soil, on the grounds of history. Because of my connections to this earlier work and other current projects, some of the chapters take up, either directly or obliquely, the relationship of memory and place in Jewish case studies. That declared, this book opens up a terrain that, I imagine, resonates for almost everyone. From anecdotal data I gathered while discussing the idea of this book with a vast mix of people, I took away one significant and telling nugget: each reader, without fail, responded with a highly personalized story of their own that plugged into the foundational premise of the book: the inseparability of memory and place. This immediacy made me realize the pertinence of my case studies, and that, even though the examples were mainly – though not always – related to a Jewish example, they nonetheless reverberate for others and become sparks for deep, personal reflection. In Chapter 1, ‘Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here’, I consider what it means to build on a site whose meaning is contingent on locality, geography and topography. The chosen site was located on the outskirts of town next to the cemetery. It is a site that is difficult to find without clearly marked directions. What do we know of these sites if we never visit them? With or without the benefit of publicity, the place is still there. The case in point is a memorial to Walter Benjamin, by Dani Karavan, in Portbou, Spain. The structure was erected to pay tribute to one of the most prominent philosophers of the twentieth century, who died there after fleeing from the Nazis. Portbou, however, is located at the most remote northeast corner of the peninsula where
access is difficult, so the memorial is seldom visited. What does it mean to create a monument to mark the site of a historical event, yet know implicitly that it will be experienced by only a few? For whom do memorial sites exist? When the memory of those who fought to erect a monument is gone, what role does the monument play in its context? In the second chapter, ‘Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History’, I examine the implications of building on the site of traumatic historical events, offering examples of the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind (2001), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, by Peter Eisenman (2005), and the Monument to the Homosexual Victims by Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen (2008), all in Berlin, as well as the Memorial of the Martyrs of the Deportation, located in Paris and designed by Georges-Henri Pingusson, about forty years earlier. The solutions proposed to memorialize the events of the Holocaust in both cities ignited passionate debates on the nature of remembrance, memory, and the politics of accountability. Due to intentional and collateral destruction of the city during World War II, the physical past was significantly erased by the allies.Therefore, the demolished architecture no longer stood as a painful reminder or witness. In a culture of amnesia, artists and architects commissioned to design monuments were challenged to ensure that their solutions take shape in order to bring the past into the present. In Paris, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the past was voluntarily buried, symbolically, and in the case of this memorial, strategically. Faced with the desire to ensure that the country’s history be told, each of these architects tackles Pierre Nora’s observation that the more we build monuments, the less we remember. Moreover, challenged by the nearly impossible tasks of creating sites that will act as triggers to the past, they must ponder how the monuments will continue to function for future generations who visit, and in what ways they can attempt to ensure a meaningful connection to the past. The third chapter: ‘Transporting Sites: Postcards of Israel and NationBuilding’ proposes to look at an underappreciated form of art, photography, architecture, and communication: the postcard. As part of an ever-swelling tourist economy that began to boom in the nineteenth century, the Holy Land became one of the most photographed geographic sites, and it is through postcards in particular that these photos became popularized. Designed to convey a sense of the place, picture postcards of ancient and modern architectural sites in Israel were produced throughout the twentieth century. Seen from within the state by tourists or citizens, and seen from outside by recipients of these postcards in diasporic communities, these architectural and topographical images of Israel – the precursor to ‘armchair travel’ images on the web today – weave together the complex threads of antiquity and modernism that inhabit the same geographic and imagined space. Postcard compositions of an emerging modern nation wilfully inscribe civic buildings, memorial sites and archaeological landmarks into a narrative of nationhood and citizenship.
Postcards play a significant role in perpetuating the meaning of places. What is the role of a souvenir image of a building in relationship to postcards and their power in providing a touchstone to the past, or to diasporic sites? These postcards set up networks of knowledge and desire about a place. The card transmits the sentiments of the sender (in the handwritten message) to the receiver. Only then does the imaginative experience begin. This chapter examines, through the conventions of postcards and their images, how the concept of nation branding operates as one sees and imagines the Holy Land. I argue that postcards capture the memory of a place and send that place somewhere else. In the process, the image of a place is a sensorial recall for those who have visited and know the place photographed, or the image remains an ideal icon or souvenir for a dream about a place. Domestic, demolished or deconstructed architecture and all that it includes, is the focus for Chapter 4, ‘Destroying Sites: Houses and Objects Inside Out.’ Rachel Whiteread’s House (London, 1993–1994), confronts the architecture of domesticity and, implicitly, profound matters of gender, place, and space. House is an actual house turned inside out by filling its insides with concrete and peeling away the house itself. Through this act of destruction, Whiteread addressed what occurs when the privacy of dwellings is literally turned inside out. What existed is no longer, and what was private became public. While concretizing these spaces – actually pouring concrete into a mould to shape the spaces of the inside – she achieved a new building form recovered from the insides of the formerly intensely private precincts. In her work, overlooked places central to daily life are re-presented as positives from negatives. Similarly, negative space never really seen, although highly visible, in domestic space, becomes positive. What do we know of the life of this house? What about the people who lived in it? The stories are not revealed, yet the artifacts are, and so we are compelled to identify with this house by transgression. Whose memories were revealed in this house, which stood as the symbol of all homes? Similarly, Iris Häussler recreates the life of Amber, a housemaid whose identity she installs into the Grange, an empty historic house adjacent to, and a part of the Art Gallery of Ontario.Visitors are told by the docent that Amber literally carved out secret places within the house, to store her bizarre collections of animal remains, blood and teeth. That she preserved these objects in wax is a telling detail in itself about how wax has served as a memory tablet since ancient times. (In one of Plato’s dialogues, for example, Socrates asks Theaetetus to imagine the mind as a wax block on which we stamp what we perceive; So long as the imprint remains, we remember, and whatever is obliterated, we forget. False judgment occurs when we match the wrong memory imprint with another). However, after we are led through the house on a tour given by the docents assigned to this itinerary, and after the once static historic house is now animated by the story we perform visually and imaginatively in the framed space, we learn, shockingly, that Amber is nothing more than an invented character in a fictional narrative. We’ve
been led down the garden path, through domestic spaces that never housed our protagonist. Both Whiteread and Häussler empty their houses of the inhabitants. In each case we are left only with our own imagination and empty spaces. Almost desperately, we try to somehow create or re-create a fiction or daily life to fill the void. And the context of a house, from its inside out – from its dependence on history and its architectural heritage – takes on new meaning. But also, think of the corollary: when we’re told a story, rather than presented with a physical place or site, and as we recall the storytelling event, we visually construct a three-dimensional representation in the imagination. In the case of fiction, for example, we immediately construct visual images of three-dimensional space as we begin to read a novel, and we continue to animate this ‘place’, this constructed image, throughout the duration of the novel. Even after we have seen the film that follows the book, and long after we have been given these alternative images in the movie, we sometimes tenaciously hold onto the previous construction of where it all takes place, how it looks, and who the characters are in that imagined construction. At a time when European borders are dissolving, local culture and history, indeed the question of cultural borders altogether, becomes increasingly important. Chapter 5: ‘Curating Site: Museums, Itineraries and Networks Beyond Borders’ considers museums as guardians of objects and artifacts of cultural production that once seemed to embody national ideals, yet are no longer identifiable cultural markers of a fixed and secure past. Democratized travel and the Internet have given rise to a new kind of cultural consumertourist who explores the city. Museums – architecturally and in content – have always attempted to house and nurture a national image, while safeguarding notions of national heritage: museums are central to the tourist experience of the city since the nineteenth century. While art and exhibitions compete for visibility in museums across Europe, so too does the architecture that contains them. The Guggenheim Bilbao museum is unprecedented as a contemporary architectural monument-as-vehicle of cultural memory. As a stunning symbol of the museum world’s rapidly evolving Glam-Galleries, the museum, as architectural tourist icon, transforms from conveying a sense of an imagined community and national anchor, such as the Louvre, to a site of transnational identification. How does architecture respond and correspond to its physical site and meaning of geographic place? What does it mean for architects and their museums to shape our experiences of cultural memory, when the idea of local cultural production is tied into global cultural tourism? Is it possible for architecture to engage in local dialogue to showcase cultural locality as social networks invite the erasure of borders? This chapter looks at cultural identity and touristic intervention as museums continue to proliferate on site, and outof-site online. Just as situating in a geographic place is critical to building a museum, the tourist’s itinerant route challenges and complicates notions of fixed place. Whereas museums stood as keepers of local culture, museums
frame international art and perhaps even unwittingly contribute to putting the tourist into the role of keeper of international memory. Chapter 6: ‘Erasing Sites: Spies on the Other Side of the Full Moon’, is devoted to intrigue and women spies, whose routes are erased off the map. With Thin Air, artist Nina Levitt presents an exhibition of the everyday and the heroic, the vestiges of many shadowy, silent and invisible itineraries of women spies during World War II. Women agents, we discover, travelled invisible, undocumented and irretrievable routes, to lost places on the map that were top-secret locations, subsequently written out of recorded history. The farmhouses, outbuildings, and field shelters where they hid clandestine radios built into suitcases designed by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) (the British unit created by Winston Churchill in 1940 to carry out missions of sabotage during WWII in Europe), or camouflaged SOE jumpsuits used to parachute into France: these places disappear into history as mappable sites.21 Not only was the work of the women agents an unrecounted aspect of the war, but the stories of Jewish women in particular are almost invisible. A respected photographer, Levitt uses razor-sharp perception to narrow the visual field into a compressed lens, while holding steadfastly onto what seems to, otherwise, fall away from casual view. This chapter wrestles with words and images of Hannah Senesh and Vera Atkins, heroes of that war who are both visible and invisible, as shown by Levitt through a disparate collection of objects she gathers as proof of their missions and existence. These objects, everyday and ordinary, or archival – letters, telegrams, full moon dates, pinhole cameras, suitcases, film stills, a parachute and excerpts of two women’s lives on the brink of their – battle against the levelling of place in order to recover the tangible sites and events of history. The concluding chapter: ‘Finding Site’, looks to the future of tangible places and considers intangible heritage, lost in site, but ultimately found. Can the Internet or other forms of digital media enable a better understanding of the various peregrinations, and articulate the dimensionality of a diasporic experience? In a similar way, web mapping technologies have exploded in popularity and accessibility, giving us an ability to travel as we never have before, and providing a new interpretation of the ‘armchair’ traveller. This chapter will demonstrate the way in which satellites in outer space have brought us to a far deeper commitment to our earthly relationship with our planet. First, through the presentation of a Web-based project that recounts family tales of migration, this chapter will explain how an interactive virtual experience can challenge notions of history, memory and place. A novel that recounts family migrations across three generations The Man Who Swam Into History, by Robert Rosenstone, is complemented with a second Man Who Swam into History as a web project. That project invites the user to build on the idea of history and memory by juxtaposing and intersecting spatial and temporal frames. Unlike a ’film after the book’, the web-user – as the player or hero – activates new formulations of the experience of migration. New narratives and architectures of transnational place are created that are irresolute, erratic
and part of a journey of spontaneity. Conceived for digital dynamics and the episodic possibilities of the web, this project enables new considerations of the atlas while holding promise for the future: the user expands the spatiotemporal dimensions of a would-be diaspora, and challenges what it means to consider losing site, while gaining an understanding of physical place. Similar to gaming virtual space, The Man Who Swam telescopes into history and memory through narrative and historical artefacts, but cuts across time and place through active links to contemporary sites. Which brings me to Google Earth, the second example of how our concept of maps and places is only beginning to be reconstituted. In time, this chapter will serve as a history lesson for the earliest days of these revolutionary mapping technologies and our ability to attempt to capture the materiality of Planet Earth. The far-reaching tone of this epilogue is less about Google Earth or The Man Who Swam and far more about the ephemeral and unpredictable nature of memory, coupled with the riveting reality of how memory recalls the construction of places in their sensorial forms. History is shaped by the images one carries as one records events or people, but primarily how they are recorded in a place: a constructed, three-dimensional, architecture in the mind’s eye. Each of us remembers history informed by places we know or imagine from widely or less widely disseminated images we hold in our memory. And similarly, memories are triggered by the material connections we make to places when we are there. Through the elaboration of what it means to lose the sense of the physicality of a place as it morphs into a virtual space, yet recuperate perhaps the broadest sense of place, this chapter will tie together each of the chapters in this book to conclude with a demonstration of the power and interconnectivity of cities, architecture, visual art, memory and place.
Notes 1 According to Michèle Lowrie, ‘Horace claims he will not die in entirety, that
a great part of himself will avoid death: “non omnis moriar multaque pars mei / vitabit Libitinam,” (I will not all die and a great part of me will shun the goddess of death); his living corpus will supplant his dead body.’ See Lowrie, ‘Spleen and the Monumentum: Memory in Horace and Baudelaire’, Comparative Literature 49.1 (1997), pp. 42–58. Horace, The Odes and Epodes of Horace: A Metrical Translation Into English, Library of Harvard University, .
2 John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (London: George Allen & Sons,
1907), p. 324.
3 Viktor. Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’, in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four
Essays, (eds) L.T. and M.J. Reis Lemon, (trans.) L.T. and M.J. Reis Lemon (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press,  1965), pp. 5–24.
4 Tom Lewis, ‘Bombing Away the Past’, The Wilson Quarterly (The Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars), spring 2006: pp. 97–100.
5 Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (London: Routledge,  1999). Yates
develops the history of this art as it evolves through the Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance periods.
6 Maurice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory (New York and London: Harper
and Row,  1980).
7 Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, ‘Why Exhibit Works of Art?’, Journal of
Aesthetics and Art Criticism 1, no. 2/3 (1941), pp. 27–41.
8 Edward S. Casey references Heidegger’s, ‘The Age of the World Picture’,
in The Question concerning Technology, (trans.) William Lovitt (New York: Harper, 1977), p. 134, in his Representing Place: Landscape Painting and Maps (University of Minnesota Press: 2002), p. 234.
9 Casey, p. 234. 10 John J. Ratey, A User’s Guide to the Brain (New York: Vintage Books, 2001),
11 While ‘curate’ originally denoted any ecclesiastic assigned to or entrusted
with the curing of souls, or assisting with the curing of souls, this elided into a term to define those who care for, and by extension, organize exhibitions. In the process of caring for and organizing exhibitions, the art of curating is to select, or choose this work over that, in a fine editorial process.
12 Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, (ed.) Randal Johnson (1993),
13 ‘… the curator’s work as a creator of connections and narratives between
various forms of art and cultural objects is rapidly taking the place of the work of the artist. See The Nation: Our Reporter: ‘Okwui Enwezor as culture broker’, .
14 Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory; Architecture at War (London:
Reaktion Books, 2006).
15 Peter Homans, Symbolic loss: the ambiguity of mourning and memory at
century’s end (Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2000).
16 Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, quoted in David Lowenthal, The
Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 16.
17 Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (Remembrance of Things Past, vol. 1), (trans.) C.K.
Scott Moncrieff, vol. 1 (, 2006), p. 37.
18 Gilles Deleuzev, Proust and Signs, (trans.) Richard Howard. (New York: G.
Braziller, 1972), pp. 75–58.
19 Derrida, Jacques, ‘Point de Folie – maintenant l’architecture’, (trans.) Kate
Linker, AA Files, no. 12, summer 1986, pp. 65–75.
20 Organized by Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper and Edward van Voolen at the
Akademie der Künste. They later edited a volume of the papers, Denkmale und kulturelles Gedächtnis nach dem Ende der Ost-West-Konfrontation (Berlin, Jovis verlag, 2000).
21 See William Mackenzie, The Secret History of SOE, Special Operations
Executive 1940–45 (St. Ermin’s Press, 2002) and files held at the Imperial War Museum, London.
1 Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here
Pivotal to a discussion of architecture, memory and place is the importance of our material world. That we have materiality is no small factor in evaluating the role it plays in our lives. Let me begin with a discussion of the nature of making physical a place, and at the same time, what it means to possibly know a place, physically. Portbou is a remote town on the Costa Brava, at the northeastern edge of Spain. An active border-crossing before Europe became unified, Portbou is now a sleepy village. The coastline that traces both sides of the French-Spanish border is bare and mountainous, rugged and untamed. Whitewashed villages lodged between cliffs lace the edge of the sea from Cap Creus to Cap Béar, epitomizing maritime beauty while they conceal the disquiet of history. Close by, in the tunnel, under what was the border until 1995, a change of trains used to be required because of the gauge difference between French and Spanish trains. During World War II, endless delays were caused by searches conducted while travellers disembarked and re-boarded at the border crossing.1 Travel and, ultimately, destiny, were suspended. This place has shifted from being a border town to one that no longer has a frontier function, but carries the formidable weight of being both a fishing village with a quiet beach, and the place of Walter Benjamin’s death. Switches and whistles, flotsam sprays, whirling eddies and winds animate the simplicity and deceptive calm of this landscape with its history of train crossings and escape. Portbou is most familiar to those who know the story of Benjamin’s history there, and for those who travel to pay tribute to the philosopher at his memorial place. On a promontory at the tip of the extended arms of the cove, as a prelude to the town’s cemetery is where Passages, Homage to Walter Benjamin (1990–1994) by Dani Karavan begins. In a letter to Jean Selz, the philosopher and friend of Benjamin, Theodor Adorno wrote of what he was told about Benjamin’s last hours: We think that it was 26 September 1940. Benjamin had crossed over the Pyrenees with a small group of emigrants to take refuge in Spain. This group was intercepted at Portbou by Spanish police, who told them that they would be sent back to Vichy the next day. In the night, Benjamin swallowed a massive dose of sleeping pills and opposed the care they offered him.2
1.1 Dani Karavan, Passages, 1994, Portbou. Credit: Shelley Hornstein.
Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here
Karavan’s Passages attempts to spatialize the conjunction of Benjamin’s life and death. It is a memorial that measures space and time. Out of what appear to be arbitrarily placed objects in the landscape, order emerges. Passages is, quite simply, if not reductively, an appointment with nature. Consonant with the issues Benjamin addresses in his writings – on memory, architecture, political and intellectual history, a topic to which I will return later – the memorial is composed of an assemblage of props or sensorial aids that heighten the sounds, sights, touch, and even the smell of nature. It not only poetically explores his writings, but bespeaks his fate. How might we rethink commemorative sites in the light of the two major challenges facing the making of memorials? Commonly considered permanent installations to mark the geographic location of an event in history and/or memory – not always the same – memorials face challenges at a time when we are wont to mark, honour or celebrate history. During this peculiar period of overmemorialization, even obsession, as Huyssen has called it,3 with erecting or creating or rethinking memorials, how can we achieve something significant without overdetermining the project and numbing its relevance to those who will explore it? With Passages, Karavan diagnoses the complexities of commemoration in a culture that is preoccupied with memorials and sites of memory. He prescribes a monument that heightens consideration of place, that is, the natural and built environment. Yet, by virtue of its remote location, this place will be seen only by a few. A monument, after all, is built for its constituents: those for whom it holds meaning. But who are its constituents? If it aims to reach out to those not affected directly by that history or memory, it can only do so as an art object. Pragmatically, this can be a good thing, luring tourists in order to educate them indirectly through the art itself about the tragedies of history. The monument then becomes a symbol, that is, with no relationship to that which it signifies, but needing to be learned in order to become convention, as does language. Therefore, Karavan distributes the pieces of this memorial as stepping stones for pulling together the ideas necessary to consider the whole. The whole, summed up by these parts scattered in this place. And for Karavan, this place matters and is, without doubt, the monument’s raison d’être. Erecting a monument on the site of a tragedy means erecting a monument for a community with a shared history and memory or a desire to pay tribute to that history. The shared history and memory of Walter Benjamin are both local to Portbou, and international. But given its remote location, even its near-isolation, will this buried monument be effective with no visitors? Karavan feeds off the need to address remoteness and thus turns the monument back to nature. In order to claim the site of the monument for the memorial, Karavan selects rough, cold, industrial materials: glass and rusting Corten steel that alert us to the ideas that he introduces. He propels us into a contract with nature, which demands – through our varying positions and perspectives – that we respect what we hear and see and feel. Instead of controlling the
vistas, we subordinate ourselves to them and relinquish the need to colonize and appropriate what we hold within our senses. Karavan’s work guides us to the heart of the project: place as the here and now, place as far from us, place as the ultimate memory marker. But because place counts before all else, ‘being there’, experiencing it in situ, is a prerequisite. ‘Being there’ is, however, a circumstance of privilege: a privilege of knowledge about Benjamin who, after all, is not a household name; of the history of his escape plans through Spain, his death at Portbou, and of the existence of the memorial. Perhaps this privileged knowledge constitutes what Jay Winter calls ‘memory activists’ or ‘fictive kin’ who, as he suggests, are those in … unified groups, [who are] bonded not by blood but by experience. They share the imprint of history on their lives. They work, quarrel, and endure together; they support each other. At such times, their bonds are sufficiently strong to allow us to call them ‘fictive kin’. Indeed, these ‘fictive kinship groups’ are key agents of remembrance.4
In order to remember effectively, one must ‘shrink and focus’ from the national scale of remembering an event to the ‘particular and ordinary’, that is, aim to localize through smaller groups of people and specifically in towns where the direct rapport with the site takes effect.5 Commemoration can only begin by working through shared, communal memory, but according to Winter’s definition, the group in question would be those residents of Portbou who were in some way connected with the French and Spanish border patrols. However, they are, at least for now, the silent group. Conversely, the active group, according to Winter, is composed of those who come to honour the work of the philosopher and to support each other because of their implicit connections with the circumstances surrounding his death, rather than to quarrel. Like a spear piercing the road to reappear on the overhanging cliff, a wide, square, rusty, beam-like tunnel marks the beginning of Karavan’s Passages. At first dark and covered and later open to the sky, this is actually a steep, confining stairwell, 30m long, that invites but simultaneously terrifies as it plunges to the sea. Our sightline is forced to confront the turbulence of the swirling waters . Karavan tampers with our equilibrium as we become unhinged from the stable ground. In this chute we are provoked to consider performing our own possible deaths, but stop short before being hurled into the sea. Therefore we tread gingerly down these steep steps until we meet the glass wall that prevents our further descent. Etched in the glass is an epigraph by Benjamin that poetically expresses his thoughts about returning to the past by way of a shock in the present, while underscoring the dangers of dwelling on him alone: ‘It is more arduous to honour the memory of the nameless than that of the renowned. Historical construction is devoted to the memory of the nameless’6
Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here
Our task of remembrance, as Karavan suggests through Benjamin’s words, is a continuing project, always linked to others and to places that are never separate or distinct. Our return to the top of the stairwell brings us face-to-face with those larger connections as we confront a tombstone-like construction made of rocks from the adjacent pathway across the road. Even further afield, tucked behind the edge of the existing cemetery, are five Corten stairs that create a viewing station to a solitary olive tree (fig. 5). Further up the harsh trail around the cemetery wall is yet another environmental piece that reads as a found object: a low cube in the centre of a square, rusty platform (fig. 6). Is this a seat for mediation? A bolt anchoring the platform? A gravestone? A socle for the traditional sculpture that Karavan’s work displaces? Karavan’s memorial exists in the visual, tactile and aural realms. He takes as his commemorative object the evidentiary site, and intentionally inserts manufactured objects into the landscape. He carves imaginary potential pathways for new geographies in the rugged surroundings. Building on the dual challenges of how to make a memorial bear meaning in a period after the obsession with memorialization and the haunting taboo against representation post-Holocaust, Karavan’s Passages punctuates the earth at multiple strategic points to amplify nature and shape space. He is determined to fashion our movements although he refuses to allow the monument to act as a narrative guide. Instead he resists sequentiality in an experiment with architecture that burrows into and erupts out of the site; it disappears and reappears, effacing itself in order that we may fill the continuum. It underscores the immediate topography by reaching out to physical and imagined places beyond its own physicality, evacuating itself from its place, while, ironically being both in this place and beyond it. By our movements in and around the site, we activate the ground of history and conjoin the here and there. It is very true that in this place, nature itself, as Karavan explains in his sketchbook, is actually telling the tragedy of Walter Benjamin, but only, I would argue, because Karavan calls it to our attention.7 We in turn read the tragedy by the cues that he provides, cues comparable to Le Corbusier’s framed ‘window’ onto the landscape of Poissy in his Villa Savoye, or Jan van Eyck’s painted vista seen from the loggia in The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (1433–1434; Louvre), both of which provide viewing boxes for otherwise ignored landscapes. Karavan’s small, unassuming, self-effacing yet declaratory piece attracts a handful of visitors annually to make the pilgrimage. The monument, then, is a pivotal addition for Portbou as it forges a link to the past for its residents while possibly awakening a collective responsibility. For the tourist economy the town is now the memory theatre for the itinerant performance of visitors. They come to pay homage to Benjamin, or reconcile the past, and for this the monument serves as tangible proof that history took place here. Karavan acknowledges the complexity of his mission, but his motives are clear: even if only a few pilgrims actually reach the site, he aims for the widest and largest possible public. He chooses to accentuate the deceptive serenity of nature, as he has in many other works, thereby steadfastly grabbing our attention.
Our thoughts turn to Benjamin’s death and his larger meditations on history, memory, and trauma. As if to suggest peacefulness and stability, the memorial seems at first to be anchored in one physical place, while it slowly reveals its inner energy. It devolves, dismantles itself and becomes unfixed, appearing infinitely moveable in the landscape and in the imaginary. Karavan’s Passages, while anchored firmly in the soil, seems to be severed, with its own parts scattered. Furthermore, it severs the ground by altering its own and the place’s topography. No longer keeper of its own shape, the monument reaches across the overhanging ledge to an immeasurable region not defined by borders. This ‘smooth’ space echoes the ‘nomadic’ space of Deleuze and Guattari, who understand smooth space structure as contingent upon its situation. Inspired by Pierre Boulez who coined the terms with regard to music, smooth music allows for irregularity of movement. Striated music, in contrast, follows an ordered pattern. Smooth space ‘has no homogeneity … and the linking of proximities is effected independently of any determined path … Smooth space is wedded to a very particular type of multiplicity: nonmeric, acentered, rhizomatic multiplicities that occupy space without “counting” it and “can be explored only by legwork.”’8 Nomadic space is not subject to directional movement or narrative: it is defined by mobility, and mobility – ironically as it abolishes fixed placement – can arguably be defined by its relationship to place. Movement follows a trajectory – a mobility from and to a place – rather than a defined route.9 In this way the monument speaks of the arbitrary nature of borders. Relays move across the physical and visible landscape with no specific direction. The only guidance is provided by sounds echoing in the cove. Passages is connected geographically with other sites that Benjamin knew: Naples, Paris, Marseilles, and Berlin. Spatial and imagined places transport us to recall Benjamin through his writings and the almost mythologized story of his journey across the Pyrenees to Portbou, where he spent his last night. Only from this geographic place, is it possible to create the leap into the spaces beyond. In keeping with the notion of nomadic space formulated by Deleuze and Guattari and Boulez’s original concept of smooth space, we participate and perform in this place while dependent upon the material props that Karavan inserts in the landscape to act as signposts of remembrance. Benjamin’s work confronts the idea of progress or narrative history.10 Instead he proposes a series of encounters or conjunctions:11 To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’ [Ranke]. It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to retain that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger.12
But later, when referring to the painting by Paul Klee titled Angelus Novus, as the ‘angel of history’, Benjamin wrote:
Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here
This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.13
Benjamin’s own thoughts about history play with returns or reversals, nonlinear movement and the performative act. These are all also part of Karavan’s concept of the monument. I emphasize the act because, not only does the work extend visually and aurally, but it also relies on our performativity as visitors to the site, to integrate the idea of what is local and here, in Portbou, with what is out there, beyond this site, giving us the smooth space. Karavan, too, reverses history and plays with translations between the visual and the verbal, disturbing a progressional and evolutionary narrative. Objects are simply placed, poetically. Steps lead somewhere but nowhere while we search for connections through Karavan’s steel furniture designed as abbreviations and references, Benjaminian ‘flashes’ to things beyond, before, and after. Memory, then, is performed, enacted, acted, played out. This can mean walking in situ through the monument that Karavan has created, but can also mean taking the reflected spaces that are suggested as belonging to the piece – the landscape including the cove, the breaking and swirling waves, the border zone – as part of that smooth, nomadic space that extends the piece. This monument is full of actions unfulfilled in any empirical sense, and is an awakening, a shock-like montage that creates its own performed history. While Benjamin’s life was cut short, we are here, in this place, to extend his life and ours at this meeting place of the end that was his. But the ongoing work of Benjamin’s legacy carries on beyond this physical, architectonic, lost, place: … historical time extends infinitely in all directions and is in all of its moments unfulfilled. This means that there exists no conceivable empirical event which has a necessary relation to the specific temporal situation in which it occurs. For empirical occurrences, time is a mere form, and, what is more important, a form which, as form is unfulfilled.14
These are the extensions of the Karavan project that play upon the geographic links between the land and the imagined spaces. Rather than what at first appears to be a collision and collapsing of politics, landscape, history, and memory, the monument is actually an expansion of the site of the memorial to give the town and its landscape a voice. Because architecture can be called the great spatial captor, capturing memory as it defines space by delimiting it, Karavan returns his piece to its setting so that it may serve as a compass to orient memory beyond itself, in order to inscribe its history in the present and let the voice of the place reverberate.
In its quiet, small way, Passages confronts some of the headiest debates about experientiality, witnessing, and presence in a forum of remembering. Peregrinations to this place mean stepping inside the local, while being there is never limited to a local absolute. Because of the monument’s strategy of signposts to mark the land, and their ability to cue us to connect the dots in open-ended patterns, we step into the site and leave nomadically, carrying its continuation. Such is Karavan’s hope: that a pilgrim continues a pilgrim’s quest, that a local community eventually takes on the role of memory activists; that this place, this Passage, is only that.15
Notes 1 The borders internal to the EU were gradually abolished. ‘Everyone who
enters the Schengen area lawfully is allowed to cross internal borders with and between the new Schengen Member States without being subjected to border checks.’ The border controls between Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal were abolished on 26 March 1997. See: European Commission, Justice and Home affairs, European Union, ‘Schengenenlargement’,March 2009, Freedom, Security and Justice, .
2 This is reconstructed from the memoirs of Henny Gurland, who travelled
on foot with Benjamin and others that night across the Pyrenees to flee the border control on their way to the USA to join Adorno and Horckheimer. She apparently destroyed the two suicide letters that Benjamin gave her; see T. Adorno and W. Benjamin, The Complete Correspondence 1928–1940 (Harvard, 1999). There is no evidence of his suicide; the body is missing and much of this changes the nature of interpretation of the monument and indeed, his life.
3 Andreas Huyssen, Twilight Memories; Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia
(New York & London, 1995), pp. 1–9.
4 This was first discussed by Jay Winter at the ‘Monuments and Cultural
Memory’ symposium, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1998. See J. Winter, ‘Topoi und Erleben. Eine Interpretation der gesellschaftlichen Wirkung von Kriegsdenkmälern’ in Denkmale und kulturelles Gedächtnis nach dem Ende der Ost-West-Konfrontation, (eds) E. van Voolen and G. Dolff-Bonekämper, (Berlin, 2000), pp. 25–41; reprinted as ‘Remembrance and redemption: a social interpretation of war memorials’, Harvard Design Review, fall 1999: 71–7.
5 Ibid. 6 Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften, (eds) R. Tiedemann and H.
Schweppenhäuser, Frankfurt/Main, 1974–1991, vol. 1, p. 1241.
7 Siegfried Unseld, Winifried Menninghaus, Ingrid Scheurmann, Konrad Scheurmann, Dani Karavan, Timothy Nevill, and Walter Benjamin. For Walter Benjamin (Bonn: AsKI, 1993), p. 255. 8 Benjamin, Gesammelte, p. 371. 9 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus; Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, (trans.) B. Massumi, (Minneapolis, 2002), pp. 380–83.
Marking Site: Walter Benjamin was Here 10 Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the concept [or philosophy] of history’, in
Illuminations, (trans.) H. Zohn, (New York, 1968), pp. 25–64.
11 Ian Balfour, ‘Reversal, quotation (Benjamin’s history)’, MLN (formerly
Modern Language Notes), CVI, 3, April 1991, pp. 622–47.
12 Ibid., p. 255. 13 Benjamin, as at note 8, pp. 257–8. 14 Ibid. 15 An International Colloquium commemorating the seventieth anniversary of Walter Benjamin’s death took place in Portbou, 17–26 September 2010, http:// walterbenjaminportbou.cat/en/content/portbou-conference-2010 [accessed 2 December 2010], organized in part by the City of Portbou in an effort to bring greater awareness to the monument and the place.
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2 Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
This chapter questions the legacy of a select group of post-World War II monuments and discusses their timelessness, rather than our exhaustion of them, as a function of the relationship between memory and place. Taking four projects in two important capital cities as the case studies, I intend to elaborate on some of the cultural and political thinking about memorializing, monumentality and city space. The first example is the Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation, built in 1962, and located in Paris. The remaining three, all in Berlin, are: the Jewish Museum Berlin (2001), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2005), and the Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims (2008). I will present these monuments chronologically because, in charting the life of an early memorial that will soon mark its fiftieth year, I will then be able to look back and reveal, I hope, how such a monument evolves, yet remains contemporary. Next, the chronology moves forward to the end of the twentieth century when two monuments in Berlin unwittingly dialogue with each other on an urban scale. They are by far the largest, most elaborate projects dedicated to the Holocaust in that city and, in fact, in the whole of Germany. The last monument I will explore is the most recent. It presents itself as a response, in a performative sense, to much of the Holocaust memorial culture and built structures – one in particular – in Berlin. Despite the chronological differences and distances that separate them, and while each monument is bound to its geography and its site, they are connected by the fact that each one commemorates its community’s Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Each is an example of the complexities involved in working through the question of how we should and do remember. But more importantly, since much has been written that attempts to unravel this question, I want to investigate how architecture attempts to capture memory so that memorialization can stay relevant.
Paris Let me begin this journey to look at how memorials matter for us now and in the future by first glancing back to the postwar period in France.1 In what Pierre Birnbaum describes as a ‘profoundly Catholic’ country dotted with abbeys and churches, France’s traces of Jewish memory are, ‘piecemeal, scattered, shattered’, to the point that there exist thousands of plaques and monuments commemorating the tragedies of World War II without coherent links between them, yet assembled as if part of a homogeneous whole. As a result, Birnbaum contends, there is a disappearing and slowly erasing symbol of this history. Common to many of these monuments is the inscription: ‘mort pour la France’, a term inherited from World War I, and entered into French law as of 2 July 1915. This law stipulates that the inscription was authorized only for communal monuments, except in cases where permission was granted to honour a particular individual. Amongst the many thousands of memorials, only four in France – three of which are located in Paris – are national monuments, and thus in the order of a collective initiative to remember. They are: the Chapel of the Deportation in the Church of Saint-Roch, the memorials of the concentration camps in the Père-Lachaise cemetery, and outside of Paris, in Alsace, the memorial at Struthof, the only concentration camp built on what was, and is once more, French soil, 50 kilometres from Strasbourg. Saint-Roch has a forthright Christian agenda to commemorate within the precincts of the Church. In each one of these memorials, the fact of Jewish loss is either ignored, or merely referenced. The aura of contemplation and silence at many of these sites is present, and one wonders whose collective voice is speaking; the eclipsing of Jewish memory by French (national) memory is underscored. To quote Birnbaum: ‘Absent from the memory of the kingdom and of the nation, French Jews themselves often behave as if suffering from amnesia. Their memory is almost entirely identified with that of France. They have forgotten the events of their own history.’2 But this forms an essential part of what Ernst Renan in his essay ‘What is a Nation’ (1882), claimed we must do in order to surrender to a national, collective whole. The illusion of universalism, in the Declaration of 1789, is created by a politics of humankind and a series of assumptions based on Enlightenment values such as progress, rationalism, justice and tolerance. Renan served to provide a model of constructed harmony and equality, while ensuring that we disregard difference: ‘Forgetting – I would even go so far as to say historical error – is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation. The essence of a nation is that all individuals have many things in common, and also that they have forgotten many things.’3 The indeterminacy of French Judaism in post-war France results from a fundamental and paradoxical need to forget and mourn collectively. Alain Finkielkraut, one of France’s towering cultural figures, describes it as a
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
need for those who are both Jewish and French to belong to a particular imagined community: those born immediately following World War II, whose parents escaped the Nazi genocide. Their parent-survivors have asked two contradictory things of their children: that they assimilate, so as not to resemble those who were killed, and at the same time that they live in the shadow of the dead, in the shadow of the Holocaust. Loss, and the prescription not to lose are thus at the heart of that generation’s collective identity. One memorial coalesces these modern ideas of assimilated oneness, of a history that may have wanted to speak to all and blend identities in stunningly abstract architectural forms. At the eastern tip of the Ile de la Cité in Paris, directly behind the gardens of Notre Dame Cathedral, lies the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation). Inaugurated by Charles de Gaulle in 1962 the Memorial was designed by architect and professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Georges-Henri Pingusson (1894–1978), a significant figure in the modernist architectural community.
2.1 Georges Pingusson, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, 1962, Paris. Credit: Simon Texier.
The Memorial project was initiated in 1953 by the Réseau du souvenir (Network of Remembrance), an association of ‘deportees’: survivors of the German concentration camps, founded in 1952. Although the project was authorized to proceed (the Council unanimously voted in favour of building a monument to the Martyrs of the Deportation on Parisian soil), the site was not officially designated until 1956, when a lot was allocated by the Municipal Council ‘on the point of the Ile de la Cité, upriver of the Seine, in the Archbishop’s Square’.4 More bureaucracy followed: in 1958 the Ministry of the Interior authorized the building of the memorial, but in December of 1960, the Prime Minister launched a public campaign, followed by an order from the Ministry of War Veterans that called for the creation of a national committee for the building of a monument in Paris to the memory of the heroes and martyrs of the deportation. This memorial was designed parallel to the Monument du martyr juif inconnu (Monument to the unknown Jewish martyr), proposed in 1951 but inaugurated in 1956, at the site of the Centre de la documentation juive contemporaine, on rue Geoffroy-l’Aisnier. The latter honours the memory of six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, whereas the Pingusson memorial – with its earliest proposals dating from 1954 – singles out the French losses exclusively. It highlights the fact that those who lost their lives were, before all else, French patriots – ‘mort pour la France’. Whether or not they were Jewish, or adherents of any other religious, racial or cultural denomination, is secondary. While the former was created as a uniquely Jewish site of mourning and remembrance, the latter was intentionally national, and free of any connection to religion, culture or race. The intention of the memorial on the Ile de la Cité was to attempt to represent French suffering and a site of national identity, irrespective of religious or cultural denomination. The artistic consultant chosen by the Réseau was Jean Cassou, Chief Curator of the Musée national d’Art moderne.5 He stated: [Pingusson and I] … agreed on the forms … It should not be built like ordinary statues or monuments, but instead should consider the site whose lines present a harmony that is characteristic: it should not break away from the horizontality of the river and the point of the island … it should invite the passerby to … feel as though he should be welcomed into this space at once intimate and collective … this is a project in which the architectural spirit, organization of space, construction, are more important than the sculpture.6
Financed partly by the state, and partly with contributions from other sources, including those who responded to a national fundraising campaign, the memorial is built on a site donated by the city with the condition that no part of the memorial be visible above ground.7 Indeed, the symbolic liaison between Notre Dame Cathedral and the Memorial is marked by the crypt of the church being extended topographically and spiritually by the crypt of the Memorial.8 The initial brochure published by the Réseau du Souvenir captures this relationship as follows:
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
It was important that the site itself should express the Spirit of Remembrance. Its place, therefore, was in the ground of our time-honoured capital, within the precincts of the old Paris of Philippe-Auguste, at the foremost point of the Ile de la Cité, in the thousand year old shadow of Notre-Dame. It was here that the Crypt was hollowed out of the sacred isle, the cradle of our nation, which incarnates the soul of France – a place where its spirit dwells. For was it not around this core, this ‘twin vessel’ sung by the poet Charles Péguy, that our country came into being?9
The rhetoric is clear: from the association with Notre-Dame cathedral to the poetry and philosophy of Christian advocate Charles Péguy – the twin vessels recalling the towers of Notre-Dame. This only serves to confirm how the civic objective was to maintain this monument (and others in France, and elsewhere) within the precincts of a national place of mourning devoid of individuals and their communities, in spite of the recognition of what at the time was calculated at 200,000 lives lost. The space of the Memorial begins at street level. In order to find the monument (and one must be determined to do so), one must walk behind Notre Dame Cathedral and begin to search. A fenced property is bordered by Hicks yew hedges above eye level that restrict any view beyond. A very small sign points in the direction of the Memorial that lies beyond the gate. At this moment, if the visitor is fortunate enough to find that sign, comes the realization that the hunt is over. Inside the gate a lawn rolls out to the river, but is halted at a short concrete wall that bears the name of the Memorial. This space might be read as a preliminary space of abstraction, almost a tabula rasa, a site that cleans the slate of the chaos outside the gates and permits a meditative aura to displace any previous congestion of the mind and spirit. Beyond this, it is helpful to read this space as marking time in a way that helps us to somehow decelerate the process of where we need to rest our thoughts and what follows. Indeed, this important space that doubles as an entrance and exit, devoid of figuration and alternative references, forces us to take the time to walk from the gate to the entrance, or the exit to the gate. This orchestrated space takes careful measure of time. Two narrow punctures in the wall indicate entrances. At this point the steep descent leads into the majesty of a contemplative space below. Each step down creates a rhythm, calculated in the architecture to mark time in perfect syncopation with what happens next: a careful descent down a very severe and narrow staircase with unusually high risers has been calculated to enable visitors to progressively cancel the Parisian facades until they disappear altogether. Finally, all that is left to view is the square, white floor, enveloped by the whitewashed solid walls of this empty, somewhat triangular-shaped space. The striking austerity is relieved, in a manner of speaking, by a sculptural grille that leads the eye to the tip of the space that is sliced off and left open in full view of the Seine River, reminding us all the while that we are level with the water.
This is perhaps the singular most aesthetic bind: the heightened beauty of the space is further enhanced by the drama of the water smacking the space in which we are located. Pingusson designed a sharply angular, sculptural black grille to bar the opening and set the tone: our sense of entrapment is clear but is never confused with any simulation or redemption of the past. We are in a monument that reverses any sense of the past and aims to see the present and the future. Because of an aesthetic awareness within the space, it is impossible
2.2 Georges Pingusson, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, 1962, Paris. Credit: Simon Texier.
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
to re-present any semblance of the brutality and trauma of the past. Because Pingusson clearly understood this impossibility: that is, rather than create a monument that attempts to reconstruct the past, he chooses an approach that encourages our reflection in the present, through our admiration for the solemnity of the space and its evocation of silence. He achieves this by slowing down our pace and monitoring our ambulatory visit through the monument, carefully considering the timeframe, as though manipulating grains of sand as they trickle through an hourglass. Without that clean separation, without that desire to be seen as independent from the past with nothing more than subtle aesthetic footnotes, it would not be possible to observe the horror of that past. Pingusson frames the past under an opaque surface. The past is there but impossible to see. He wrote: ‘The expression of this monument is purely architectural, no sculpture was judged necessary, only the complete bareness speaks, as well as the only elements, air, water, earth and fire.’10 This second space is infused with the awareness of being, physically, at the ‘mouth’ of the Ile de la Cité, and with our precariousness at this site: below ground and ‘flush’ with the river where this memorial can be consumed, drowned by it, we comprehend the notion of our own fragility. The final space is a crypt-like interior space, accessed by an acutely constricting pair of pylons. Here, natural light is restricted and limited, and artificial light is strategic. We enter a hexagonal space, a memorial space by virtue of what often connotes such a space: a tomb to an unknown deportee. A very long and narrow corridor, inaccessible to visitors – almost like a crawl space – exhibits 200,000 lighted glass beads on either wall. This echoes the custom, in Jewish synagogues, of placing a light on the memorial board, or in memory of deceased relatives. Across the entrance and above, the following words are etched deeply into the stone: ‘Deux cent mille français sombrés exterminés dans les camps nazis’ (200,000 French citizens lost, exterminated in the Nazi death camps). Two galleries traverse the central space: to the left and right are niches with the names of the camps engraved on triangular copper plaques and embedded deep into the concrete, marking the urns placed within that contain ashes of concentration camp victims. Each niche reveals an empty, symbolic prison cell and outside it, on the walls, are writings by Eluard, Maydieu, Saint-Exupéry, Aragon, and Sartre, among others. The idea that Paris, as the centre of France for the capital of the revolution, the Commune, and the Liberation, would be selected for the site of this monument, was initially at the heart of a polemic within Jewish communities about the Mémorial du martyr juif inconnu at the Centre de la Documentation Juive Contemporaine. This was not to be a monument for French Jews exclusively, but rather a monument for all Jews, a singular site, then, for the commemoration of those murdered during the Holocaust. Isaac Schneersohn, the initiator of the project stated: Paris remains the centre of the world and the city of freedom, where each street is sanctified by historical memory. France, which, within the scope of one century, experienced three German aggressions, is most certainly
the country least likely to forget the crimes of teutonic barbarism. France is uncontestably the one country that will remain consistently faithful to humanitarian and democratic ideals.11
But this was not the view of all: in a country where Jews were trying to piece together their lives in post-war France, they wanted, above all, to forget. Daniel Mayer, who in the end would support the project, was hostile at the outset and insisted that France should make no distinctions amongst its citizens; to erect a monument to Jewish victims of Nazi crimes would, he believed, mean that Jews would be singled out.12 Even André Blumel, another leader within the Jewish community, asked why a monument should be erected in Paris when it was not in Paris where the ‘martyrs’ were assassinated. If Germany wanted to repudiate its past, he reasoned, it should be taking the initiative. Moreover, it was Warsaw that should be distinguished as the most important site of remembrance. And if all these sites failed to initiate such projects, then Jerusalem should be designated as the place where this symbol must be erected.13 Let me return to the rights of those killed in the line of national and civic duty. ‘Mort pour la France’ is frequently inscribed on plaques, stelae and monuments, in accordance with the law of 2 July 1915, which states ‘in the name of this person who has given his life for the nation, a clear and imperishable title of gratitude and respect from every French citizen’. The Mémorial des martyrs français de la Déportation never utters a syllable to recognize the cultural identities of those murdered, or to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of lives lost by deportation to death camps during World War II were Jewish. Instead, this memorial and this topographic site read as a stunning erasure of Jewish presence and Jewish identity and, in fact, of any Jewish topography of France, while highlighting French national martyrdom. If I am signalling this point, it is because of the clear move from the indeterminacy of multiple cultural identities (and Renan’s push to forget difference) towards a recovery of Jewish memory palpable in contemporary French writing, preeminently in the work of Finkielkraut.14 A letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center suggested that the sign outside should read: ‘to the 200,000 unknown martyrs deported from France, of which more than 70,000 were Jews – men, women and children.’15 The response from the Ministry of Defence is telling: the Constitution of 1958 states in Article 1 that ‘France is an indivisible republic, laic, democratic and social. France assures the equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. France respects all beliefs’. This tradition dates to the French Revolution and the Declaration of Human Rights and all citizens. Therefore the office is opposed to all changes of the wording at the Memorial.16 How curious it is, then, and almost destined, that most visitors to the site interpret it as a Holocaust monument, dedicated to the Jewish losses in France. In 1978, Brian Brace Taylor, Curator, and Arthur Drexler, Director of Architecture and Design at MOMA, requested to include photographs of the Memorial in a show at the Museum entitled ‘Transformations in Modern Architecture’ calling it the ‘Mémorial aux Juifs Martyrs, Ile de la Cité’ (sic).17
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
More surprising still is a 1999 publication on the work of architect-decorator, Jean-Charles Moreux (1889–1956), one of the initial architects invited to submit a design for the memorial in 1953, in which the project is referred to as the ‘mémorial des Martyrs juifs de la déportation’ (Memorial to the Jewish Martyrs of the Deportation).18 Hauntingly absent, or more precisely, invisible, is what is not being told: here, a magnificent modernist aesthetic, in keeping with the whitewashed surfaces utilized by an entire generation of colleagues (Le Corbusier, MalletStevens and others), administers an aesthetic credo that has been much adored and respected since it was first developed. In the end, the solemn beauty that beckons us to participate in this space also invites our curiosity about the notion of absence and abstraction. What seems to play out, especially today in the spaces of this memorial as an abstracted whole, is that, with an absence of didactic imagery and text, yet with spare symbols of concentration camps, memorial lights and a hexagonal rotunda that evokes the Star of David, visitors, who are now clear to celebrate cultural particularism and difference, tend to exit from the spaces imbued with a sense of ‘Jewish’ loss. It is a poetic turn. With strident efforts to erase difference and to secure wholeness of French national loss through a campaign of harmony between an abstracted idea of universal tragedy, the Memorial particularizes and designates those losses. The very Constitutional requirements of indivisibility provided in a space of abstraction, leave traces of openness that allow for the wholeness never to be understood. As the theoretical place where abstraction from figuration is also a withdrawal from identification, and where choosing symbols over the naming of Jewish losses is abstraction of another order, Jewish identity, in this site of symbolic forms that aims to suggest wholeness, has been declared.
Markers of Death What the Paris monument declares boldly in its subtle topographical ensconcement is the need for a place to stop, a place that is dedicated to thinking about an event related to mortality, a place of remembering and revisiting, or a place of learning how to open up a space in one’s life between here and there: a physical place, a marker that enables meditation. If we reach back to the first biblical mention of this type of place, we remind ourselves it is Rachel’s tomb. Today, the monument most familiar to us is a tombstone or pillar as a marker of death, and more than this, the marker of a person’s body and its placement at the most traditional site of mourning: the cemetery. The Bible tells us: ‘Thus Rachel died, and was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel’s grave until today’ (Genesis xxxv: 19–20).19 According to a Midrash (the interpretations or commentaries of biblical texts), this monument was erected in order to be re-marked – thus remarked and remembered – by exiled
Jews who would pray there. Interestingly, however, and according to the view of one scholar, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel, righteous individuals should not need tombstones because their memory is kept alive through their words, or their interpretations of the Bible. This is witnessed by the verse in II Samuel (xviii: 18), in which Absalom required a tombstone in order to remind others of him: ‘Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar … for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called until this day, Absalom’s place.’20 Therefore, and to return to the notion of memory, the tombstone, according to Ben Gamliel, is to keep the memory of the departed alive for us, as the living, and conversely, when a righteous person dies, the memorial of that person is kept alive in the individual’s thoughts or references (much like the footnotes in this text where, unrelated to death, of course, the memory of the scholar is activated for the reader by citation). Another interpretation for erecting a tombstone is related to a marking the sites of those who are impure (since those who are righteous require no gravestone), and therefore the religious caste, or the kohanim, who needed to maintain their purity, could avoid those areas. Thus, a tombstone may serve several functions, representing at times the individual, at times purity, at times the designation of the place of burial where the bereaved may pray, either for the departed or for God’s mercy. The complex and sometimes contradictory commentaries continue today, in particular by those who do not approve of the custom of praying at Rachel’s Tomb, indicating that there is an ongoing interpretation and even contestation, among Jews, of burial sites, tombstones, or monuments to mark the site of death. The narrative of the Paris memorial crystallizes this entry point: that now, almost 50 years since its completion, its enduring resonance, through the space it creates, is palpable. This is due, in no small part, to the waves of interest – sometimes high, sometimes low – to France’s involvement in World War II and its positioning, relative to the German occupation from 1940 to 1944.21 There is also no question that the aesthetics of the design contribute inexorably to the success of the monument’s enduring appreciation. Yet while aesthetics and history form the building blocks of commemorative monuments, it is critical to provide some important theoretical observations about monuments as markers of death in the modern period, before discussing the case of Berlin, as they are distinct from, yet as linked to the history of tombstones. In the modern period, at the turn of the twentieth century, art historian Alois Riegl wrote, in his pioneering work on monuments, that they are, first and foremost, artefacts. Furthermore, he argues that their age determines the development, among enthusiasts, of what he suggests is a cult. Ultimately, his work speaks about the idea of value and how we come to value works. But what he specified as ‘intentional monuments’, are created to preserve events or a human act, or combination of both, so that they are present and alive in the conscience of future generations.22 The distinction he made between intentional monuments – those created expressly for the purpose
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of commemoration – as opposed to unintentional monuments, or those earning the label of monument through the loss of its initial function over a considerable period of time (the Pyramids, for example) – was instrumental in sorting out some confusion in the lexicon. To take it further, the ‘cult’ of monuments results, he argues, if an intentional monument depicting someone or something which commemorates or stands in for a particular event is no longer present, its function is erased. There is a direct connection, in other words, between the past and the present as we, the viewer, keep the memory alive.23 With that concept in mind, it is not too far a stride to see the link to a physical object, and why have we been compelled to make the bridge between the metaphysical idea of remembering and the physical object in which we invest that memory. Furthermore, the physical object that takes on manifold forms, does so in situ, in place, never without place. While it is true enough that memory resides in performative rituals and oral histories, those rituals are embodied by the performer who conveys the narratives and, in a sense, the stories are shaped not only by the telling, but by the physical contexts in which they are told or performed. Pierre Nora puts it this way: ‘a lieu de mémoire is any significant entity, whether material or non-material in nature, which by dint of human will or the work of time has become a symbolic element of the memorial heritage of any community … .’24 Yet Nora’s thought is only partially formed, and it is later that he continues: ‘Lieux de mémoire are fundamentally vestiges, the ultimate embodiments of a commemorative consciousness that survives in a history which, having renounced memory, cries out for it.’25 So, whether a monument is regarded as a material object, or a narrative performed through the telling, it takes up a place, and places hold the connectors to memory; the corollary being that memory is telescoped into a physical substance in the objects and performances of everyday life. Without the contexts, without the attachments to matter – even matter imagined in the places of our minds – the memories fade away. We hold onto a distinct, arguably innate fear, almost an anxiety beyond logic, of losing memory. Memory’s inherent fragility is lamented by Marco Polo, in Italo Calvino’s novel, when he imparts to the Great Kublai Khan: ‘Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased. I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.’26 If words are not enough to give us the tangible place we need to remind us to remember, we invest built forms and sites with memory, to have them make permanent and tangible the memory we dread forgetting.
The Modern – and Monumental – Demise as Aside At this point, I want to introduce an aside: an observation important enough not to be cast off into a footnote, but that can be read as an annotation in the margins, or a hypertext to enhance consideration of this topic. When
opening up the questions of what a monument is or how it can powerfully mean something in our societies and in our urban and rural landscapes, as we continuously move forward in time – in other words, how monuments can be timeless – it is worth mentioning the episodic nature of our valuation of art and architecture. When the Berlin monuments were being conceived, the modernist project – fundamentally a western intellectual endeavour –was experiencing a strong critique, and indeed a demise. This developed due to various factors, not least of which the view that modernity, originally seen as a socially conscious project designed with a uniting world view, seemed to have fallen short of its objectives. In the end, as its critics claimed, it did not live up to its promises that included liberty, human rights, and the eradication of poverty. The forces of intellectual labour opted to relinquish, even extinguish, the foundations of modernity wholesale. One of its leading detractors, postmodern pioneer, Jean-François Lyotard, boldly called for the liquidation, not simply the abandonment, of the project of modernity.27 Lyotard raised the concept of ‘metanarratives’ (métarécits) he saw as inherent to modernism’s failure, and called for their outright dissolution. Such metanarratives, he wrote, subsumed the world and proposed universalist, totalizing claims. It is not the case of ‘abandoning’ the project of modernity, as Habermas has said with regard to postmodernity, but of the ‘liquidation’ of that project. With this annihilation, an irreparable suspicion is engraved in European, if not Western, consciousness: that universal history does not move inevitably ‘toward the better’, as Kant thought, or rather, that history does not necessarily have a universal finality.28
Why do I raise this in such detail here? How does this tie into this chapter that aims to discuss monuments and their enduring effects? As I mentioned, this is an aside designed to introduce a complex but crucial point in a book dedicated to how we think about memory and place if, at a certain level, we’re always thinking about the enduring qualities of how we remember that place or history which is no longer physically present. At one level, the modernist vision as an all-embracing and universal project also represents nations and ideas that share histories, hopes and purpose. But in the aftermath of the Holocaust and the complex considerations of representation, and of how shared memories continue to have meaning, the monuments of the modern period that were self-referential and monolithic seemed, for the most part, empty of meaning to a new crop of artists and architects eager to find new pathways that lead them beyond the roadblock; beyond the modernist claims. One monolithic monument with a shared vision for all, representing the process of memorialization as a unified whole, would be unacceptable, even disrespectful to others whose histories and memories lay outside the global vision.29 Thus, a shift from traditional monolithic memorials and monuments to the reconsidered memorials, or so-called countermemorials, in the postwar period, marked a new direction in the conceptualization of monuments, a
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direction that addressed the pluralism of approaches, but also, design and aesthetic considerations. In the place of one monolithic stone monument, for example, design approaches considered multiplicity and erasure, I would argue, of forms. That is, in order to represent formally the theoretical ideas of many voices, communities, localities or identities, monuments worked against forms that totalized or unified. Instead, they introduced multiple units, even units that required searching for, instead of explicit presence with monuments typical of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of these, Georges-Henri Pingusson’s memorial in Paris of 1962, I believe, spearheaded them all, speaking as it does, of emptiness and erasure. Regardless of these aesthetic reconsiderations of memorials and the critique of modernity, it is important to see how, over time, we are still struggling with the values of modernity. This complicates our understanding, reception, and communing with monuments, and assists us in negotiating memorials at different times and places in our lives, in the ways in which the memorials mark our pathways, or are in pathways we might never walk for long stretches of time, or ever.30 While the critical rejection of modernity targeted the notion that, among others, the idea of one-ness, greatness and an allabsorbing framework is moribund, and that the monolithic as model may not be the answer, still, in a world of modernist principles that levelled difference and failed to recognize locality over ‘international style’,31 what is clear is our continuing desire for a need to build important monumental’ memorials to mark the passage of death, whether or not ‘monumental’ in this sense should be taken to mean ‘monolithic’. As Hilde Heynen points out, referring specifically to the project of modernity and architecture, ‘Things are not so clear-cut … because one should not assume that the postmodern condition simply replaces modernity. It rather seems to open up a new and complex layer of meaning of the modern by highlighting its paradoxical aspects.’32 The Berlin works of Libeskind, Eisenman, and Dragset and Elmgreen can be inserted into the ongoing critical debate around monuments, a debate that took, as its initial point of departure, the empty one, or the need to move away from tradition. Based on the assumption that the monolithic marker from Rachel’s grave to the obelisk had run its course, and that the aggrandized and deified monuments of National Socialism should never be repeated, and most certainly inspired by the elegant simplicity and complex Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, created by Maya Lin in 1982, that gracefully turns to new models of memorialization,33 some earlier German artists sought to challenge the nature of monuments altogether. As James Young puts it: ‘They are heirs to a double-edged postwar legacy: a deep distrust of monumental forms in light of their systematic exploitation by the Nazis, and a profound desire to distinguish their generation from that of the killers through memory.’34 That process revealed that the rejection of the monument was the most decipherable trajectory to follow out of what appeared to be an impasse. What resulted was the ‘counter’ monument, as it came to be known, such as the square column titled Monument against Fascism, (Harburg, 1986–
1991), by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz. As passers-by filled its sides with commentary, it was progressively lowered into the ground until it disappeared. The only sign of its existence is a simple plaque describing it. In Negative-Form Monument by Horst Hoheisel, (Kassel, 1987), an inverted pyramid model of the fountain – destroyed by the Nazis because it was donated by a Jew – that once occupied the site, was lowered into the ground and covered by a flat fountain flush with the ground.35 The inside of the inverted form is visible from the top through a series of mirrors, while water rushes down into the monument below. Hoheisel reflects on the concept: ‘It is only history turned into a pedestal, an invitation to passers-by who stand upon it to search for the memorial in their own heads. For only there is the memorial to be found.’36 Herein lies the complicated essence of the history of memorials as monuments, and their dialogues with their cities, framed by the desire, even the anxiety, of ensuring that the legacy of the past is always present. It is complicated because the sword cuts both ways: Bismarck forewarned of the danger of forgetting history, declaring that it was ‘of greatest harm to a nation when it allows the living consciousness of its connection to its heritage and history to fade’.37 Bismarck could not have predicted the consequences of his own warning against reviving history because, in selecting what we want to preserve, it is often the case that valorous and distinguished events of the past overshadow events that reveal national shame or shed light on tarnished, indeed bloodstained, history.38 Monuments erected to those who have perished as a result of tragedies and disasters are rarely the results of a cathartic process on behalf of the perpetrators. The memorial process almost always begins with those who suffered the loss, those closest to those who died. The memorials in Berlin are exceptions to the rule. In this post-1945 time we seem rooted or entangled in the obsessive rapture or mystic trance of memorialization. Certainly the work of Young champions much of this, as does Andreas Huyssen, who confronts the politics of memory in an age of amnesia: ‘After more than a decade of intense public and academic discussions of the uses and abuses of memory, many feel that the topic has been exhausted. Memory fatigue has set in …’ Huyssen acknowledges the ‘excess and saturation in the marketing of memory’, but he warns that if we push forward and forget memory, we are, in effect, simply reproducing ‘the industry’s own fast-paced mechanism of declaring obsolescence’. And with that, we are no longer strategically positioned to seriously investigate the reasons for this intense emergence of memory as a ‘significant symptom of our cultural present’.39 In a piece that revisits the history of memorialism almost two decades later, Pierre Nora, assesses the reasons for what he calls the ‘tidal wave of memorial concerns’40 In spite of an accruing body of literature that comments on the exhaustion of memory subjects and practices in the postwar and neoliberal city, we still witness the ongoing, perhaps unstoppable practice of memorialization. In view of this continuing work, one question in particular stands out: what real impact can memorials have in an age when tolerance for reflection
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on commemorative practices and collective remembrance may have reached saturation point, rendering this new wave of memorials obsolete. Rather than seeing the concept of memorialization as obsolete, I prefer to consider what happens when we lose interest in the monuments themselves – rather than investigating the idea of the saturation of memory and memorialism as Nora defined it – looking at their originality, even the aesthetic pleasure they offer, perceiving aesthetic and intellectual monuments as architecture: material reminders in urban space. There are countless memorials which are meaningless to us today in our respective communities, towns, or cities. They fill our public parks and squares, or are affixed to park benches, building facades, or fountains, and we have lost interest in them. Or we think we have. Instead, what is meaningful to memorialize – or at least it seems to be the case – is only the most recent or most topical disaster (the one so immediate that it masks – through the passionate heart – any previous collective trauma). Sadly, it is all too true that, in the wake of media hyperactivity, we have become numbed by the overwhelming number of international tragedies that come to our attention via the increased international focus of the media. As a result, we are left with a sense of indifference, as tragic news is delivered to us through diverse media sources, increasing the perception of memorials as lacking purpose. Still, when we examine individual cases of communities overcome with grief after a specific disaster, we see how there is a collective desire, even longing, to be stimulated by monuments into meaningful meditation. Spontaneous memorials are a perfect example of that sense of immediacy and the need to memorialize in physical presence what is felt. Writing about memorials to those who died in New York’s World Trade Centre tragedy, Harriet Senie says: ‘The city itself became something of a memorial, with key areas suddenly turned into sacralized spaces defined by personal snapshots and descriptions. But all spontaneous memorials are inherently expressions of protest as well as grief, briefly acting as powerful social binders in a way that little else does.’41 As time rolls forward, and tragedies of this present moment eclipse those of the past, it is difficult to feel the history of the Holocaust and the lingering effects of World War II. When all eyes and hearts are focussed on New York and the devastating events of 11 September 2001, the day two planes took aim and crashed into the World Trade Centre towers, how is it possible to reflect on the value of other monuments at other moments? Even as I write, another contentious event is evolving around the tragedy of ‘9/11’ and Ground Zero (as it is euphemistically named), as a result of memory and place: an Islamic community center and mosque is proposed two blocks from the site of the twin towers. Since the 9/11 attack was perpetrated by Muslim extremist-terrorists, the idea of establishing an Islamic center in this location was demonized by a host of detractors. Put another way, the site is still alive with importance, indeed overwhelmed with emotions that have not yet settled, and this place, in the heart of downtown New York City, displaces, or highlights, questions of memorialization on a global scale.
Berlin If the Paris monument becomes de facto a monument about Jewish loss, the Jewish Museum Berlin boldly announces its purpose: to investigate Jewish loss and sites of annihilation. The Museum opened in September 2001, although construction of the building had been completed in 1998. Assembly of the permanent collection of objects from all corners of the globe, and decisions regarding display strategies were finalized in the space of nine months; the Jewish Museum Berlin was transformed from being an empty ‘monument’, to the major architectural memorial and museum it still is today. Soon after the building was constructed, controversy arose concerning whether or not to keep the museum empty or to fill it: the empty museum had taken on a life of its own and began to stand for a memorial to and symbol for the annihilated Jewish community. It was, however, finally considered important to fill the building, therein fulfilling the mission of a museum, per se. Its reputation, prior to its inauguration in 2001, rested on its emptiness (or completeness, depending on your point of view) as a monument in and of itself, and the debate raged about whether or not it should remain empty as a functioning museum. Tom Freudenheim, the deputy director at the time, was asked by Gautam Dasgupta what it was like to be in Berlin from his previous post in New York, and sitting in ‘the most interesting architectural edifice in the new Berlin.’ He responded, It’s like being in the middle of a maelstrom, with too many people waiting to come into the museum … Most places are trying to figure out how to get their stories across and to get their picture in the papers … We can’t keep them away. So it is quite astounding that this empty building draws so much attention. On the other hand, it’s quite an opportunity because really interesting buildings are seldom available to be seen as empty buildings.42
Because of the competition which yielded 166 proposals from architects, and the subsequent lengthy duration of the process of building this museum, this cause célèbre bestowed upon the building and its architect, Daniel Libeskind, a kind of mystique, even before the museum was finished. The anticipation generated questions about the uniqueness of the design, its potential ‘sanctity’ as a place to honour the dead, and its inability to work as anything but itself (that is, as a museum-as-monument in itself, not dependant on a collection). Some even suggested that to ‘ornament’ the building with exhibitions would only obscure the basic nature of the place.Yet, even after the museum was installed with a permanent collection in the now iconic, irregularly shaped rooms, skewered with architectural voids, the visitor still experiences the place primarily as a memorial. Taken together, this museum – as museum and monument in the topography of Berlin – contributes to a landscape of memory; one that consistently calls into play the pieces of the past that require re-assembly.
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2.3 Daniel Libeskind, Jewish Museum, 2001, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp.
Detractors of the Jewish Museum Berlin have suggested that it not only contributes to the ‘memory industry’ boom, but even spearheads Berlin’s popular tourism itinerary. And yet, when examined at close range, I would argue that, in fact, it achieves an interactive and sustained dialogue about its value in a world where memorial discussions seem to default to those concerning 9/11. One of the ways the Museum achieves this is by relying on the critical notion of its site, and taking a hard look at the implications of community and citizenship. Its commitment to cultural legacy is achieved through questions such as the relationship of Jews to nations, or the consequences of assimilation. Indeed, the experience of the building brings to bear questions that do have universal appeal for all identities in a transnational world, perhaps more so than ever before. Much of my thinking around these concerns is based on the ideas of Etienne Balibar who argues, in different works, about the nature of community. I’m taken with his notion that a community cannot be based on ‘tradition’ or ‘legacy’, and see this as critical for a discussion of how the Museum’s relationship to Berlin and Germany requires entry into such a discussion for any visitor. He argues, for example, in response to Umberto Eco’s idea that the only genuine ‘idiom of Europe’ and thus of ‘we the people of Europe’, as he writes about Europeans in the broadest sense, ‘is the practice of translation … this might well be the “exceptional” character of Europe, due to its specific history, in particular its
global expansion and the past competition between its imperialist powers …’. Balibar elaborates upon Eco’s proposal by imagining ‘stretching the idea of “translation” from the merely linguistic to the broader cultural level … one that involves acknowledging certain impossibilities and looking for equivalences: scientific, literary, legal and religious “universals”’.43 In such an intriguingly renewed sociopolitical space, borders take on new meanings, peripheries become centres, and citizenship is turned on its head. The trouble is, however, that the complexity of cities, their cultural cartography and the culture of memory, need to be challenged in order to appreciate the relationship of site to building, building to community, community to tradition. I’ll touch only on some critical points: First, and with specific reference to the Jewish Museum Berlin, an understanding of the value and authenticity of place is sorely lacking. The selection of a site on which to build a museum begs a question about its placement and its relationship to that site. As Edward Casey points out in the examination of the works of multiple philosophical writers, nothing is unplaced. Building a museum on a site in Berlin is very different, for example, than building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC rather than in Vietnam. Second: in a discussion of memory, particularly with regard to the Holocaust, it bears mentioning that, as Andreas Huyssen has eloquently stated: When it comes to present pasts, memory of the Holocaust and its place in the reassessment of Western modernity is not the whole story. Many subplots make up the current memory narrative in its broadest scope and that distinguish our times … Since the 1970s in Europe and the United States we have the historicizing restoration of old urban centers; the development of whole museum villages and landscapes; various national heritage and patrimony enterprises; the wave of museum architecture …; the boom in retro fashions and repro furniture; the mass marketing of nostalgia; the obsessive ‘self-musealization’ per video recorder, memoir writing, and confessional literature; the rise of autobiography negotiation between fact and fiction; the spread of memory practices … often centered on photography; and the increase of historical documentaries on the History Channel.44
Part of the investigation of history and memory is a result of odd sets of historical and phenomenological answers. Indeed, in an accruing panic to better our collective selves by ‘recuperating’ memories from the mired past, an alert attention, even preoccupation with the past in modern culture weighs increasingly heavily, as our digital culture alerts us to our fears for the loss of the object, the loss of tangible archives. As we age and technology advances at a clip, we are painfully reminded of the increasing quantities of memory production information these media have made available to us, and of the knowledge that we are forgetting possibly at a quicker rate than the technology can create. There is an unwelcome reality that prompts a complex state of anxiety over grasping for elusive memories even when the memory’s very essence is its unreliability, that is to say, its selective focus, at least when pitted – unfairly and wrongly – against history. This necessarily ups the ante
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of a preoccupied culture of memory. Huyssen articulates the pains of cultural amnesia, but warns that we must distinguish between ‘usable pasts and disposable pasts’.45 In a recent book devoted to the capacity of digital media to hold onto every word created, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger looks at the implications, even dangers, of storing every digital memory, while observing that the human mind naturally forgets.46 The documentation of monuments and ways and means of addressing Germany’s troubled twentieth century history has been in fast-forward gear, particularly since the reunification in 1989. In addition to the shape and substance of events of the past, Germany has demonstrated through its memorials that the fear of any deletion of the past has become a preoccupation. International scholars have dedicated entire books to the subject, devoting special attention to Berlin above all, as the Nazi capital, often referred to as the ‘haunted site’ of Germany’s past.47 The Jewish Museum Berlin is a site marker between the before and after; it serves to conjoin the history of the place on the soil of that city from the material object that declares its presence in its place. The museum conspires with other bold architectural showpieces erected after the fall of the Wall, to push a proud but tarnished city out of its post-war darkness. Yet the case of the Jewish Museum is a singular one: it cannot address Jewish history without exposing the history of Berlin and Germany, and using that history as a stepping stone to the city and country’s rediscovery. Libeskind demonstrates through his bold design that redemption must be rejected for those who might yearn to be cleansed by building over the past. Perhaps at some early point in the competition, Berlin politicians imagined this museum as a therapeutic space for Germans wishing to acknowledge their Nazi history. Instead, however, Libeskind sought to scar the tissue of the landscape and, by its physical presence, figuratively anchor itself to the past so that the collective memory it makes active enters a process of continual visibility. The Berlin politicians pressed the architects to treat this site as a tabula rasa, an exercise in amnesia, a site without a past – as if Berlin were just any other city of the world to be developed. I felt that simply constructing many buildings and filling in the site did not necessarily diminish that emptiness. On the contrary, the filling of the emptiness might actually inflate it. The material idea of filling sites must be seen in a deeper sense in order to become a lifeline to the future and an embodiment of the past.48
Libeskind took on a strategy to deliberately carve out of the building design what was before and what is now – now being at the time of the design and construction, but perhaps also a now for always – a kind of declaration of separation channeled through what he calls the ‘void’, or negative space, in this project. The concept of devoting non-built but rather shaped forms around space (the void), became controversial during the Museum’s budget discussions: creating a void meant space that could be used for museum display would instead be inaccessible and unusable for exhibition purposes, yet visible. In its defence, however, he summarizes the importance of the void
as follows: ‘In the ideological … way of looking at the city, its context is what you see of its streets, its transformations, its history. So how does one view the void? … How does one view that which never has passed, the emptiness of a public space? … The void embodies the literal annihilation of culture.’49 Even thought of as a place of chaos, a primal abyss or gap between two things, chaos must not be considered a non-place, but rather a place where things will take place. Such a place, especially as Libeskind creates it, is full of activity, between heaven and earth. In Genesis the heavens and earth are created, we are told, where the earth had been without form and void. Entities are only determined by their separateness from each other (the earth from the sky, or the sky from water). With poetic allusion, Libeskind attempts a separating out of the before and after, the history of the earth as spaced from the material object of his building. Edward Casey described Chaos after Hesiod’s Theogony, and the writing of Genesis, that Chaos is indeed ‘a place of separation, ‘a place or a ‘scene of emerging order’.50 If we examine the ideas, as they are located in this particular place, that hover around the consideration of personal and collective memory and national and cultural heritage, much of the discussion settles into a closer scrutiny of concepts of community. Republican considerations of a patriotic culture with its repository of collective memory, has universalized the idea of a nation. What does this suggest? Simply put, it alludes to the sharing of traditions, background and culture that enable political participation.51 It is the sharing of some sort of code to the rules of the game, a certain kind of ‘covenant’ as Balibar suggests. But it is sharing within a collective, within a community, because an idealized unity of citizens inevitably leads to exclusionary tactics. Hence the separating out, the spacing, the voided zone of those in history and those exempt from a history. That spacing is reflected in what Zygmaunt Bauman explains as the conditions for separating out Jews as an artificial construct of modernity: In pre-modern times, Jews were a caste among castes, a rank among ranks, an estate among estates. Their distinctiveness was not an issue, and habitual, virtually unreflective, practices of segregation effectively prevented it from becoming one. With the rise of modernity, separation of the Jews did become an issue. Like everything else in modern society, it had now to be manufactured, built up, rationally argued, techonologically designed, administered, monitored and managed.52
The place of Germany in this model is key, and so the locating of Libeskind’s building within the context of that model is necessarily a matter of place, where place matters. Carl Schmitt, German and Nazi jurist and author on philosophy, jurisprudence and politics wrote about what he defined as the ‘essence’ of the political to differentiate between friend and foe: us and them.To the extreme, in a clearer understanding of Hannah Arendt’s view of totalitarianism, we can understand how colossal tragedies can, and did, occur. The model of a sovereign state in the modern nation charged with administering the universal, so to speak, took as its model for universality the
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
paradoxical system of social exclusions. These included what Balibar refers to as the basic anthropological differences: differences among genders and sexualities, between the normal and the pathological, or differences between cultures and cultural skills. And this tension between the inclusionary and exclusionary aspects is not diminished, but exacerbated, in the quest for universality for the national social state (here we can think of the rule of law in the practices of ghettoization or institutionalized racism). In his ideal vision of citizenship, the definition of membership in the nation, for Balibar, … leads to considering nationals who for various reasons are considered incapable of sharing active citizenship, such as in different periods of time women, minor children, sick or criminal individuals, as humans who are generally defective or lacking certain essential characteristics of humanity. In a more theoretical manner, you can say that basic ‘anthropological differences’ those that exist among genders and sexualities, for example, or between the normal and the pathological, or differences between cultures and with regard to cultural skills, are systematically interpreted as inequalities, and affect the constitution of citizenship.
Balibar takes it a bit further, arguing for a community where citizens face individual exclusion, at first from power, communication, representation, and decision making: all foundational elements of citizenship. With this in place, no traditions or entitlements to historical legacies can be had without questions and accountability to that heritage. And in this way, the interpretive, interactive, and connective relationships the visitor has to the Jewish Museum Berlin are always dynamic. The museum plays a vital role in underscoring a history through displays, but at the same time inviting its public to think and memorialize, to recognize the presence – through the exhibition material – of a vibrant, living Jewish community/communities, as well as the permanent absence of a murdered community, through many of the voided spaces within the architectural structure and outside, in the garden. In fact, as an ongoing project, the museum transgresses its own limits, being always in chaos in transition to an emerging order.53 At a location not far from the Jewish Museum, architect, Peter Eisenman has balanced two seemingly irreconcilable ideas in his Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. (2005). The Memorial maintains a powerful relationship to its geography, while at the same time preserving a substantive core that turns away from the site to look outward, instead of to its own internal logic, as though pushing away any geographical association. This meditative tension is vital to the dynamic of Eisenman’s work as we experience it, and it is through this double experience that the monument succeeds at always providing a transformative experience for the viewer as performing participant. Eisenman has talked and written about the primacy of the diagram in his work as having ‘the potential for the voiding of place in space …’ adding that ‘when the fullness of place is opened to a process of displacement, what remains is always a trace or a residue of place … the not-place in place becomes such as trace’.54
2.4 Peter Eisenman, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2005, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp.
2.5 Peter Eisenman, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, 2005, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp.
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe stands on an immense tract of land measuring almost five acres. Peter Eisenman designed a place for thought, a place we will want to reject or even come to fear, a place that cripples, silences, complicates, even amuses, by design. Stelae rise from this previously barren city block that faces the luxuriant landscape of the Tiergarten to its west and is cramped by the Nazi history that surrounds it, and was once on it: this land was, during World War II, occupied by the SS and the Main Security Office of the Reich; Goebbels’s bunker was beneath it, and the Brandenburg Gate only a stone’s throw north. This prodigious monument in the heart of Berlin presents us with extreme limitations. The measurements between the pillars is 95 centimetres in any direction at all forcing the visitor to experience severe restrictions and uneasiness. Each pillar tilts from 0–3° so that it appears as though they will swallow us. All this enables disquiet and insecurity. The experience of wandering in and around the Memorial reveals a telescoping of time in a concrete sense: what is the meaning of this geography in Berlin and Germany to the history of the Holocaust and the utter incomprehensibility of the numbers of lives lost that we are here to commemorate? What is the relationship of the scale of my body to the scale of the pillars and the pillars to their perpendicular and tipped placement on the unlevelled ground? At the same instant as we are aware of this desire to locate ourselves in a place at a specific time comes a rejection of any self consolidation of time as we participate in the meditative mantra created by the repetitive pathways and pillars, become introspective, and turn to our imagined spatial constructions away from the location of Berlin. And this is precisely the poetic turn in Eisenman’s project(s): we pool energy toward the site yet withdraw and disperse it equally into our collective self. Eisenman works with and against the notion that tectonics has always been the measure of architecture. He confronts, with almost all of his work, how architecture is tethered to its built form but also how it is unmistakably elsewhere, beyond, and everywhere. By being untethered physically to a place allows Eisenman to demonstrate that the ground is not taken as that against which all is placed but that instead, the ground erupts into a figure out of some sort of dialectical condition.55 What does this mean? Perhaps it is best to suggest that the ground is active, is itself a figure, and contributes to the dialectic relationship – ever-present – between the figureas-ground and the ground-as-figure. Unlike all traditional references to places that echo, foil or support the work and consider the physical site as background or foreground, Eisenman’s projects begin with the assumption that the ground is never passive or mute but rather a vibrant and visible force engaged unequivocally in the work as part of it. With the concept of active ground in place as a participatory figure in the tectonicity of urban centres, what remains true is that architecture can be a powerful springboard to our personal and collective pasts. What we bring to architecture is our bodily experience, intellectual history and
emotive sensibilities; but also, it cannot be denied, our imagination. While building a memorial in Berlin is the tangible objective for a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, another objective must not be overlooked: the freedom each of us possesses to imagine places unbounded by space or time, and where the tectonic structure need not necessarily inform our personal or collective memories. In this sense, we could say that architecture exists at least twice in overlapping and exchanging sequences: once in the physical built form and once in the imaginative constructions of our minds and hearts,56 for we carry with us at all times a semblance of a world in the process of becoming something formed and defined, and the knowledge that the shape of the world as we know it is never finite. In many ways, this world that is becoming something concrete (but never quite achieves this status), continues its building activity within our imagination on a regular basis. It is a world that evolves and dissolves, that reconfigures, depending upon the suitability or reliability of our memories. In a deft and complex system of mathematical and intersecting grids that compose the diagrammatic concept, this monument layers contexts and meanings through its own seemingly paradoxical system of repetition and erasure. The memorial blocks repeat almost endlessly, it seems. And as we walk through the monument, we are erased from view, as we erase others as well, and this because of the natural rise and fall of the land coupled with the varying heights of the blocks. It forces us as participants to build an experience of that place within ourselves that is not about the loss of something physical and the absence of place, but rather is self-reflexive in how we and our bodily experience resonates with its wide open, yet constrained, spatiality. The suggestion for a memorial in Germany by Germans, to publicly recognize the unspeakable brutality and murder perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews in particular had been at the centre of a protracted political and emotional debate for many years. Journalist and talk-show host, Lea Rosh, and World War II historian Eberhard Jäckel, initiated the project in 1988 when they established a private association to lobby for a memorial to the victims of National Socialism in the land of the perpetrators. In 1989, Helmut Kohl commissioned a monument, the Neue Wache, located in the former East Berlin, to serve for victims of both World Wars and as a memorial to the victims of fascism and militarism in the GDR.57 A Pièta-like figure by Kathe Kollwitz is the central focus of this memorial designed to fulfill Kohl’s call for a ‘worthy common memorial for the victims of both world wars, tyranny, racial persecution, resistance, expulsion, division and terrorism’.58 This provocation for victims and perpetrators to commemorate jointly was met with predictable outrage by the Jewish community. It was crowned by the sculpture itself that was the symbolic representation of the Virgin Mary, mourning over the dead body of Christ, here translated as a national symbol mourning the loss of its sons. It was at this point that the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was endorsed as a convenient response to the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse) memorial controversy. A separate tract of land was designated for the Memorial’s eventual realization.59
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
During its first round, the jury for the competition for the Memorial reviewed 528 entry proposals. After much stalled and caustic debate, exacerbated by the various perspectives and groups involved, two projects were retained, one by Berlin architect, Christine Jackob-Marks, the other by American, Simon Ungers. No sooner were they publicly announced were they rejected due to a massive explosion of criticism from a panoply of specialists, partisans, critics, intellectuals, and even political leaders, about the inappropriateness of the design. Finally, Kohl agreed, and a second, competition –this time by invitation – was organized in 1997, resulting in the selection of a proposal by Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra. Finally, Eisenman alone would author the project. One of the committee’s stipulations was that Eisenman had to include an information centre below the monument. The project was inaugurated in January 2000, and officially opened in 2005, complete with the information centre below the field of stelae. But what was at the centre of the visceral controversy? The German Bundestag, in its Resolution of 25 June 1999, agreed to ‘honour the murdered victims, maintain the memory of this unthinkable occurrence in German history, and admonish all future generations to never again violate human rights, to defend the democratic constitutional state of all times, to secure equality before the law for all people and to resist all forms of dictatorship and regimes based on violence.’60 Perhaps the most complicated idea of all is how one comprehensive, collective monument built by the perpetrators could effectively function as a memorial for the murdered Jews. Moreover, what design could possibly satisfy the various communities involved in the decision? As Mary Nolan has noted, ‘The questions of what message the Mahnmal is to convey – a recognition of historical burdens or a warning to the future – and what feelings it is to arouse – guilt, pity, or queries about why and how such a thing could happen – have proved harder to answer. And the wrangling about the form of such a memorial has been … bitter.’61 Now that the debate over the form is over, and the monument is built, a focus on its insertion into the Berlin cityscape, and its consideration altogether as a memorial site, is fundamental. What will be the effect of this memorial over time, when reflection on commemorative practices, memory, memorializing, and collective remembrance is only pertinent and defined by the next disaster and its memorialization? We have become numbed by the emptiness of memorials, as such, yet yearn to be stimulated by them into meaningful meditation. And so we continue to search for the means to create meaning, and for memorials to matter as sites of contemplation. This imposing and monumental repetition of pillars that seem to tilt and gently agitate our grasp of the place is the overview we have from the perimeter, as we look across the site from street level. Eisenman calls this the waving field. But unlike sheaves of wheat, these solid blocks appear to teeter. They lean inward and outward, and seem to dip and toy mercilessly with horizontality and stability. Yet, oddly, they invite, if only because we feel a need to grasp the place, to learn its inner logic by intrigue and curiosity
about what lies beyond that which we cannot see. Once we set off down these alleyways, these blocks or tombstone-like pillars demarcate impossible paths that are foreboding, indeed. Their placement creates a claustrophobic pattern that seems to shut in on itself, forming an invisible repellent to the outside frame. The multiple and almost infinite walkways offer only further isolation or, if you should happen upon others, uncomfortable congestion. It models itself on the rational grid, but in fact it is a grid gone awry. The grid of Modern Utopia offered a city of order and efficiency. This grid, as a response to the failure of a universal and functional vision, misleads and instead of offering regularity and order – the guiding forces of the Roman city – is defeated by the chaos of the subtle tilts (ranging from 0–3°) off the top of these concrete slabs measuring as they reach down, not up, to approximately 5 metres, with 95 centimetres between them in any direction. The topography is retained. Rather than level the ground on which it is built, the earth is respected. The site is neither incidental nor pure. It speaks volumes of history of the Third Reich, and therefore its contribution to the monument should be considered as an active object in the project. The stelae begin very low to the ground, but as you enter the complex field they become nameless, generic buildings that seem to close in on you and mount in height an impression that is due, in large measure, to the ground that rolls and dips below: a most destabilizing feature. An illusion of order in a state of partial ruin is rather an evocative concatenation of distress and decay, turmoil and end. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe belongs within that new tradition of monuments that reject tradition while, paradoxically, retaining the formal and even biblical links to the past. Eisenman’s contribution to Berlin honours the formal, historical legacy of the gravestone. Evidenced here on a colossal scale, the Memorial magnifies, and thereby reinforces the traditional burial site, the cemetery, or even the mass grave. But at this Memorial there is a questionable burial site, and herein lies the countermand to commemorating the dead. Where headstones normally mark the site of the body laid to rest in the ground, and through text indicate a name, these unidentified headstones reference the ground directly, marking no one. Eisenman depends on the function of those in the present to activate the Memorial, and to become, like all figures in his dialectical diagram, dynamic subjects. While it is possible to see the monument from the streets surrounding it, its view from the perimeter remains partial. The Memorial is, for many, included in their tourist itineraries, so participation is automatic. What is present, aside from any touristic literature, or information available at the underground information centre in one corner of the site, is the desire to count the number of stelae. And by effectively participating in the count, the visitor eventually succumbs to the impossibility of effectively keeping the count straight. No sooner do we enter the Memorial, than we engage in this performance of sorts, and are consumed and tussled in the meditative sway that the multiple blocks invite. First, we arrive at the memorial with some – however much or little – historical knowledge, then, once our promenade
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
into the site begins, we engage with what Nietszche calls the ‘unhistorical’. Indeed, the history of the site, the city, and the nation is only meaningful to the extent that it is shaped equally by the ‘unhistorical’. He says, … there is a line which divides the observable brightness from the unilluminated darkness, that we know how to forget at the right time just as well as we remember at the right time, that we feel with powerful instinct the time when we must perceive historically and when unhistorically … that for the health of a single individual, a people, and a culture, the unhistorical and the historical are equally essential.62
For Eisenman, the concept of ‘unhistorical’ is not memory, but rather what he calls a process of ‘anti-memory’: Anti-memory is different from sentimental or nostalgic memory, since it neither demands nor seeks a past … But it is not mere forgetting either, because it uses the act of forgetting, the reduction of the former pattern, to arrive at its own structure or order … Anti-memory does not seek or posit progress, makes no claims to a more perfect future or a new order, predicts nothing. It has nothing to do with historicist allusion or with the values or functions of particular forms; it instead involves the making of a place that derives its order from the obscuring of its own recollected past.63
If we follow Eisenman’s definition, we understand that he argues for place as the site of memory, since all memory is an involuntary obscuring of the past, to the extent that it may not prove factual. Yet more than this, he names this site of memory as if to suggest that the obscuring of memory is not what we would normally do, and that what we normally do is to sentimentalize, or nostalgize memory. Eisenman’s claim for a memory that is desentimentalized and refutes nostalgia is critical to recall as we explore sites of memory and refuse, consciously, to be mired in a sea of sentimentality. Partly dependent on the site of Berlin, this Memorial forges deep in the earth, rooting itself in the massive scale of this site, ensuring its permanence there, in that place. Above all, above the ground and above each stele the fundamental message must be that this place is indeed monumental and perhaps, in terms of scale, one of the largest monuments ever built. Parallel to this idea of rootedness and placefulness is the fact that the monument ends its elegiac message by turning away from the concreteness of place to the absoluteness of space.64 Not only does this memorial lose and recuperate site, it emerges as an ever-evolving site of dynamic reciprocity between action and inaction, and where the visitor, through this engagement, brings about a life for the monument that ensures it will always continue to solicit attention. Before I close with a discussion of the most recent monument, let me return to the reason this chapter was formulated. With a view to the chronology of these memorials, I wanted to advocate for the continuation of the work of these monuments and in spite of the exhaustion of monuments in our midst. Each of these monuments, conceived, built and inaugurated during different decades following World War II, demonstrate their ability –
through educational programmes or tourism itineraries that highlight their importance to their respective cities, or through simple curiosity and visits to memorials – to stay fresh, even after periods when freshness wanes. That is, with monuments we recognize as invisible today, through the lessons of Robert Musil or Pierre Nora or Franz Kafka about the invisibility of objects before our eyes, monuments have cyclical lives, the same way paintings and buildings have moments of interest or disinterest for us; and for different reasons. Ultimately, as Bauman states with fervour: The Holocaust was indeed a Jewish tragedy [his italics]. Although Jews were not the only population subjected to a ‘special treatment’ by the Nazi regime … only the Jews had been marked for total destruction, and allotted no place in the New Order that Hitler intended to install. Even so, the Holocaust was not simply a Jewish problem, and not an event in Jewish history alone. The Holocaust was born and executed in our modern rational society, at the high stage of our civilization and at the peak of human cultural achievement, and for this reason it is a problem of that society, civilization and culture.65
Perched on that thought, and to conclude, let me introduce the Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims, one of the most recent monuments erected in Berlin on what has been referred to as Berlin’s Memorial Mile. I single it out because it proves that all these monuments are very much alive, for different communities and individuals at different times and places. Notwithstanding ongoing controversies, debates and cynicisms about the value of such memorials – a somewhat regular occurrence in German newspapers such as Der Spiegel, which recently ran a feature titled ‘Commemoration Saturation: Can Berlin Handle Any More Memorials?’66 – a monument to the 55,000 gay men labelled as criminals by the Nazi regime, and the 15,000 of them who died, was approved in 2003 and inaugurated in 2008.67 Designed by Scandinavian artists Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen, the memorial is a grey, concrete, irregularly shaped rectangular parallelepiped placed on its short side a few meters in from the edge of the Tiergarten, the treed park directly opposite Eisenman’s memorial. Pierced into the cuboid form at eye level (adult height), is a small window where a film loop of two men kissing plays (by the Danish director, Thomas Vinterberg). The placement in the park is nothing short of strategic. It brilliantly dialogues with Eisenman’s work in a subtle, yet profound way. For not only is this monument echoing the form, material and even colour of one of Eisenman’s stele, its location solicits an association to be made. Even tourist itineraries marked by street signs mirroring actual street signs – although they are blue, as opposed to white – indicate directions for the two monuments on the same signpost. This is an exceptional example of the kind of performative vitality that a city of cultural memory displays. Art critic Lars Bang Larsen, commenting on their work, wrote, ‘Space in Elmgreen & Dragset’s work doesn’t announce itself, it has to be brought out, challenged by the mundane presence of the activities that frame it; it begs you to perform. Rather: It makes you perform, because it analogizes several types of behaviour.’68
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
2.6 Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen, Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims, 2008, Berlin. Credit: Axel Lapp.
The performance, so as not to overwork the term and place it in a suitable context, is the movement of viewers and participants between, about, from and to these two monuments across the street from each other. One is monumental in scale, the other, diminutive in scale, but monumental in impact once the film is viewed. The film proved to be highly controversial, and a still from it was even banned from publication on the opening invitation. In addition, the monument promises to keep its sense of participation vital by changing the film every two years. In this way, there is a timeframe on the film, and therefore the ‘exhibition’ is renewed. Even the idea of this moment demonstrates the ability for the city to continue to keep fresh the working through of the legacy, now reaching its third generation since the Second World War. These monuments, on French and German soil, trigger profound exercises in attempts to come to terms with the dynamics of cultural memory, contested and buried histories, and ultimately, politicized space. They speak as architectural interventions in public places to complicate both the universal and the particular, and to challenge – and nourish – notions of citizenship, nationalism and civic responsibility. These projects memorialize through performative spaces where action to remember is guaranteed through built and imagined places challenging any habituation of the past. Through that process they aim for a vitality in places that are not any other, places not unplaced, places where history and memory are continually active and
tormented, plugged and tangled, where culture is tactile, where past and present covenants are questioned, where established forms of citizenship fall away to build anew and where geography matters.
Notes 1 A portion of this section of the chapter was adapted from my chapter
entitled: ‘Invisible Topographies: Looking for the Memorial de la deportation in Paris’, in Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust, (eds) Shelley Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), pp. 305–23.
2 Pierre Birnbaum, ‘Grégoire, Dreyfus, Drancy, and the Rue Copernic: Jews at
the Heart of French History’, in Realms of Memory; Rethinking the French Past, (ed.) P. Nora, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 379–426.
3 Ernst Renan, ‘What is a Nation?’, in Nation and Narration, (trans. and
annotated) M. Thom, (ed.) H.K. Bhabha, (New York: Routledge, 1990).
4 Serge Bercellini and Annette Wieviorka, ‘Passant, souviens-toi!’ Les Lieux du
souvenir de la Seconde Guerre mondiale en France (Paris: Plon, 1995). p. 413.
5 An interesting note is that Cassou authored Le Pillage par les Allemandes
des oeuvres d’Art et des Bibliothèques appartenant à des Juifs en France (Paris: Editions du Centre de la Documentation juive contemporaine, Paris, 1947).
6 Ibid. 7 Jean Cassou, ‘War Memorial, Paris: A Monument to the French victims
of Nazi concentration camps’, Architectural Review, March, vol. 133, 1963, pp. 186–90.
8 Elizabeth Vitou, ‘Paris, Mémorial de la Déportation: Georges-Henri
Pingusson (1894–1978)’, AMC, no. 19, February 1988, pp. 68–88.
9 See Memorial to the martyrs of deportation, brochure published by Le Réseau
du Souvenir, n.d. Archives of the CDJC.
10 Response by Pingusson to Arthur Drexler, Director of Architecture and
Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, dated 17 May 1978, regarding an exhibition in which Pingusson’s work as to be included entitled Transformations in Modern Architecture, 1979. Archives of the Institut français d’architecture, Fonds Pingusson.
11 ‘Paris demeure le centre du monde et la cite des libertés, où chaque rue est
sanctifiée par des souvenirs historiques. La France qui, en l’espace d’un siècle, a eu l’expérience de trois agressions allemandes, est certainement le pays du monde le moins enclin à oublier les crimes de la barbarie teutonne. Elle est incontestablement le pays du monde qui restera le plus longtemps fidèle à l’idéal humanitaire et démocratique.’ Letter from Isaac Schneersohn to Nahum Goldmann, 9 September 1953. Archives of the CDJC, quoted in Barcellini and Wieviorka, ‘Passant, souviens-toi!’ pp. 80–98.
12 Ibid. 13 André Blumel, ‘Le choix de Paris se justifie-t-il’, La Terre Retrouvée, 1
December 1951, p. 4.
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
14 Rachlin states: ‘Given Finkielkraut’s flight back to the fold of Judaism
at the end of The Imaginary Jew, one might think he would advocate that Judaism take its place in the mosaic of a new French cultural diversity, and thrive on its newly found post-assimilation cohesion and solidarity. But for Finkielkraut, neither the anti-particularistic tendencies of the spirit of the French Revolution nor the notion of culture inherited from Herder’s Volkgeist – the belief in the absolute uniqueness and genius of each culture – is devoid of danger for Judaism. During the French Revolution, French Jews were the first European Jews to obtain emancipation. But this emancipation and the civil rights it guaranteed were granted under the assumption, on the part of the grantors, that the Jewish particularism, including their semiautonomous communal institutions and the use of Yiddish, would disappear. Integration would eventually ensue, and transform the members of the different French Jewish communities into Frenchmen, albeit of a different religious persuasion. Cultural differences and religious practices were to be matters of private life, according to the universalist ideology of assimilation. This universalist ideology, the French version of the “white man’s burden,” as Etienne Balibar calls it, justified and guided the French colonial enterprise … by presenting its own concept of civilization as a model for all people. In this context, the universalist conception of culture inherited from the Enlightenment may have threatened Jewish identity with progressive disintegration and disappearance.’ In N. Rachlin, ‘Alain Finkielkraut and the Politics of Cultural Identity’, SubStance 76/7, vol. 24, nos. 1 and 2, 1995, pp. 73–92.
15 Letter to Alain Richard, Minister of Defence, 10 September 1999. Archives
of the Ministère de la Défense, Direction de la Mémoire, du Patrimoine et des Archives, Bureau des monuments historiques et des lieux de mémoire (hereafter MHLM).
16 MHLM, Internal Memo from Jean-Loup Bonté, 20 September 1999. 17 See Correspondence in Fonds Pingusson, Archives, Institut français
18 Susan Day, Jean-Charles Moreux, architecte-décorateur-paysagiste (Paris: Norma
Editions, 1999), p. 356.
19 The Chumash; The Stone Edition (The ArtScroll Series, Mesorah Publications,
20 Ya’akov S. Spiegel, ‘Rachel’s Tombstone: The Reasons for Erecting a
Tombstone’, 1996, Daf Parashat Vayishlach, Bar-Ilan University, (ed., trans.) Mark Elliott Shapiro, The Faculty of Jewish Studies, 22 August 2010. .
21 France signed an agreement with Germany on 22 June 1940 as part of the
armistice. That agreement gave Germany the right to occupy northern France and its coastline on the Atlantic to its border with Spain. Vichy became the new government headquarters under the leadership of Marshall Henri Petain.
22 The original German is available in English: Alois Riegl, The Modern Cult of
Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin . Oppositions, vol. 25, fall 1982: pp. 21–5.
23 Whereas according to his classifications, Riegl’s unintentional monument,
that is, a monument not intentionally built as a monument therefore, thrives with the logic that ‘the enigma of absence is central’. Thordis Arrhenius, ‘The Fragile Monument: ‘On Alois Riegl’s Modern Cult of Monuments’, n.d., Nordisk Arkitekturforskning; Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, ed. Nordic Association of Architectural Research, 22 August 2010. .
24 Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory; Rethinking the French Past, (trans.) Arthur
Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. xvii.
25 Ibid., p. 6. 26 Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (London: Vintage,  1997). 27 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, (trans.) Geoff Bennington
and Brian Massumi, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).
28 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Explained (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1992).
29 For a detailed analysis of monuments and memorials after the Holocaust,
see James Young, The Texture of Memory; Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993); Shelley Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz (eds), Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (Indiana University Press, 2002); Shelley Hornstein, Laura Levitt and Larry Silberstein (eds), Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (New York University Press, 2003).
30 I am reminded of this ability to come to a nuanced recognition of our
personal and communal evolutions when I shed light on, or light is shed on something for me, and that awareness shakes me of some sort of deep slumber or cultural deprivation. An example of this was when I screened Nathanial Kahn’s rhapsodic documentary My Architect, of 2003, about his father, the great modernist architect, Louis Kahn. What this film demonstrated to me is that it is next to impossible to come away from that film unshaken and not feel the sheer magic of monumental structures.
31 Architecture that stylistically exhibits features common to modernist
principles, and therefore, by extension, suitable, or adaptable, to any culture or environment.
32 Hilde Heynen, Architecture and Modernity; A Critique (MIT Press, 
2001), p. 12.
33 See earlier in this chapter the monument by Georges-Henri Pingusson, in
Paris, which requires a performative interaction to access the core of the memorial.
34 James Young, The Texture of Memory; Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 27.
35 Perhaps best explored by James Young in many of his books, but first in
‘The Countermonument: Memory against Itself in German’, The Texture of Memory, pp. 2–48.
36 James Young, At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary
Art and Architecture (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), p. 100.
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
37 Rudy Koshar, ‘Building Pasts: Historic Preservation and Identity in
Twentieth-Century Germany’ in Commemorations; The Politics of National Identity, (ed.) John R. Gillis, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 215–38. Koshar mentions this was the ‘lead editorial of the first edition of Die Denkmalpflege read in 1899’, and that it was paraphrased by the editors Sarrazin and Hossfeld, in their ‘Zur Einführung’, p. 1.
38 Again, Vietnam as an example, and Maya Lin’s monument. 39 Andreas Huyssen, Present Pasts; Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), p. 3.
40 Pierre Nora, ‘Reasons for the current upsurge in memory’, 9 April 2002,
Eurozine, ‘Transit’, < http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2002-04-19-nora-en. html. [accessed 2 December 2010]>.
41 An excerpt from an abstract for a talk by Harriet Senie: . Dr. Senie’s work on spontaneous memorials is extensive, see in particular ‘Mourning in Protest’, Harvard Design Magazine, fall 1999: pp. 23–7.
42 Tom L. Freudenheim, Gautam Dasgupta and Bonnie Marranca, ‘Berlin’s
New Jewish Museum: An Interview with Tom Freudenheim’, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 22.2 (2000): pp. 39–47.
43 Etienne Balibar, We, The People of Europe; Reflections on Transnational
Citizenship, (trans.) James Swenson, (Princeton University Press,  2004), p. 234. Balibar’s reference to Eco is from Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe) (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 350–51.
44 Andreas Huyssen, ‘Present Pasts: Media, Politics, Amnesia’, Public Culture,
vol. 12, no. 1 (2000). pp. 21–38.
45 Ibid., 29. 46 Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Delete: the virtue of forgetting in the digital age
(Princeton University Press, 2009).
47 This rich and recent legacy of the relationship between Berlin and its sites of
memory is championed by James Young, Brian Ladd, Jennifer Jordan, Karen Till, Andreas Huyssen and Rudy Koshar, among so many others.
48 Daniel Libeskind, ‘Trauma’, in Image and Remembrance: Representation and
the Holocaust, (eds) Shelley Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz, (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 46.
49 Libeskind, ‘Trauma’, pp. 43–58. 50 Edward S. Casey, The Fate of Place; A Philosophical History (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1998), p. 9.
51 Etienne Balibar, ‘Citizenship without a preexisting community: A lecture
delivered at Bard College’, 19 March 2001.
52 Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust (Cornell University Press,
2000), pp. 56–7.
53 Balibar, ‘Citizenship’. 54 Peter Eisenman, Diagram Diaries (New York: Universe Publishing, 1999),
55 Informal Conversation, September 6 2002. I am grateful for my conversation
with Peter Eisenman. It seems to me that the substance of the discussion centred on the rejection of ‘ground’ in its most traditional iteration. For lengthy discussions of notions of ground, sign, symbol and diagram in his work, see, in particular, Diagram Diaries, but also, ‘The City of Artificial Excavation’, originally published in Architectural Design, 53 (January– February 1983), p. 92, and reprinted in Cities of Artificial Excavation; The Work of Peter Eisenman, 1978–1988, Exhibition Catalogue edited by Jean-François Bédard (Montréal: Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian centre for Architecture and Rizzoli International, 1994), and Re-working Eisenman (London: Academy Editions, 1993).
56 Here, I use the term ‘heart’ as a euphemism for our emotions, and to
suggest that our minds are perhaps that actual location of that function, but that the connection between the two has a poetic history that cannot be overlooked.
57 Mary Nolan, ‘The Politics of Memory in the Berlin Republic’, Radical History
Review 81 (2001), pp. 113–32.
58 Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban
Landscape (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 218.
59 For lengthy discussion of the political debate and competition, see Nolan,
113–32, and James Young, At Memory’s Edge; After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture, and particularly, Chapter 7, ‘Germany’s Holocaust Memorial Problem – and Mine’ (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), pp. 184–223.
60 The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe brochure published by the
Stiftung Denkmal für ermordeten Juden Europas, 2000.
61 Nolan, Politics, p. 120. 62 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Use and Abuse of History for Life, 1873, (trans.) Ian
C. Johnston, 1998, p. 4.
63 ‘The City of Artificial Excavation’, originally published in Architectural
Design, 53 (January–February 1983), p. 92, and reprinted in Cities of Artificial Excavation; The Work of Peter Eisenman, 1978–1988, Exhibition Catalogue (ed.) Jean-François Bédard (Montréal: Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian centre for Architecture and Rizzoli International, 1994), p. 76.
64 This term belongs properly to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand
Plateaus; Capitalism and Schizophrenia. (trans.) Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 2002), largely in chapter 12. ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology: – The War Machine’, pp. 351–423. Edward Casey discusses notions of space and place by suggesting, ‘… there is no end to the number or ways in which we can be oriented in space – in accordance with what Deleuze and Guattari call “the variability, the polyvocity of directions” by which we can move in any given spatial scene. But beyond … direction is place. Heidegger remarks that “space has been split up into places.”’ See Edward S. Casey, ‘Smooth Spaces and Rough-edged Places: The Hidden History of Place’, The Review of Metaphysics (Philosophy Education Society), vol. 51, no. 2 (December 1997): pp. 267–96.
65 Bauman, Modernity, p. x.
Memorializing Site: On the Grounds of History
66 Petra Bornhöft, ‘Commemoration Saturation: Can Berlin Handle Any
More Memorials?’ 11 May 2007, Der Spiegel Online International. .
67 Patrick McGroarty, ‘Remembering the Holocaust; How Many More
Monuments for Berlin?’, Der Spiegel Online International, 29 January 2008.
68 Lars Bang Larsen, ‘Whiteout’, Frieze, vol. 53 (2000), p. 102.
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3 Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building1
As a result of the swelling tourist economy that began to boom in the nineteenth century, Israel has become one of the most photographed geographic sites in the world, at first documented in photographic commissions, but eventually popularized through mass distribution of postcards, a souvenir that was inexpensive to produce and disseminate at the turn of the twentieth century. These postcards boast a diversity of place names: Promised Land, the Land of Canaan, Land of Promise, Land of Israel, the Holy Land – and some times simply the Land –, Judea, Judea-Palestina, British Palestine during the British Mandate, Ottoman Palestine and of course Israel. My aim here is not to settle on one term over another, but rather to provide a position from which to view the construction of Israel as we know it today, through the postcards issued during the modern period, and specifically from the 1920s to the 1980s. The layering of terms speaks to the controversial nature of the geography of a region inflected at all times by politics. In this chapter I will use the present name, Israel, and will revert to the historical labels accordingly. The construction of these many labels demonstrates the elaborate, imaginary and real constructions of the place, as it too, changed shape – over centuries. The photographs on these cards held sway to ‘authenticate’ as witness to the way a place looked, specifically through a Zionist lens, to those far away, in the diaspora. And as I will show, the postcards are themselves symptomatic of an effort to surmount the controversies of place. Let me first explain my use of the term ‘diaspora’.2 Anthropologist James Clifford addresses what he perceives as the problems with definitions of this term, because of its changing nature in contemporary invocations. Diaspora, according to Clifford, is entangled in theories, discourses and historical experiences that inevitably complicate its meaning. I am not concerned here about the inclination to recognize a diaspora as being uniquely Jewish: rather, I am interested in a broadly articulated concept of diaspora. In a pithy examination of the concept of diaspora, Carol Zemel builds on the existing theories to emphasize its pleasure qualities or ‘productive character’ in tandem with the aspects of tension and ambivalence, and the multiple subjectivities which, she suggests, are the distinguishing features of its ‘double consciousness’:3
… in contrast to the condition of exile, where uprootedness or never-athome-ness is a conscious and often stimulating fact of daily life, for the diasporist, home is where one lives, happily and unhappily, for long periods and several generations, simultaneously in one’s own community and in other people’s territories. Always a double geography, without a single center or fixed borders, diaspora is best charted as a palimpsest, with multiple centers and capitals and overlapping or porous border zones. One layer of the map corresponds to the nation-state and its citizenry, the other layer marks the experiential space of diasporic community.4
Seen by local citizens, visiting tourists, and eventually by their recipients in largely Jewish diasporic or Christian communities elsewhere, these postcards with their architectural and topographical images, and their digital equivalents in magazines and on the web today, weave the complex threads of antiquity together with those of modern times up to the present day that inhabit the same physical and imagined space. In order to achieve this image of a nation, the cards are curated; that is, they are selected, framed, and cared for largely by photographers and postcard publishers; picture postcards of ancient and modern architectural sights were designed to convey an overall sense of place. In an attempt to legitimize and authenticate the places they depict for posterity, these photographic postcards – distributed internationally – maintain for diasporic communities a delicate balance between monumentality, a complex and selective nostalgia, and nationhood. Trade routes and international mobility transport products – from continent to continent, across defined and ill-defined borders – including raw and manmade materials, foods, and a wide variety of luxury goods. What we have difficulty imagining is architectural mobility. But buildings and places do, in fact, assume a certain level of mobility, albeit symbolically. Postcards are key material objects that are evidence of mobility. Unless you are a collector of historic postcards and frequent antique shows or eBay, postcards of places are only available on the actual site of the building or location itself. This contributes to the contextual contour of the postcard when it is expedited, since it is visual proof of the expeditor’s presence on that site. While the cancellation mark can indeed be from another location – we might post a card later on, from a different location, or even when we return home – the image of the building corroborates that you were indeed ‘there’. And as I argue in this chapter, therefore, postcards contribute to branding images of the Holy Land by ‘transporting’ buildings and places from here to there.5 I inherited a collection of postcards from my late grandmother, Ruth Lerner Hornstein. This random assortment of images, carefully filed in a shoebox, stretches across a timeframe that begins in the 1920s, around the establishment of the British Mandate to the Declaration of the State of Israel (1948), through to the 1980s. While it is far from an exhaustive grouping, and distribution was spotty over many years, the postcards capture a sense of a collective Jewish diaspora, and a longing, however idealistically, for a homeland. Many of the cards are in black and white, while some are in colour. As with many postcard images internationally, early images are recycled into
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
newer postcards, or reprinted and sold over many decades. The development of an iconography seems to be the critical factor, as documented through the material objects in this collection. That is, the sites are Jewish sites for the most part, such as all these in black and white, with labels such as Ramat-Gan, Panorama, Tel Aviv, Boulevard Rothschild, Haifa, the Harbour quarter, Haifa on Mt. Carmel, The Yarden flowing out of the lake of Galilee, Tiberias, Tomb of R. Jochanan ben Sakai; Heriseliya, [sic] Palestine, Beth Gordon Agriculture and Nature Study Institute, Deganya A., Israel, Tel-Aviv, Mugrabi Opera, Safad, Old City Market. Many of the images can be dated to the 1920s, while others bear postmarks and messages dating from 1947–1980. Of these, a few of the cards have been ‘colorized’– that is, colour was added to enhance the monochromic image. Some of the exceptional colour photographs on the postcards in this collection include images of places that mark sites of modern times with the names and associations of founders, philanthropists or pioneers. For example, one pictures Mount Tabor – Basilica of Transfiguration in Petah Tiqva and the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Memorial (dating from after 1954 when he was re-interred there). There is also a card of the John F. Kennedy Memorial and Peace Forest of the Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (or Jewish National Fund6) labelled: Ruins of Old Harbour. Biblical sites are also represented such as this of Ashkelon, one of the five principal towns of the Philistine Kingdom and a place associated with Samson and Delilah. It reads: ‘Ancient Ashkelon was the main port of Southern Palestine, the town has been inhabited almost continuously until the present day … .’ Similarly, the postcard of King Solomon’s Pillars near Eilat includes text that speaks to the site’s biblical past ties into the present day: ‘Here on the same spot where formerly existed King Solomon’s Mines, a Modern copper mine has been built. Ayanot – Agricultural School World Wizo – Moetzet Hapoalot.’ Parallel to these images of a Zionist construction of Israel are the Christian biblical sites in the collection. These include: ‘Bethlehem, the Star’, ‘Tabgha, Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, Part of the Byzantine Mosaic Floor’, ‘Dormition Abbey, Mt. Zion, Jerusalem’. In addition, there are Palestinian sites: ‘Souvenir Gaza’ (printed by Palphot), ‘Hisham’s Palace, Near Jericho’, (Palphot), Betn-Lehem – Omar Mosque (printed by Isranot, Tel Aviv), ‘Jericho, The Hisham Palace attributed to the Caliph Hisham of the Omayyad Dynasty. The palace was built in 724 A.D. as a winter resort for the Omayyad Caliphs …’(printed by Palphot with text in English and French). The collection reflects persuasively a visual and textual Zionist cultural project. While postcards formed an impressive category of material objects designed as instruments of nationbuilding, other artifacts, such as newspapers, promotional booklets, fundraising materials and the popular press, according to Michael Berkowitz in his detailed analysis of the creation of Zionist culture before the first World War, added to the important desire by Zionists to impart a national culture.7 As he argues, the construction of a Zionist culture needed to account for differences in Jewish diasporic cultures. This was achieved,
he suggests, by recognizing that Zionism was created by Western Jewry with its concepts of symbolic European nationalism, Romanticism and the Enlightenment. Second, Zionism was an invention of essentially middle-class Jews who yearned to continue to be part of their European culture but also celebrate their Jewish identity. Finally, Zionism appropriated Jewish symbols and sites as part of a new national mythology of the pioneers in Palestine. This created the link between the past and the present. What this suggests, above all, is that it is not necessarily that these were the exclusive sites photographed for postcards, but rather that the selection of sites by the sender – by my grandmother as the collector – was amassed because of a desire to build a national, Zionist image of the place. Messages written to my grandmother by those travelling there, or messages written by her to friends who later returned the cards to her – ostensibly for her collection – record some of these sentiments. For example, one card, written partly in Yiddish and partly in Hebrew, dated ‘November 4 1947’, reads: ‘My dear Friend, After being ill for a long time in France, I am finally in my country. I have to return to France, but hope to come here again by the end of February 1948 to settle here with my family. With blessings to Zion and peace, M. Klinger, St. Germain-en-Laye, S.&G. France’8 The card is addressed to, Mr. M. Oberman, a friend of my grandmother’s who must have known of her collection and wanted to contribute to it. Using this card and some of the others in this collection as examples, this chapter explores the visual narratives of archaeological and modern sites selected for architectural representation on postcards. I am interested in nation branding for any nation, but in particular, I examine this form of identity formation in the modern period – from the late nineteenth century to approximately the mid-twentieth century – as a dynamic and evolving urban, historic, and political landscape. How is the cultural concept of the place framed in these curated postcards? What conventions are implemented to capture a sense of architectural place? Why would M. Klinger select a card depicting the Yarden flowing of out of the lake of Galilee? A postcard of a place records an architectural site in situ that eventually becomes an iconic representation of that place in time. It also records – through a personal narrative scrawled and annotated or elegantly scripted on the flipside – the testimony of one’s experience in that place, and becomes a souvenir of that moment in time. Postcards stand in for a deliberate image, imagined and constructed, yet fuelled by passion and idealism. For branding gurus, icons are storytellers in a succinct momentary visual flash – charismatic placeholder of an identity myth, according to University of Oxford marketing professor, Douglas Holt. Names, logos and designs are the material markers of the brand … A brand emerges as various ‘authors’ tell stories that involve the brand. Four primary types of authors are involved: companies, the culture industries, intermediaries … and customers … A brand emerges when these collective understandings become firmly established.9
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
Holt continues to reveal the back story of the branded product: ‘Brands become iconic when they perform identity myths: simple fictions that address cultural anxieties … Iconic brands earn extraordinary value because they address the collective anxieties and desires of a nation.’ 10 Put another way, and as Winston Churchill understood when arguing for the rebuilding of the House of Commons after its destruction by the Germans on May 10 1941, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us.’11 With this analogy front and centre we can better grasp the early forms of mass media branding by postcards. They were widely disseminated in a the conscious orchestration of photographic material, purposefully spreading snapshots of Israel that quickly and cheaply delivered a sense of a place in visual glimpses – the precursor to a soundbite – in this case, of an emerging nation. In many ways the visual equivalent to emails or twitters of today, postcards were intended to reach a broad swath of the population and were posted by recipients’ communal viewing, on a bulletin board at the workplace, tucked into a mirror edge, or taped near a cash register. With such an important market, the postcards I am describing had the ability to engage and inform individuals internationally, especially Jewish diasporic communities above all. In order to reach a broad public, it is important to consider the formal conventions of postcards that, through the process of multilayered curatorial interventions, produce a visual picture that continues to fuel a desire for the place. Through a postcard of ‘Capernaum, Ruins of an old Synagogue’, history and authority resound, because the image is one of classical antiquity.
3.1 Capernaum (Ruins of an old synagogue), n.d. Credit: Palphot Ltd.
Yet observe the twist: the postcard’s caption strikes a discordant note to those familiar with canonical Art and Architectural History. Survey textbooks typically glorify ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The synagogue at Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee was erected in limestone in the second and third centuries CE and is thought to stand above an even earlier one buried beneath it.12 It is unusual for the art historical literature, save for some minor revisionist texts more recently, to include any Jewish presence in the accounting of that past. After the extraordinary archaeological discovery in 1932 of the third-century synagogue at DuraEuropos in Syria, by Clark Hopkins of Yale University and his FrancoAmerican team, the first extant Jewish religious monument and its paintings did, finally, find its way into the survey textbooks, although always subsumed within other non-Jewish traditions and almost always denigrated for their lack of artistic merit. Margaret Olin’s important study made this plain through a critical overview of art historical textbooks. She writes that E.J. Gombrich did signal the importance of the paintings at Dura-Europos. But their importance was only remarked in relationship to Christian influences. He stated: ‘similar considerations … [to the paintings at Dura-Europos] … began to influence art when the Christian religion spread from the East and also took art into its service.’13 Olin also cites H.W. Janson, who included the paintings of Dura-Europos in his chapter on Roman Art, while others included them under ‘Early Christian Art’ headings resulting in a novel invention, the ‘Early Christian Synagogues’.14 Contrary to the approaches by Gombrich or Janson to integrate Dura-Europos by ensuring its ‘fit’ into the larger (Christian) story of art, however, this postcard aims to right the wrong and reconnect a disenfranchised people with its historical legacy. Insofar as the theory of photography teaches that mimesis is illusory, and that Truth claims about such images are untrustworthy, this postcard, regardless of veiled photographic techniques deployed to position the subject favourably, presents us with a visual example of some of the images manufactured to convey the grandeur, and the historical imperative that archaeology in Israel is testimony to a previously ignored history. On another card, ‘Tel Aviv on the Seaside’, photographed by Ya’acov Benor-Kalter (1897–1969) in the 1950s, and printed by Palphot, the setting feels staged.15 [The image captures a tranquil moment at the seaside in the new city of Tel Aviv. The local community is, perhaps, taking a stroll on the Sabbath, or simply enjoying a day off at the beach. Benor-Kalter was a graphic artist, architect and photographer, as well as an entrepreneur who invested in cinema houses. He also had his own commercial postcard company. After emigrating from Poland to Palestine in 1921, he launched his first photo album The Old City of Jerusalem, Photo-Etchings, of 12 photogravures printed in English, French and Hebrew in 1926.16
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
3.2 Jacob Benor-Kalter, Tel-Aviv, On the Seaside, n.d. Credit: Jacob Benor-Kalter for Palphot Ltd.
The Tel Aviv image is a dramatic perspectival view that presents the viewer with a sweeping vista of the shoreline at the entry point of the picture plan, and reaches deep into the distance to the ancient, biblical port city of Jaffa. Unquestionably, the new city authoritatively capturing the viewer’s attention, dominates the scene. All the people photographed seem clothed in European attire; everyone is white, and there is no perceptible trace of non-Western fashion. In a scene of bustling yet leisurely cosmopolitan life, this postcard conveys a seamless integration of Europeans into the landscape. While this image is of Tel Aviv, it remains clear that it is impossible to read the White City as distinct from its historic past in Jaffa.This is a conscious orchestration of the card’s narrative structure, to place Tel Aviv visually first, up close to the picture plane, as it perspectivally diminishes further into the Jaffa-located vanishing point. The presence of Jaffa in the composition is strategic and necessary as Sharon Rotbard discusses in her book, White Cities, Black Cities. Tel Aviv, she argues, cannot be seen as an independent, sparkling urban architectural treasure; it can only be seen as played off of Jaffa and ultimately in its relationship with Jaffa.17 In view of the enduring spiritual and romantic associations in western imaginings of the place, I want to highlight the tropes implicit in the architectural images captured in postcard photography in particular, and undo the tightly braided and, indeed, locked meanings associated with images of Israel sent abroad. From what perspectives of the place, and for whom were these cards marketed? To quest for the place that is and was exoticized, orientalized, and colonized, amounts to an acting out of the
spirit of travel borne from a longing to see it and be immersed in it, even to fashion an identity through the potential transformative properties inherent in that travel experience. For Jews in the Diaspora, this distant, biblical land is often promoted as a Jewish centrality or ‘home’, creating a double loyalty that arises in thinking about that geography as a space of (another) home. In 1948, like any new nation, Israel was eager to invite visitors to its shores. In addition, it offered Jews from all over the diaspora the chance to obtain automatic citizenship with the Law of Return and hence invited permanent residency and nationhood. The Law of Return states that ‘Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh’, and oleh is translated officially as ‘… a Jew immigrating, into Israel’.18 Therefore, travelling to Israel as a Jew is fraught with desire, guilt, exoticism, exhilaration, nostalgia and loss. Rebecca Goldstein’s figure, Jascha, speaks about this complexity from a diasporic position when he questions the idea of a Jewish homeland: ‘I suppose by this you mean some wilderness on the other side of the globe, on which I have never laid eyes, and which I don’t even know how to picture … I would ask you please not to impose upon me a destiny that I could never experience, but as entirely forced and artificial.’19 When we look at picture postcards targeted to the various Jewish communities elsewhere, what do we see? How is the idea of a Jewish homeland embedded in the collective and individual imagination? Which images or perspectives are selected to print on these cards? What do these postcards reveal about the curatorial objective? To what extent did nostalgia become a critical component in the appeal of Israel to those not living there? Put another way, the orchestration of photographic material selected or rejected for publication on postcards reveals precisely what the curatorial process taps into to stir the popular imagination and conjure fantasies of sacred soil and a possible utopia at this holy place. Taken together with other promotional media, these postcards contribute to branding Israel’s image abroad, as a proudly emerging modern nation. Religious pilgrims and zealots of all denominations wrote about the Oriental east. Nineteenth-century paintings, calotypes and lithography by Europeans documented their journeys in search of the ‘exotic’, as well as evidence of Biblical truths.20 Purple prose by Christian pilgrims led by Thomas Cook (who led his first trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1869) or the British minister, Henry Baker Tristram, who, in his journal of 1866 entitled The Land of Israel. A journal of travels in Palestine, undertaken with special references to its physical character, is especially rapturous: ‘Our hearts beat high with anticipation of long-cherished hope now on the eve of accomplishment, as we set foot on the quay, and felt we were treading more than classic – sacred ground. We were in the Land of Promise.’ 21 And of course, twentieth century filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille gilded the lily by combining these accumulated visual constructions of geography and architecture of the Holy Land with the mythologies of place, and transporting them to the silver screen in his epic The Ten Commandments (where we make an elision or confusion between
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
Egypt, the Sinai and Israel). The Holy Land, located geographically in the east, was colonized by the west. Yet the desire to know the east was part of the recent crescendo of exoticism and a European romantic sensibility of geopiety, a term coined by John Kirkland Wright suggesting a melding of a romantic imagination, attachment to a physical site and historical rectitude.22 As Wright put it, geopiety expresses ‘… emotional piety aroused by awareness of terrestrial diversity of the kind of which geography is also a form of awareness. […] Geopiety could be regarded as a province in a larger kingdom of georeligion […] and the latter, in turn, as part of the still greater unnamed empire where religion and geography meet.’23 The slippages between all these concepts of the place as site for geopiety sensibilities were further complicated – in a quest to represent a Zionist nation by a reading of that agenda by Ashkenazi Jews, since they were tagged as both European and Oriental, forever negotiating between the position of same or other.24 Ivan Kalmar and Derek Penslar underscore that: ‘historically, Jews have been seen in the Western world variably and often concurrently as occidental and oriental.’25 To lend further weight to this conundrum is the current perception that most Jews today are from Western Europe, yet ‘that perception is nuanced by the fact that Israel (home not only to Jews of European background but also to millions of “oriental” Jews and Arabs) is located in the East.’26 But because of the association by Jews and non-Jews with the ancient Israelites and with monotheism in the ‘oriental’ place of the biblical sites, another perception of Jews is that of an ‘oriental people’. 27 This was shaped in part by Jews and Zionist theories, Christian pilgrimages, and the Muslim experience of the land. A Zionist initiative to construct the nation through postcards offered an opportunity to reify, like the buildings and sights they represent, these often flawed perceptions through enactment: once a building is printed on a card it is difficult to erase it from our collective imagination, and this enactment is located on a straight line to nation-building, or (after Churchill), to shaping identities. Postcards played a critical role as visual and textual messengers of the developing reality, as they chart anecdotally the phases of Israel’s history of nationhood. The urgency of this quest is evidenced by the quantity of photographic postcards that were disseminated, predicated as they were on the archaeological past and modernist present, and indeed on the importance of binding the two. Only when set off one against the other could each be valued. Interruption, as an operative critical concept, is the temporal hiatus between what is ancient and modern, and is therefore tantamount to highlighting newness. A continuum would only reinforce the geographic and cultural history and memory, whereas interruption between antiquity and the contemporary (modern at the time) demonstrated a Renaissance.This was a strategy of careful selection, or of what we want to remember or forget. Topographical postcards are usually cropped images of places, architectural sites or monuments worthy of the detour, or landscapes, seascapes or desertscapes. Perspectival images offer, even direct convincingly, a way into
a city that is too large to grasp otherwise: a speed-dial guided itinerary for ideal viewing. If the camera shot is from below, the postcard provides an unfamiliar entry point to a street view or façade – as if we popped open a manhole from below street level – that strategically keeps the city’s grandeur; its ‘larger-than-life’ ability to wow by design – at bay. Or from a bird’s eye perspective above, postcard photos position our eye to sweep over the landscape at a 45-degree incline: what is far away to the human eye is almost a picture into the future of some intangible place, and suggests that boundaries are unlimited outside the card’s legal dimensional limits. This scopic stance defines what is close by as accessible, while boundaries determined by the photographer’s lens seem sometimes even more impossible to chart. These prise de vues are now the conventions of postcards today. They function best when the formula is familiar, even though the city or sight might be foreign or unknown. For those familiar with the site/sight, postcards reveal that which has disappeared from experience; if a site is unfamiliar to the recipient, its location is made familiar by virtue of the postcard formula creating a kind of mise en abîme, or collapsing of one reality inside another. If, in the idea of a mise en abîme, one object or idea or place is reflected in or dropped inside of another until the object becomes the thing with no end, then we could say that the postcard image is recorded, calling upon our recollection of that place when we were there, or, if we hadn’t been, then calling upon the place we imagined or saw in another photograph, and then inserting ourselves within the three-dimensional surroundings again with the imagined space of that place and so on in a sort of circular narrative of place. The same holds true for the message which, in its turn, asks for a response in some way to the message, even though no question was posed, a kind of call and response circularity again, calling up an imagined narrative about a place.28 Architectural and city images in postcards are of two orders: on the one hand, they can, through conventions of photography for postcards, idealize a place. Through framing, colorizing and providing sweeping bird’s and worm’s eye views, postcards can remove us from the things we need not notice: a photograph is never innocent and, by virtue of its cropped view, decontextualizes place. But picture postcards of cities as a whole – while creating a formula for an embracing or anticipating perspective – nevertheless always situate us, the recipient of that postcard and its message, outside the city’s inner workings of the everyday. A postcard of a place in time records an architectural site but is also a record – by way of the photograph and personal account – of an event, a moment that took place. Photographic postcards capture a place only to disperse it. By marking place and time as momentmarkers they testify as visual and scriptural records – to a past experience. The postcard is a souvenir and, as Susan Stewart suggests, is an exaggeration that is necessary to move into the space of experience. In a quest for the ‘authentic’ experience, we create or seek out the souvenir to materialize the event. In a way, the souvenir is a tangible index of phenomenological experience.29 But the sender’ experience is transferred to the receiver. No sooner does the picture
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
postcard leave the store display than it enters a different realm: as it acquires a message authored by its expeditor, it fashions itself into a communication and transportation device that records an action at one location that is transported it to another. The separation that marks the location of where the author experiences the place, as opposed to the place where it is expedited to, is clear once the postcard is viewed by its recipient: there is the quality of loss experienced by the receiver simply by virtue of the distance between the place where the card was acquired and the place where it was sent.30 While standing in for the thing or location represented, a postcard heightens the desire for the place – or for the memory of it – or the desire to be there. Through postcards, we act out the spirit of travel, the need to move from here to there, and even the need to carve an identity through the transformative properties sometimes inherent in the travel experience. Many nineteenthcentury perceptions of the Holy Land documented in contemporaneous travel literature continue to dominate the collective imagination. Idealized perceptions in travel literature, postcards, advertisements, and so on, cut against the grain of what it means to record everyday life and chart the multiple identities of Israel. Often, a postcard presents the viewer with an unintentionally un-aestheticized view of a place. Different from architectural photography and tourist photography, the objective is to capture the lived place, even with the messiness of everyday life. And thanks to mass distribution and the eventual ubiquity of the postcard, photographic conventions for them became overdetermined – postcard perspectives were, and continue to be predictable, in other words, from the swooping perspectival panoramic views, the familiar corner angle, the colorized sky, the cropped images. Yet ironically, their overdeterminedness is what has created their enduring success: that is, the formula for creating a topographical postcard actually works to foreground successive postcards. Photographic postcard innovations notwithstanding, these (traditional) topographic postcards function best when the formula is detected, or is familiar to the receiver. What is at stake here is the veracity of what we believe is familiar because it carries, and indeed inculcates – by the relationship of the image to the referent – what is known in the face of the unknown. Hence, the image may not be known, but its location as foreign place, or that which is taken to be exotic, is guaranteed by virtue of the postcard formula. Eduardo Cadava writes, ‘The photograph is always related to something other than itself … Related to both the future and the past, the photograph constitutes the present by means of this relation to what it is not’.31 Postcards make appear that which has disappeared from experience for the sender who stood in that spot and reflects back through the image. Postcards also make appear that which may not be known to a receiver. In spite of our experience of the site, or our lack thereof, the postcard images of places came to be iconic of now idealized views (for the sender and receiver alike). Elsewhere, Cadava refers to the fact that what it is we see in a photograph is actually a kind of sheet, cloaking the actual object photographed, and he asks if we really know the object: ‘Photography prevents us from knowing
what an image is and whether we even see one’.32 The object photographed in the postcard stands in front of the actual place, transporting us to some other place we imagine which, in the end, is not the actual place, but rather, an imagined place, like the places we construct in our ‘architecture of the heart’, the place deep within our mind’s eye. The postcards of Israel chart the phases of its nationhood. As with any new nation, Israel was eager to establish a visual vocabulary, a sort-of visual memory recall for a place others might want to know. Along with other forms of mass media, postcards acted on a kind of affective visual exoticism that played out at least six different perceptions of the Holy Land noted by geographer, Yehoshua Ben-Arieh. First, is his concept of a ‘divine, sanctified land’ based on the notion that the land itself was sacred because of Jesus’ presence. The Crusades were motivated by this idea, and sites related to the life of Jesus became revered and sanctified. Even the term, Holy Land – one of the multiple names of that geographical location – carries with it a capaciousness that, in this case, suggests the ultimate reverence for the geographic place and its attendant colonial perceptions and mythologies. Second is ‘divine holiness’, where theology dominates a historical and factual perception of the land based on the teachings of the Bible (and related to the first perception). Europeans on a Grand Tour, many of whom belonged to archeology, philology or antiquarian societies, sought to visit those places unknown to Western eyes and form the third category of perception. Fourth, the exoticism applies to images of desolation and devastation, in contrast to the glorious historical and biblical past, notably with the reality of dirt and dust of the land, and the need to conduct scientific mapping surveys to identify and categorize the place. Ben-Arieh speaks of the romanticized perception of the Orient, as known through literature and images as his fifth category. Above all, he refers to the 1001 Arabian Nights, translated into French and English by early in the eighteenth century.33 Finally, Ben-Arieh refers to the perception of the Holy Land as a window to the future or the ‘Land of New Beginnings’, where Tel Aviv symbolizes the attempt to forge a home from a largely European Jewish immigrant and refugee society from different ethnic and class distinctions.34 With a view to the west and its modern future, or to the east and the archeological past, Israel shaped its national identity during those formative years on the cohesion of the two, and on its secular and religious interpretations of the Bible, or what Yael Zerubavel calls the ‘people-land bond primarily divided into Antiquity and Exile’. The story of Masada affirms this as a … patriotic lesson from the nation’s past with an appealing site … [where the] … commemorative narrative accentuated the perception of a ‘great divide’ between Antiquity and Exile … [and] requires a highly selective representation of many centuries of Jewish experience in a vast range of geographical territories and ignores historical developments that do not fit the principles underlying this mold … Playing Antiquity and Exile against each other was necessary for constructing distinctive commemorative attitudes for each …35
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
Formalism, or the modernist claim that architecture is autonomous, is antithetical to any claims for the historical. Architectural historian, Manfredo Tafuri, understood that to assess modernist architecture historically presents a fundamental challenge, which is precisely the irony of the impossibility to assess it historically; it always presents itself as a ‘radically anti-historical phenomenon’.36 Israel, declared a nation-state during the mid-point of the Modernist movement in architecture, shifted between two stylistic poles: the clean lines of the Modern International Style (which gave us the White City of Tel Aviv images), and the archeologically drenched Jerusalem. As such, the Holy Land in these picture postcards presents a fascinating paradox: the desire to represent the past, but the impossibility for dealing with the past in the ideal, Modernist framework. And as Barbara Mann describes it: ‘Attitudes toward “the other” – whether concerning internal Jewish differences of gender, religiosity, ethnicity or social/economic status, or vis-à-vis the local Arab population – therefore played an important role in the city’s selfperception and the urban space that evolved in concert with this image.’37 Founded in 1909 as a garden city literally built on the desert sands, Tel Aviv is spatially separate and distanced from its historical counterpart, biblical Jaffa.38 Israel’s image in photos and postcards shifted between two stylistic poles: the clean lines of the Modern International Style (White City of Tel Aviv), and the historically saturated sites such as Jaffa, Jericho and Jerusalem, from biblical times. In the novel When I Lived in Modern Times (2000), by Linda Grant, the protagonist, Evelyn Sert, searches for a modernist utopian dream in the Tel Aviv of 1946: I was in the newest place in the world, a town created for the new century by its political and artistic ideologues: the socialists and the Zionists, the atheists and the feminists who believed with a passion that it was the bon ton to be in the forefront of social progress and in a place where everything was new and everything is possible, including a kind of rebirth of the human spirit.39
Between these extremes Jerusalem and Tel Aviv offer built proof: Jerusalem negotiating for a claim to history, and Tel Aviv advocating a city of the future. The two cities provide the metaphoric and evidentiary pulse that continues to be the philosophical heartbeat of the nation. Faced with a powerful desire to associate with an anti-historicism and begin anew – and this is a modernist concept within which this desire is located chronologically – Jews willed a particular history and celebrated the historical ground of antiquity. Taken together, these postcards, in their randomness of sites celebrated in images that marks many collections, nonetheless offer visual proof of Israel branded in this dichotomous desire to associate with Modernist anti-historicism and begin anew, while willing ancient history to Jerusalem’s celebrated recovery of antiquity. The broadcasting of panoramic views of the new nation beyond its borders, through architecture streetscapes of everyday life in a normalized
setting – steeped in a historical and archeological geography – was critical. Tourism as a concept about how others view the self is not necessarily an act of physical travel or displacement from home that teaches us how to learn about other places. In the nineteenth century, Baedeker and Thomas Cook guidebooks contributed to, and were largely responsible for presenting and securing a sense of what became the official memory of a nation. Put another way, physical mobility has never been the only way to imagine a place. The guidebooks nurtured an idea of a place, and established a selection of sights and sites not only suggested, but in fact almost mandated, to the extent that, without visiting those places, an authentic experience of the place would not be had. Designated sights, therefore, conveyed through this touristic literature were eventually declared ‘worthy of a detour’ – the Michelin Guide criterion for earning a two-star rating – and the accrued itineraries of these destinations instilled a sense of responsibility in the traveller.Through curatorial mediation tourists establish an itinerary of lieux de memoire,40 or what I see as a ‘trope of loyalty’ after Ian Baucom’s term for membership ‘in the body of Englishness’, and the sense of loyalty and betrayal symptoms relative to membership in a nation’s body.41 Postcards contributed to anchoring a sense of loyalty to the place, in particular because of their everydayness, yet postcards are visual and textual messengers that at once mark, yet defeat time and place. While thinking about postcards as a vehicle to guarantee a means of conveying nationhood, and loyalty, these postcards are ultimately about the primacy of place, and place that is imbued with that ability to contain feelings about claims of belonging. When John Ruskin argued for Neo-Gothic architectural fortresses as a means of redeeming Britain’s present – rife with urban decomposition and ‘savage’ forces in the controversy that arose after the publication of Jane Eyre – he ‘discovered […] that the imbricated narratives of culture, memory, and place are insistently fluctuating and eternally multiple, and that the nation, like architecture, dwells perpetually in the midst of its own invention.’42 What type of architectural image is chosen to represent the nation both before and after 1948, or is chosen to stand for a place in picture postcards? Each of us knows what this means: as amateur photographers and documentary filmmakers of our own lives, our travel memories are recorded by our own art of picture-taking and, more importantly, picture-making. Within those few moments we take to think about which angle we should shoot from to capture a sense of where we are and with whom we may be sharing this time, the selection process kicks off. We are initiating a process of ordering our visual scope so that we can best represent the bodily affect we are experiencing at that moment. Which building should it be? Will this really convey to someone else back home what it is I am seeing and feeling at this moment in time? We want this image to speak visually for the absence of that place when we talk about where we were. In practice, this is a process of making minimonuments, of sorts, or rather mini-memory-triggers that fit well within the larger definition of monuments.
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
Naturally, with any attempt to monumentalize for posterity, postcard compositions of an emerging Modern nation and nation-state wilfully inscribe civic buildings, memorial sites and archaeological landmarks into a narrative of nationhood as a declarative act, in the throes of naming itself. Seen from within the state and seen from without, these architectural and topographical images weave together the complex archaeological past and modernist present (now past). What reads as a document –categorized and inventoried – the picture postcard captures places of that present, evacuates its presence as ‘now’ and conveys a sense of ‘then’. 43 A postcard’s journey is a coming into presence in its own right, where the place that is transported elsewhere is an event or performance that does not exhaust itself, does not finish when it is received at its destination. Architecture in Israel, as evidenced in these topographical postcards, represents the struggle to create, foster, shape, define, and make permanent an idea of Jewishness and Israeliness. Largely a struggle for place – for the type and shape, for the look and feel, even for the smell of a place – the buildings that made up the necessary propaganda material were used to summon a sense of nationhood. This meant endowing places with a destabilizing force: the buildings of Tel Aviv arose from the historic sands, so to speak –out of the desert, on ‘virgin’ sand – but were part of the complex meshing and crossfertilization, the war-torn layering of peoples and cultures that this part of the world had become, in order to introduce newness that would depart from the old in order to reclaim this place. With a concerted and progressively modernist and therefore Western agenda, the other side of the perceived Jewish hybrid identity pulled between East and West. The new buildings of Tel Aviv, or the historical site of Masada would reify through enactment. Some thoughts on postcards as ephemera. Postcards as visual and textual objects impact on our consideration of architecture, nation-building, geography, image-making, and the construction of ideologies. In addition, postcards are a measure of time: they are postmarked, time-sensitive by virtue of their written message and, of course, by the photograph at a specific moment, and they are cheaply produced and therefore dispensable and disposable. As a result, they are classified and collected under the heading of ‘ephemera’, and therein contextualized within a concept of temporality. Set against the category of high art, ephemera, as a label, fits: it is a rubric on the margins of culture, a rubric that rings of temporal insufficiency. Time escapes and objects have a truncated lifespan; an ephemeron is a ‘thing’ that is fugitive, fleeting and volatile. The discourse of traditional art history created the category as a negative space where objects not easily categorized could find a home. Yet, in spite of the questionable quality of a postcard’s fugaciousness, the label of ephemera only serves to mislead – or worse – to disqualify postcards as active mediations. ‘Ephemera’ is a word used in library and archive discourse as a classification tool. Take, for example, the Library of Congress and their ‘Basic Genre Terms for Cultural Heritage Materials’ where ‘ephemera’ is defined
as follows: ‘Transient everyday items, usually printed and on paper, that are manufactured for a specific limited use, then often discarded. Includes everyday items that are meant to be saved, at least for a while … .’44 When unpacked, the category ‘ephemera’ appears stultified and locked within a paradigm that speaks exclusively to the notion of permanence, as if to suggest that painting can exist longer than a postcard. In an era where postcolonial theories have made their mark, it seems reasonable to assume that culture can now relish its manifold forms, and postcards’ disavowal of the label of ephemera no longer threatens them with elimination from the canon of objects worthy of consideration. Topographical postcards, specifically, are photographs of architecture and places. While it is true that postcards are often collected for the image alone, the photograph on a topographical postcard has a role to play in identifying, by virtue of the cropped image, architectural sites or monuments. In addition, of course, the image does not operate alone but rather as a partner in tandem with the textual message. When examining the material evidence, the seamless fusion between recto and verso of the card must always be the highest criterion.First, the photograph comprises only one face of the card; the other is devoted to the written word. It is easy to imagine the postcard as a photograph alone. Similarly, the message can be severed from the postcard and read, for example, to someone else; and then there is the image represented in the photograph: the monument or site conveyed in the photographic image can be discussed as separate from the photograph. Each of these worlds has its own distinct systems of looking, but all collapse the postcard into one material object, forcing us to consider the relationship between each: the message posted and received; the photograph that is neither a drawing nor picture of a painting in a museum; and finally, the architecture as subject of photograph on the postcards. These layered systems impact on each other to render a powerfully nuanced set of interpretations often overlooked. The everyday quality of a postcard and hence its ability to pass in our daily culture with little notice, offers up to the reader its very complexity. Outside Israel today, one would be hard-pressed to find a Jew who would not immediately recognize the archeological significance of Masada or dispute its claim to authenticity due, in part, to texts and general educational sources, but further inculcated through photographs, primarily on postcards. The concept of ‘interruption’ is the temporal hiatus or divide, therefore, seen through these postcards between what is ancient and modern, that serves to highlight the framing anew of the Holy Land as a place where that ancient past and contemporary present are in harmony once again. The postcard collection I have inherited from my grandmother, the indefatigable traveller, was begun during the British Mandate and was completed sometime in the early 1980s – logically at the time when, I can surmise, her wings were clipped. Youthful flexibility no longer inhabited her body and her travels were winding down considerably. The energy to collect these images, or the availability of them, coupled with her failing eyesight, may
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
have been the reasons for it. Her own lifetime coincided with the timeframe, it turns out, of Israel’s dizzying decades of national exhilaration. Today, one could speculate on the shift of tectonic mood plates: postcards from Israel may not be nearly as compelling to collect for anyone except historians marking with interest the ever-changing tides. Israel, perched on a political precipice, teeters between media favour and reproach. As a result, collecting images of a nation take on another tenor altogether. Still, picture postcards continue to circulate, even in virtual form on the Internet, having mutated, as well, into illustrated blogs. My discomfort with the term ephemera to qualify postcards − because the term speaks to the fleeting qualities of an object − is surely because they are precisely the opposite: that is, the lasting effects of desire and the incremental nature of adding one image and one message to the next image and the next message in a diasporic exchange guarantees a postcard’s permanence in collective memory by transporting buildings and sights, out of site.
Notes 1 My earliest opportunity to discuss this research was at the invitation of
Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler in 2004 as part of the Modiya Project: Jews/Media/Religion. Oriana Palusci included my ongoing work on the topic in a conference on post-colonialism at the University of Trento, 2005. The work took a different turn during the Universities Art Association Conference in 2008, Toronto where the concept of branding was introduced in a session created by Reesa Greenberg on Exporting Israel. Finally, the Vernacular Architectural Forum afforded me the opportunity to trace its contours in a new direction again in Washington, DC, 2010. I am grateful for each of these occasions to assist me with thinking through this complex topic.
2 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Spaces of Dispersal’, Cultural Anthropology,
vol. 9, no. 3 (n.d.): pp. 339–44.
3 Carol Zemel, ‘Diasporic Values in Contemporary Art: Kitaj, Katchor,
Frenkel’, in The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times, (eds) Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jonathan Karp, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), p. 177. Zemel borrows the concept of ‘double consciousness’ from W.E.B. Du Bois’s famous essay in Atlantic Monthly magazine of 1897 where Du Bois spoke of a double consciousness, a ‘two-ness’ of being ‘an American, a Negro; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.’ Atlantic Monthly, vol. 80 (1897), p. 194.
4 Ibid., p. 178. 5 For a reverse example of the influence of postcards as a measure of mobility,
Galit Hasan-Rokem discusses the images of Jews themselves in postcards. ‘Jews as Postcards, or Postcards as Jews: Mobility in a Modern Genre’, Jewish Quarterly Review 99.4 (2009), pp. 505–46.
6 The Jewish National Fund (JNF) began, according to its website, as a ‘non-
profit organization in 1901 … a national fund … to purchase land for a
Jewish State in Ottoman-controlled Palestine’. It undertook to plant trees on the land purchased so that by 1927, 1.7 million trees covered an area of 1750 acres. See . 7 Michael Berkowitz, Zionist Culture and West European Jewry Before the First
World War (The University of North Carolina Press,  1996), p. xv.
8 I am grateful to Gennady Estraikh for this translation. 9 Douglas B. Holt, How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding
(Harvard Business School Press, 2004), pp. 3–9.
10 Ibid, 287. 11 Sir Winston Churchill, ‘House of Commons Rebuilding’, Commons
Sitting HC Deb Hansard 1803–2005, vol. 28 October 1943, vol. 393, cc40373. (UK Parliament Archives, 1943) ... In context, he stated: ‘On the night of 10th May, 1941, with one of the last bombs of the last serious raid, our House of Commons was destroyed by the violence of the enemy, and we have now to consider whether we should build it up again, and how, and when. We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us. Having dwelt and served for more than 40 years in the late Chamber, and having derived fiery great pleasure and advantage therefrom, I, naturally, would like to see it restored in all essentials to its old form, convenience and dignity. I believe that will be the opinion of the great majority of its Members. It is certainly the opinion of His Majesty’s Government and we propose to support this resolution to the best of our ability.’
12 Rachel Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art and Archeology in the Land of Israel (Leiden:
E.J. Brill, 1988), see esp. Chapters 7: ‘The Synagogue’ and 8: ‘Synagogue Architecture and Decoration’, pp. 135–233.
13 Margaret Olin, ‘“Early Christian Synagogues”and “Jewish Art Historians”
The Discovery of the Synagogue of Dura-Europos’, Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft 27 (2000): pp. 7–28.
14 Ibid. 15 Palphot Ltd. was founded in 1925 by Tova and Yehuda Dorzaun. Palphot
began with postcards photographed and produced by the Dorfzauns themselves. Their website states that the owners ‘dreamt of setting up a business in the Jewish homeland’ . Miriam Dorfzaun, daughter-in-law of Tova and Yehuda, confirms that her in-laws did indeed select sites to photograph that ‘showed the development of the country’. Her records indicate that Ya’acov BenorKalter was the photographer but that the date of the card is not registered. (Correspondence, June 15 2010.)
16 Vivienne Silver-Brody, Documentors of the Dream; Pioneer Jewish Photographers
in the Land of Israel 1890–1933 (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1998), pp. 195–205.
17 Sharon Rotbard, White Cities, Black Cities (Babel (architectures), 2005). 18 David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Shapira and Yosef Sprinzak, ‘Law of Return
5710–1950’, 5 July 1950, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 August 2010.
Transporting Sites: Israel, Postcards and Nation-Building
. 19 I am grateful to Caryn Aviv’s and David Schneer’s exciting and renewed
take on the notion of Diaspora, and their quote from the novel Mazel of 1995 by Goldstein. See their engaging and importantly controversial New Jews; The End of the Jewish Diaspora (New York: New York University Press, 2005).
20 For more on this see Kathleen Stewart Howe, Revealing the Holy Land: The
Photographic Exploration of Palestine (University of California Press, 1997), and Derek Gregory, ‘Emperors of the Gaze: Photographic Practices and Productions of Space in Egypt, 1839–1914’, in J. Ryan and J. Schwartz (eds), Picturing Place: Photography and the Geographical Imagination (2003).
21 Henry Bower Tristram, The Land of Israel: A journal of travels in Palestine,
undertaken with special references to its physical character, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, (London 1866), p. 105.
22 John. K. Wright cited in Burke. O. Long, Imagining the Holy Land: Maps, Models
and Fantasy Travels (Indiana University Press, Bloomington 2003), p. 1.
23 John. K. Wright, Human Nature in Geography (Harvard University Press,
Cambridge (Mass.) 1965), p. 251.
24 Those Jews originally from the Rhine River valley, Germany and eventually
25 Ivan D. Kalmar, Derek J. Penslar (eds), Orientalism and the Jews (Brandeis
University Press, Waltham (Mass.) 2005, p. xiii.
26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 I owe much of my thinking about this subject to the important observations
made in a now iconic article about postcards by the late Naomi Schor, ‘Cartes Postales’: Representing Paris 1900’, Critical Inquiry 18.2 (1992): pp. 188–244.
29 Susan Stewart, On Longing (Duke University Press, Durham 1993), pp. 134–5. 30 Ibid. Stewart suggests, in this passage that ‘this capacity of objects to serve
as traces of authentic experience is […] exemplified by the souvenir’, p. 135.
31 Eduardo Cadava, Words of Light; Theses on the Photography of History
(Princeton University Press, Princeton 1997), p. 63.
32 Ibid., p. 5. 33 Sir Richard Burton published a popular English translation in 1885, but
the story is a blend of Indian, Persian, and Syrian oral traditions and manuscripts. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. A plain and literal translation of the Arabian Nights entertainments (Benares: Kamashastra Society for Private Subscribers Only, 1885).
34 Yehoshua ben-Arieh, ‘Perceptions and Images of the Holy Land’, in The
Land That Became Israel: Studies in Historical Geography, (ed.) Ruth Kark, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), pp. 37–53.
35 Yael Zerubavel, Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli
National Tradition (Chicago University Press, 1995), pp. 16–17, 114.
36 Manfredo Tafuri, Theories and History of Architecture (Harper & Row, New
York 1976), p. 70.
37 Barbara E. Mann, A Place in History; Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of
Jewish Urban Space (Stanford University Press, 2006), p. xiii.
38 For Tel Aviv’s history presented as two views see Barbara Mann, ‘Tel Aviv’s
Rothschild: When a Boulevard Becomes a Monument’ in Jewish Social Studies, winter, 2001, vol. 7, no. 2: 1–39, and her ‘Modernism and the Zionist Uncanny: Reading the Old Cemetery in Tel Aviv’, in Representations, winter 2000, vol. 69: 63–95, and finally, her A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space (Stanford University Press, 2006). For a more critical distancing, see Mark LeVine, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine 1880–1948 (California University Press, 2005). Tel Aviv is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
39 Linda Grant, When I lived in modern times (London: Granta, 2000), p. 72. 40 Pierre Nora, Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire: Representation
vol. 26, spring 1989, pp. 7–24. Nora’s term has been used in much of his writing as in this first English language translation of his Lieux de Memoire, later published in English from the French in an abridged selection of these ten volumes of collected and edited essays as Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, Columbia University Press, New York 1998, (trans.) Arthur Goldhammer.
41 James Buzard, ‘Book Review of Out of Place: Englishness, Empire, and the
Locations of Identity’, Victorian Studies, vol. 43, no. 2 (2001), pp. 294–98. Buzard refers to Ian Baucom’s use of this reference when speaking of membership ‘in the body of Englishness’, so that I am appropriating his usage for a more general sense of loyalty and betrayal symptoms relative to membership in a nation’s body. See next.
42 Ian Baucom, Out of Place: Englishness, Empire, and the Locations of Identity
(Princeton University Press, Princeton 1999), p. 74.
43 See Jean-Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World (University of Minnesota Press,
Minneapolis 1997), p. 126.
44 Library of Congress, American Memory, Basic Genre Terms for Cultural
Heritage Materials, 04 04 2007, 26 08 2010, .
4 Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
Jacques Derrida writes that The ruin does not supervene like an accident upon a monument that was intact only yesterday. In the beginning there is ruin. Ruin is that which happens to the image from the moment of the first gaze. Ruin is the selfportrait, this face looked at in the face as the memory of itself, what remains or returns as a specter from the moment one first looks at oneself and a figuration is eclipsed.1
Our belief in architecture as permanent results from the legacy of Antiquity, and the treatise De architectura by the ancient Roman, Marcus Vitruvius, who established an architectural canon of strength, utility and beauty as key components of any built structure. Of Firmitas or durability, he wrote: ‘Durability will be assured when foundations are carried down to the solid ground and materials wisely and liberally selected … .’2 The idea that a solid form cannot be shaken was the goal for architectural form as materials were perfected for construction purposes over the century to ensure durability. Buildings as structures, indeed monumental structures, reveal a tacit understanding that they are permanent. Distinctions of class were easily determined by way of the nature of materials: the more durable, and therefore proud a material –such as stone – the more expensive it was. Thus, the most durable of all forms were naturally churches, palaces and civic structures, whereas private dwellings were less and less durable, given that the materials used in the poorest of domestic structures were the least enduring or subject to destruction by the elements (fire, floods, winds or earthquakes). Categorization by building materials and architectural form aside, architecture begins to crumble the moment it is fixed and ‘finished’ being built on site; and the process of deterioration continues throughout the life of the building. We could say that, ironically, once a building is finished being built, it begins its life; and as with all life, the process of ending begins as well. Indeed, buildings do have lives. Any sense of permanence is but an illusion. Whether we live in a rented or owned space, a mud hut, or a palace built of stone, there is always upkeep, fixing, updating, refurbishing of the
deterioration inflicted by time. Yet we live our lives in buildings, first in homes, then, often for many hours a day, in offices or other workplaces, often completing the day in a structure designed for entertainment, or cultural or sports activities, for example. We place faith in the buildings that house these functions as being more or less permanent: that is, they are stable in that we can rely on them to be there for us the next day. And, as if we are haunted by the idea that acknowledging the life of a building brings us closer to our own encounter with death – that is, that a building does have a lifespan – we enter into a transparent relationship with the stability factor of a building and carry on with the notion that buildings are forever, even if we know intellectually, that this is not true. All too often architecture seems simply to exist. Unless it is aesthetically moving and noteworthy, we tend to take little notice of our built environment, that is, we perform our functions in somewhat blasé fashion, impervious to our surroundings. Whether or not we acknowledge the impact on us of a beneficial space, as we work, is beside the point. Of course, we do everything to beautify the place we call home, but rarely challenge the idea if all is going well, while3 resorting to doctoring decorative elements so long as the guts of the building seem not to cry out for attention. And we complain bitterly when we are denied a large office, or the spatial constraints of a home or work space affect our ability to perform as we feel we should. To chart the life of a building and take notice of its shape, its role as a container of our present and our past, is often much less of a priority than our daily tasks; instead, we take it for granted. We carry on as if this building will always be the rock-solid structure that it is – much like a new car whose colour and sheen become invisible, not only when you sit down and drive it, but over time, as you become accustomed to it. It’s only when its reliability falters and lets you down that, suddenly, the structural and mechanical aspects of this machine for transportation is visible once again. Anne Buttimer, arguing for the need to understand the insider’s perspective in order to grasp a sense of locality, says that ‘one lives in places and may be so immersed in the particulars of everyday life and action that he or she may see no point in questioning the taken-for-granted or in seeing home in its wider spatial or social context’. Ultimately, there is a need to encourage a reflexivity so that there can be a meaningful appreciation and interaction or dynamic with a place, or as she puts it, ‘a calling to conscious awareness those taken-for-granted ideas and practices within one’s own personal world and then to reach beyond them toward a more reasonable and mutually respectful dialogue between those who wish to live in places and those who wish to plan for them.’4 Empowered with self-awareness, the taken-for-grantedness no longer registers, and patterns of concealment are lifted or shifted. Objects and places, the everyday material culture, is revealed by movement, that is, moving from a perspective of being inside to outside, in greater alliance with a social context. Similarly, when myriad events intervene to disrupt that sense of architectural permanence, when homes are demolished, natural disasters such as floods, monsoons, or earthquakes occur to shape the earth, and collateral damage
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
forces us to be uprooted and made to live or work elsewhere, architecture, suddenly matters, and from that day forward, we are desirous of home once more. This notion that architecture is stable, immutable and, above all, permanent, and that home is always safe and present, is shaken by these events. Walls, doors, passageways, the objects we cherish and save in hidden corners, and the clothing that carries the memories of stories that took place when the clothing was worn, are the substance of what follows. And this substance, this stuff that carries meaning and memory, is lost over time. Whenever we think of memories, those accumulated during our own formative years in our own home settings come to mind immediately, for better or worse. The visceral response we have to a house in the process of demolition, for example, speaks to the deep pain of loss of a place where memories were formed, and are often the most tender. Where Derrida’s words are compelling is in coming to an often near-impossible realization that home is a process of ruin from the outset, and permanence is only and always an ideal state of that architectural form. It is always dissolving before our eyes, transforming, altering into something else, something new. W.G. Sebald’s protagonist, Austerlitz, in his novel of the same name, never felt at home in Wales; his somber and sorrowful memoryscape book is about reconstructing his past, and ultimately means retracing it back to his actual home in Prague. Whereas Aharon Appelfeld, sought, in his earlier writing to move on and not visit his past, his novel, The Iron Tracks, cleverly situates the narrator on a moving train – in order to feel free from any connection to place – ostensibly for his work as a land-surveyor. That this is a profoundly symbolic profession, one that is rooted at all times to a fixed place – is telling. He is haunted, nonetheless, by his memories of wandering for 40 years in Europe as a survivor of the Holocaust and thereafter. Instead, his novel creates an itinerary that will encompass all the train stations that represent his and his parents’ pasts. Each station provides another marker of a narrative through a spatial practice. To re-word Michel de Certeau, ‘to move [de Certeau wrote ‘to walk’] is to lack a place’,5 what he called an ‘indefinite process of being absent and in search of a proper’.6 Matta-Clark experimented with this specific notion, yet his work was exceptionally important in that timeframe, as a refutation of the permanence of architecture, or what he referred to as the ‘metaphoric voids, gaps, leftover spaces’,7 to be sure, but he moved it into a poetic realm: destruction as art, where provocations of the architectural structure and form through intense and literal punctuations of the walls, ceilings and framework meant considering three-dimensional form in a new key. His elaborate and complex geometric holes punched into and out of an existing building, or the splitting of a house, for example, into two before our very eyes, shocked and shook, riveting our perceptions into a place we never imagined going. Anthony Vidler likened Matta-Clark’s explorations as a strange reversal of baroque deep space, where he subverted the experience of looking way up as if in a cathedral, but here, where steel, glass and concrete as opened up in the baroque
sense, this time, however, enhanced by modern structural innovations and transparent materials. ‘Your normal sense of gravity was subverted by the experience … this strange reversal. Most of our deep-space experiences are really looking up into something like a dome.’8 Such provocative gestures of creating voids and giving the emptiness meaning only reinforce the avantgarde experiments with the spatialization.9 Where Matta-Clark differs from the two artists whose works are examined in this chapter, is precisely with the concept of spatial play. That is, MattaClark responds to the modernist moment with what he called anarchitecture: the result of intersections and cuttings into soon-to-be-demolished buildings is, I would argue, a dialogue within the framework of modernism’s broadest context. Rachel Whiteread and Iris Häussler work in a moment that acknowledges the legacy of modernism’s rhetoric of space but moves the conversation into a sphere of embodiment and the material experience of place, instead. Rachel Whiteread and Iris Häussler invite us as viewers to consider that search for a place by returning to our own memories – an equally impossible request – anew. That is, they invite us to take a look at what we never saw even though it was right before our eyes. In this way, we activate the space or gap between a place and our acquired memory of it. In absent or transformed architectures, they set up open narratives that tell stories from the inside out, and reveal the inner workings of daily life played out, or performed, in public space. In three art projects installed in urban sites, place is flipped, reversed, turned on its head and pulled inside out. Given this new perspective, we are invited to reconfigure ideas about places where claims about them in the popular imagination – as a result of these interventions – no longer hold. The places where memories were made are disturbed to the point where it is no longer possible to act out the earlier memory without confronting the interruption of the narrative introduced to replace the former.
Rachel Whiteread House (London, 1993–1994), by Whiteread, turns an actual house inside out, by filling its insides with concrete and peeling away the house itself. In this act of destruction, she addresses what occurs when the privacy of dwellings is literally turned inside out. What existed is no more and what was private is now public. While making solid the inside, that is, actually pouring concrete into a mould to shape the spaces of the inside, she achieves a new building form recovered from the insides of the formerly keenly private precincts. For most of her work, she’s sought to make visible what is usually invisible or, more aptly put; she exposes the underexposed and the overlooked. More to the point, she molds space, or what we think of as empty space, in fact, what we never even thought of space to begin with: ignored space. In that odd crux of emptiness at the underside of a chair, a space never tangible, Rachel
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
Whiteread harvests a shape. She captures it, in a sense, and makes physical what usually registers as invisible space. These places that participate fully in daily life are re-presented as positives from negatives and become legitimized objects for contemplation. That is, negative space never really seen in domestic space – though highly visible if only we took the time to look for it – becomes positive. In House, Whiteread challenges what we think we know about how we use the space of our homes, or rather, how the spaces of our homes are not considered legitimate working and living spaces. Their daily presence is not only ignored and shapeless due to their invisibility, but, above all, they are invalidated. And in this project, she asks: What do we know of the life of this house? Who were the people who lived in it? If Michel de Certeau is correct in suggesting that through repeated patterns we come to territorialize place – that is, through the familiarizing with a place we find meaning in it – then surely a dwelling is more familiar than almost any other structure. Yet, in direct contrast to de Certeau’s theory of territorialization, Whiteread proposes that what we thought was familiar is oddly foreign. While the house she reverses holds all the signs of a house we should know or think we do know, in principle, it turns out to be an objectified ‘thing’ distant, peripheral, extraterritorial. The personal stories of this House are told only through traces, while the interiors and its stories and artifacts are blocked. We are compelled to identify with this house by transgression: our viewing is but a voyeuristic action, and the once interior surfaces are now public and form a wall for our own territorial boundaries. Whose memories were revealed when this house stood as the symbol of all homes?
4.1 Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993 (demolished 1994), London. Credit: Commissioned and produced by Artangel. Photograph: John Davies.
Everything ages: buildings and place weather. The process of deterioration of architecture is part of a natural evolution of elements – natural or artificial – in the environment. Monuments of importance may never have been known to us. Archeology aims to recover that past because its very core philosophy is that everything leaves a physical trace. And yet, since the love affair our modern culture entered into with ruins, with the knowledge that a partially ageing structure imparts an element of the past that we register as prior to our own time, we have manifold approaches to what it means to preserve that past in objects. The meticulous restoration of paintings and architecture, particularly since the Renaissance, is an indication that we cherish objects that mark the past, and that we are conflicted about what are the best means through which to come to terms with ways to keep these objects with us – perhaps even forever. At this point we could bring the discussion of demolition into the mix: the extreme form of eliminating an object, primarily architectural, as a way to either introduce something new in its place for a variety of reasons – economical, political, safety, use-orientation that has fallen into obsolescence – or a way to rid a site of a built form that is aesthetically unacceptable by some. Does demolition end a memory? And conversely, does preservation of a building or place preserve a memory? What is the relationship of a material object to an idea, or of a house to a home? We attach ourselves to things that are familiar, and then yearn for them when they are gone from our sight or our touch. Rachel Whiteread takes familiar domestic objects that we think we know and makes them into something we no longer recognize. Through this process, we lose site of the familiar and it disappears from our memory base altogether. In fact, we have difficulty believing that the objects Whiteread creates really are what she says they are. Although her objective is to make an object we don’t understand because we have never seen this form before, her final product, through this process of seeking the unseen that is before our eyes, she actually heightens the materiality of the thing, making it seem to be more than what it ever was. More, yet not really more in its material physicality, since she is working with simply – in a manner of speaking – filling in the space between the material we already know. To clarify, the project is this: she spatializes in material form the negative and otherwise invisible cavities of what is left once the object is formed. If we think about classical sculpture, we can imagine the technique of say, Michelangelo, while carving the Prisoners, a series of sculptures now housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. There, we see the stone that was not eliminated, or, at least, which had not yet been eliminated, as well as the positive object the sculptor was attempting to reveal – or ‘release’, as is claimed by those seeking the metaphoric associations with prisoners ‘locked’ into the stone. What would amount to being the discarded stone of the prisoners is the equivalent of the negative space Whiteread reclaims as the substance of her work. Whiteread’s House and some of her domestic ‘furniture’ pieces reclaim site as something more than the just the object in
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
situ. My suggestion is that her reclamation is a testament to weightiness and place, through the guaranteed doubling of the original and her trademark casting techniques about which these objects demand attention. What is it about these objects that compels us to respond and take notice, particularly if their everydayness, that is, their mundanity, might suggest we pass them by? With House, as with most of her cast objects, Whiteread brings into material presence what we normally do not see. Moreover, she reverses this way of seeing and, as a result, through the extreme materiality of what we normally take to be nothingness, we begin to question the use-value of the object no longer present – the chair no longer there, only its negative space. Its formative model, Ghost, was an ‘object’ exhibited in a museum-like space.10 As a cast of a living room of a Victorian house installed inside yet another architectural structure, Ghost played with the museum’s generic institutional space as background to the highly personalized and private residential space of the home. Of that project, Whiteread says, ‘When I made Ghost, I was interested in relocating a room, relocating a space, from a small domestic house into a big concrete anonymous place, which is what the museums have done all over the world for years and years.’11 On the heels of Ghost and its substantive international success, House, an even more ambitious project, was already in its conceptual phase. Site, in tandem with the qualities of mass and materiality, were critical components for the work, as is always the case for Whiteread’s projects. After several unsuccessful explorations of several North and East London neighbourhoods, Whiteread, assisted by Artangel director, James Lingwood, was able finally to acquire a temporary lease for a Victorian terrace at 193 Grove Road in Bow, East London. Work began after several official paperwork delays in August 1993. On 23 November of the same year, Whiteread was the recipient of the coveted Turner Prize, and on the very same day, Tower Hamlets councillors voted in favour of the demolition of House, effective immediately, although the structure did not come down until January 1994. As Lingwood aptly remarked, ‘It was an incendiary combination.’12 This necessarily fuelled the media circus that resulted and catapulted the notoriety – one might even suggest with caution: the ‘sacredness’ – of the project to the world beyond the Bow neighbourhood. 14 While Rachel Whiteread’s urban interventions, in particular, trouble the viewer by the nature of their insertions as well as by their subject matter – an experience that is critical to the discourses we enter into when we are in the presence of the works, or even when we consider them through photographs – I want to argue that the sequencing of the thoughtful process of engaging with the work must begin with an understanding of the type of materiality of each piece, in conjunction with its placement. I am not suggesting that each and every artwork is to be understood solely through the lens of matter and place above all else, although the suggestion is tempting. At least for the purposes of Rachel Whiteread’s considered observations of House and house furniture, materiality and place, as they are made known to us through the process of
casting and subsequent locating, placing and intervening in space of the cast object, remain the specificity of her work upon which all other reflections are brought to bear. House categorically refutes the notion of buying into a nostalgic enterprise. The mere reference to the term, ‘house’ as opposed to ‘home’ announces this position. As a monument to the idea of ‘house’, this work challenges concepts of community, place and security. Its status as place is continually confronted. Its physical site problematizes the politics of geography and location that necessarily lead to protracted discussions about identity and nationhood. The qualities of nostalgia often associated with imagining home are rejected, indeed repelled, forthwith. To force this trajectory of thought is one of the ways in which House subverts any idea that where we live is a simple and comfortable, even neutral, territory. Whiteread’s project, through her (eventually) successful battle to build and – after protests and media events – her unsuccessful battle to have it remain standing, shored up at every moment the disruptive nature of architecture in place. What we are left with is a challenge to any concept of ‘house’. In fact, this house is not a house. This house might be considered uncanny, in the sense suggested by Freud: being in a class of those things we consider frightening. As a result, this object leads us back to what feels comfortable, what is known and familiar.15 The conundrum is that we cannot determine what is known and familiar about this house, because it is entirely unknown and cannot ever be known: entrance to it is prohibited, and we are defeated by any attempt to enter regardless. It is full, and its insides – or, its ‘fullness’ –are now on the outside. The internal mass of the house has de facto become its exoskeleton, forming a barrier, a kind of opaque cage that excludes penetration and protects the mythical interior. Taken all too lightly most of the time, architecture – an object, a frame, a shell, a placemaker – is often ignored. Whiteread’s house-that-is-not-a-house demonstrates this powerfully. We carry on our daily activities in, through and around architectural spaces, yet we are almost indifferent to them. In fact, our lives are modulated, mediated and moderated by the spaces of architectural configurations – walls, streets, pathways, corridors, roofs, and so on – yet we would be hard-pressed to remember precisely the dimensions or details of places we frequent, such as the office, or the home. In a way, this is a good thing. The shapes in which we function become moulded to our projects and our patterns. We wear the architecture of our everyday lives like a skin, with the expectation it will always be there to protect us and continue to provide the shell within which we become defined. Rachel Whiteread’s House is the physical manifestation of what Freud conveys when he discusses the unusual semantics of the terms ‘heimlich’ and ‘unheimlich’. In one sense, heimlich conveys the familiar, or the known, but it can also mean ‘that which is unknown’, or ‘that which is secret’. To further complicate matters, ‘unheimlich’, the term which should, logically, convey the opposite meaning, usually means ‘that which is unknown and unfamiliar’, but also ‘that which is
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
unconcealed or unsecret’. Therefore, Freud’s argument is that ‘unheimlich’ or the ‘uncanny’ is that which is concealed, but also that which is known and familiar. Two opposite interpretations that overlap, and double, as one. If doubling those interpretations gets at the essence of Whiteread’s objective for her piece, then House, we could say, is rich in its connotations of intimacy and the personal, as well as being rich and controversial about all that we share as public and familiar. Whiteread ensures that this doubled reading is argumentative, political and bold. But her work as its base is about doubling as a process understood best through the experience of the object, that is, the material object she makes for us to experience. The doubling principle in her work, then, needs closer examination. Of the diverse and numerous writings about her work, the technique she employs as her standard is often mentioned, but never explored in detail. In each of Whiteread’s projects there is a heightened consideration of the making of the object itself, that is, of the made-by-hand approach that is she demonstrates is lost to the process of the multiple (hinted at by the technique of casting). Her approach, through the subtle variances she introduces from project to project define her work. She has been hailed as someone who casts, whose work is about casting and whose work is about loss (of the object, thus absent or reversed). But more than this, it seems to me that Whiteread’s projects always feature objects doubled, or the spaces doubled, through the process of the mould and its cast. Architecture that was once on a site is no longer on a site; yet even while it stood prior to demolition, House qua house, while no longer a house in fact, actually was. It was removed and replaced – but not exactly. This nonsensical reconfiguration of the familiar house was now proposed as a deformity of the real. What is the casting technique? To cast is to ‘form (metal, or the like) into a shape, by pouring it when melted or soft into a mould, where it is allowed to cool or harden.’ 16 The cast for House was the house at Grove Road itself – its walls, floors and staircases; in short, the surfaces of its complete interior. Filled up with liquid concrete, the private insides (of the outside) registered the impression of the surfaces, nooks and crannies, onto its surfaces. The outside house that served as the mould was then demolished. House was a giant dental impression, a fossilized remain as much as it was the complement to the frame or exterior. To think about the double of the cast is to think about the properties that define what we know to be our objects of material culture. Rachel Whiteread makes sculpture, but the material object she makes is the object created from a mould. Put another way, without this technique, without the primacy of the mould around ‘real’ things, we would not have work, at least not any of the work we currently know, by Rachel Whiteread. Unlike sculptors generally categorized as those who traditionally either build up using terracotta, wax or plaster, or carve, by breaking down a monolithic material such as marble, granite, or wood, Whiteread never works on an object she initially creates. Instead she uses the objects of our material culture as her point of departure. By taking the imprint of found objects, and specifically large-scale and architectural, architectural-related or architectonic objects (plinths, water towers, bookshelves,
furniture, houses), she comments on the deeply rooted relationship we hold to the quotidian and to objects integral to our everyday lives. By framing the objects with a mould, she frames objects for us to consider, much as frames identify and highlight works in a museum. Our gaze shifts from the everyday to a heightened experience of the object in its newly articulated form and place – even when that place is on its original site. In the same way, Whiteread frames and exposes what she wants us to pay attention to and separate from the everyday, so that we take notice. The casting process, no matter what the material used, allows her to do just this. And the detail and refinement she devotes to researching this process are exemplary. Take, for example, a description of technique for Monument (2000): Monument is a replica of the stone plinth on which it stands cast in waterclear resin and inverted on top of the original. The mould was not made directly from the plinth as it is a listed monument and therefore it is not possible to take a cast of it. The mould was constructed to the same dimensions. Approximately 11 tons of the material was used to make it. It is cast in two hollow sections which sit one on top of the other. Each section was stage poured over several hours into an aluminium mould. It was demoulded after 30 hours and continued to cure over the next week. The interior was filled and sanded where marks had been left by the mould, and then sprayed with a clear lacquer … It took four months to construct the mould … The making of the plinth was delayed by the technical difficulties involved in casting such a large volume of resin. A long period of research and development was necessary to determine the right material and casting technique. Some of the particular difficulties were: the varying thicknesses of different parts of the mould; the high temperatures generated inside the mould by the curing of the resin; the tendency of resin to contract as it hardens.17
Questions explored by Whiteread through her technique are centred on some of the following formal qualities: what is the nature of tactility and weight in an object? By taking an impression, literally, what is the imprint left in the material that serves as a fossilization under pressure? Does casting try to shape the object that will then disappear? Rachel Whiteread renews the conventions of casting in two different ways: first, she creatively investigates new materials such as resin, rubber and dental plaster, and re-examines materials more commonly used in casting, such as concrete. Second, she plays with the methods of casting and the idea of shaping a ‘thing’. Instead of moulding the object as object and then filling that mould with resin, for example, she creates a cast to frame the object and then fills the space between the mould and the object with resin, rubber or another material. Her frames of space that are shaped on the inside by the absence of the object once the mould and the interiorized object are removed, is the nature of her practice. Another strategy she uses to shape ‘things’ is somewhat more traditional to the extent that she shapes a mould around the object she identifies, say a mattress, and then eventually fills the empty space created by the mould occupied earlier by that object. But defiantly, she transforms the tactile
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
knowledge we all carry of the qualities of a mattress – soft, pliable, bouncy and dense – in an almost subversive move, replacing the familiar quality with rubber and high density foam. Furthermore, she saturates the new material with an amber hue and straddles the mattress halfway up a wall. Its function is unclear; its familiarity rendered foreign. Not only does Whiteread articulate casts in a variety of materials, but she does so to capitalize on mass and weight. Above all, the works address presence by mass and weight. The contents of her pieces never move unless it is to new locations within a house, from one house to another, out of the house into someone else’s house, or finally, to the trash – its dead end. In all cases, however, movement is limited and rare, and not essentially associated with the object. For that matter, House, is perhaps the quintessentially stable, rock-solid symbol of place and endurance in a collective of houses: the neighbourhood. We could say that virtuality has shaped city life in novel ways that alter the dimensional comprehension of propinquity. Western society has devaluated rock-solidity, or at least our symbols of architectural stability have shifted. That which is fluid, partial, fleeting and above all, virtual, qualifies that which is valued. Cities, in the ongoing anxiety and crisis management of speed and progress tallied by the scopic measuring stick of modernity, negotiate movement. Virtuality and media explorations disrupt and extend any urban perspectives we may have held dear and instead, traditional spaces seem to have been expanded virtually beyond the architectonics of the common shelter and primitive hut. Indeed House by Whiteread, as a result of its weightiness, seems to harness virtual energy in order to revisit the pace of the standstill. This is a return to the notion of monumentality best understood through the mystery of the great monuments of the past: the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Pyramids. Each of these continues to mystify, in part by its design, but largely as a result of its scale and weight. This weightiness or monumentality marks the material presence of House, and is sensed in the spirit of the furniture units as well. When we think of a house or the furniture elements that are requisite to it, we are hard-pressed to consider a house for its houseness. Rather, we are deadened by its convention in our everyday lives. In fact, to perceive a house and its function from the inside is not an active process. We are far more accustomed to admiring house facades and their concatenation on streets; interiors are private spaces for which invitations are necessary. As for our own house interiors, we know them all too well – or do we? Rachel Whiteread’s primordial tale, the one that resonates above all else, seems to be the presence of this object, this House. It is something that is voluminous, solid and massive, in the way of something else, immovable, incomprehensible. It is strangely familiar, yet ultimately unfamiliar. It is an expression of art that exists, as best stated in this circumstance by Victor Shklovsky, ‘that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.’18 What Shklovsky argues for is an ability to begin to recognize the object in front of our eyes, because until the time that this object was ‘declared’ art it was an
object we never saw. We are thrown into an ‘automatism of perception’ that, he suggests, is remedied only by art that succeeds by describing a process in detail through the act of ostraneniye or ‘defamiliarization’.19 While these formalist theories were first written in 1917, they are, to my mind, the most apt way of understanding the specificity of Rachel Whiteread’s House and furniture. It is not a simple technique that Shklovsky offers; it is not merely about naming, but naming parts never before named. Shklovsky uses Tolstoy’s example of ‘pricking the conscience’ with aplomb. He quotes from War and Peace in order to demonstrate how Tolstoy, among others, transformed meanings by replacing common associations attached to rituals and customs, particularly those religious in nature, by seeing things and describing them outside the parameters of their accepted contexts. As a result, his work was considered to be sacrilegious by many. But the process, employed by other Russian formalists such as Boris Tomashevsky, in his analyses of Swift and Pushkin, signalled the wake-up call for considering the art itself. In other words, the defamiliarization process shifted the attention back to the object itself. Our previously skewed view of the known object – a house, a bathtub, a table – is shaken into an awareness, indeed a new awareness, of the ordinary, and the object draws attention to itself. Suddenly the details of the mundane – electric outlets windows, walls – focus our attention on what we had never seen, and particularly on the materiality of the house, its stoniness (or concreteness). With this deliberate act to awaken our automatized perceptions, Whiteread highlights the pieces and parts of the whole that eventually contribute to how we perceive the content. And while the modernist duality of form and content can never be separated, nor should we even think of these two categories as the governing concepts in considering works of art, there is, nevertheless, a visceral response to the tactility of the material: its presence and sheer imagined – and at least, visual – weight wholly engages our eye and sharpens our focus on the nature of materiality altogether. And in a deft move, she reconfigured that strategy: for House, she used the real house as the mould and filled up the inside. Once the outside was demolished, the inside stood, bare and revealed. The bipolarity of the process requires that one of the two parts is removed from its place, rendering the notion of place placeless. Yet her work can easily be seen as a completion of the circle since we’re only given one half through which we’re asked to imagine the whole. Concrete fills up all the spaces of the inside, and when the outside walls are demolished, when that mould is peeled away, House stands alone with all its insides declared: a solid mass of inside, out. We behold that which is never valorized by others: a denuded place, a house stripped bare of its houseness with its entrails revealed curiously inside the outside now gone. All the cultural values – and secrets – expressed in a home and invisible to the outsider, are sedimented in concrete, at once almost erased and preserved in what could have been taken as a monument – at least while House stood – to the lost object. Even though highly visible, the standing object, raped of its protective skin, is no longer in sight. We have lost sight of the initial object, House, to demolition. Later, in a doubling of that destruction when House was demolished, we lost site as well.
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
Iris Häussler Similarly, Iris Häussler recreates He Named Her Amber, the life of Mary O’Shea (Amber, b. 1811), a seventeen year old Irish woman hired as a housemaid, employed ostensibly by the D’Arcy Boulton Jr. at The Grange, the home built for him in 1817.20 What was an empty historic house and a formal annex at the Art Gallery of Ontario had been transformed into a historic excavation site, elaborately conceived and dedicated to what will be an important preservation and restoration site. The visit of the Grange is conducted by a docent who is assigned to lead visitors through the house in order to explain the life of Amber, who left a curious and important imprint on the history of the place. The guide begins the itinerary with a narrative detailing how Amber literally carved out secret places within the building to store her bizarre collections of animal remains, blood and teeth. That she preserved these objects in wax is a telling detail in itself about how wax served as a memory tablet.21 The quirky narrative about Amber’s life as told through the various wax objects she stashed in odd corners of the house is shockingly revealed after the fact: the tour is completed, the visitors exit the historic hallway back into the reception foyer area of the house, and are given a sheet of paper with curious annotations. In fact, it is an odd document, printed in a small font densely spread across the legal-size sheet headed The Grange Excavation Notes 01/2009, with a masthead marked: ASO: Anthropological Services Ontario, Chantal C. Lee, PhD. Close to the end of this detailed description of the project comes full disclosure: the story is imagined:
4.2 Iris Häussler, He Named Her Amber, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2008–2010, Toronto. Credit: Iris Häussler.
The difference between thinking about emotions and actually experiencing them is huge. Reality has an edge that imagination lacks. The revelation of the fictitious nature of Amber’s story – after a time of reflection – is, however, as much a part of the artwork as the construction of the story is in the first place. The point is redirection, not deception. This project as a whole has aspects of both fact and fiction and it is only as we experience this contrast that we begin to sense how complicated truth is, in reality.22
However, after we are led through the house and after the once static historic house is now animated by the story we absorb but also perform visually and imaginatively in the framed space, we learn most shockingly that Amber is nothing more than an invented character in this fictional narrative. We’ve been fed a fiction unheard of in an institution of higher learning. In these historic, domestic spaces, our protagonist, sweet and curious Amber, never existed. Much of the press and curatorial statements revolve around the idea of visitor participation and historical accuracy. These two points are critical. Often, historic house museum experiences trap the visitor into a stagnant reception of a narrative, a somewhat oxymoronic state of being where only detached representations of daily life are exhibited and set within an ‘authentic’ context, or so the visitor is led to believe. So willing is the visitor to engage in this experience of authenticity, that an inauthentic representation is never questioned. Here, however, Iris Häussler carefully crafts the visitor experience at least initially with the same strategy, that is, where the visitor gives up all ability to question the veracity of the experience. But in a powerful twist Häussler churns up the flow with the revelation that the visitor must now reject the reality proposed to us as truth and recognize how complicated storytelling is; questioning reality, truth and memory, questioning the memories we now have of the place that have been overturned by a second truth experience, and feeling lost and without memory, without place. Without the place, the memory is no longer there. Or with the place, the memory is no longer there. The match is ill-matched, disorienting and disturbing to the viewer. In fact, Häussler has commented on letters she received from AGO members so outraged by this betrayal of loyalty – after all, the mission of an art institution is to educate and impart truths about the past – that they have withdrawn their memberships to the institution. In a second project, Honest Threads, held at Honest Ed’s, in Toronto, Häussler invited members of the Toronto community to lend personal garments that stoked a particular memory. The call made a point of indicating that whatever would be loaned to her for the exhibition would be lent to visitors to try on and even take home – mimicking a lending library concept of sorts. She plays with a renowned commercial landmark, a deep discount store-emporium called Honest Ed’s, a fixture at a downtown crossroads in Toronto since 1948, by setting up shop, in a manner of speaking, and installing the lent clothing in a ‘boutique’ section of the men’s department. What is Honest Ed’s, and why does Häussler choose this site for her celebration of personal stories?
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
4.3 Iris Häussler, Honest Threads, Honest Ed’s, 2009, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum.
‘There’s no place like this place anyplace!’ screams the outdoor signage. Honest Ed’s is an outlandish box of a building that dominates the corner, a prominent downtown corner of Toronto, Bathurst and Bloor Streets, and stands as gatekeeper to a village, a community, even a lifestyle. It marks a side of the city that speaks to the neighbourhood through waves of Vegas-like lights that, somewhat fluidly, brighten up the corner in an almost shameless display of what today we would qualify as carbon-footprint waste. We cringe as we enter the garish place, and once inside our fears are realized: it’s hellish and claustrophobic. The interior is windowless with low ceilings and punishing florescent lighting lined up like dominoes. It feels as though you might never be able to leave. Perhaps without windows shoppers might feel protected from those outside: no one will see them and know they’re searching out the bargain of a lifetime. This fortress- like protectorate is a bizarre bazaar, an emporium, a souk, a jumble sale in a state of perpetually ‘going-out-of business’. And without a hint of a doubt, this is an iconic landmark, a vector guiding traffic and tourists in this city, regardless of its splashy, vulgar, carnival signage. And so, in such an emporium, which began in 1948 with the schmata – an old and unfashionable piece of clothing or something you should not be caught dead wearing – Ed Mirvish, whose early years included opening a dry cleaners, began his empire. Stuffed to the brim with bargains galore, this building takes seriously his claim which spans the facade: ‘Don’t faint at our low prices; there’s no place to lie down!’ Space is at a premium: rows of rectangular tables are lined up as if following a roman city grid plan, perhaps in a tip of a hat to some sort of historic and sophisticated order. But of course, order is demolished and replaced by a visual cacophony that becomes, in its
turn, the new order of the day. I suppose the idea is to give naïve shoppers like myself, an illusion of order in a scrambled, topsy-turvy display. But perhaps it is a cunning illusion of clutter and disarray that is, in reality, a well-oiled systematized, schematized and management-savvy arrangement of junk. The building, in the end, is central to the heart of this enterprise. It is to the building, to this place, not just any place, that the public comes. And at the heart of it is the dream of a bargain, of finding the precious piece of cloth that is either a jewel in the crown gone astray, or the illusion of a gem, in the guise of something else. Iris Häussler titles her installation, Truth or Dare … and she depends on this place to dare us to look for truths. She is attached not only to this place and the memory of it within Toronto, but she is equally attached to the space of the city. Häussler relays back in time, to the history and essence of the place in order that we may feed off of the truths of the reliable past and the lives of those of the past, in order to walk forward. But as we do so, she challenges us to make sure we know the rules of the game, and that the truths we think we know be tested. Part of the relay back in time is to have us recall the art and play of ‘dressup’. Most little girls and boys dress up. That is to say, while growing up, or while watching others grow up, we’ve all experienced what it means to put on the clothes of others. What is dress-up and how is it relevant here? Dress-up offers a transformative experience through play. While we roleplay, we learn more about who we are. According to Roger Caillois, it is ‘… a diverse series of manifestations, the common element of which is that the subject makes believe or makes others believe that he is someone other than himself. He forgets, disguises or temporarily sheds his personality in order to feign another’.23 Let’s walk through the exhibition to engage with Häussler’s direction, her curatorship, her invitation. Cheek by jowl with the exhibition are the vintage musical theatre collectibles of the Mirvish Theatre legacy and schmatas. Schmatas tell a story: from the piles of rummaged goods for sale in the store to the collector’s items precious to the storytellers of this show. Iris Häussler is the artist, anthropologist, and curator of our own and others’ stories and memories. In each of her two current Toronto pieces, she plays out a theatricality of the real, where the real is challenged. We never challenge the real until we’re invited to do so – by trying on the clothing, or when we return home from the Art Gallery of Ontario – and timing is everything for Häussler, timing within the context of space. Why? Because in each instance, stories, or memories, as Maurice Halbwachs suggests throughout his work on collective memory, are anchored in spatial frameworks.24 But whose memories are they? And have we misappropriated those memories which will come to life and seem accurate because of their architectural ‘dependence’ on spatial constructs? How do we play with those memories, try them on for size? Is the clothing empty of life, or full? Each visitor to the exhibition begins the readings: the stories that recount nostalgic memories of the object or piece of clothing dear to them and why. Each story
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
transmitted to the reader is already a partial gift that we receive with an invitation to‘take my memory, try it on. Can we share it, would you own it? More on the gift later. We move along to read the walls in whatever order we feel calls. We may even stray to the middle of the room where racks of clothing stand, as if to suggest this is a rack where we can hang our own winter coats as we enter the space. We’re invited to browse, to fill in our conversations with ourselves about our memories, and even to cast a glance across the room to this eclectic array of vintage clothing. We may choose to file through the racks, touching the items in an almost sacrilegious act (do we dare?) There was widespread belief in biblical times that the clothing of a person carries with it his or her dignity and power, prompting many, for example, to touch Jesus’s clothing.25 In the example of the ring and clothing that Pharaoh gave to Joseph, ‘… the clothes follow and partake of the total character of the soul … Honour must appear in the garments worn, because the soul of the man penetrates everything that belongs to his entirety’.26 Another reference in the Bible is the passage that addresses the tassels on prayer garments, or tzitziyot (fringes or tassels in Hebrew) tied to the four corners of the tallit or outer garment. Speak to the Israelite people and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner. That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge. Thus you shall be reminded to observe all My commandments and to be holy to your God.27
What act can possibly assist us to acquire the memory of others, as if to suggest we can cloak ourselves in the lives of others. Yet this is the promise in the gift, a promise awaiting fulfillment, but sometimes unrequited. In the end we are charmed by the ensemble of invitations, opportunities and challenges of bringing forth the memories of others. In Honest Threads, Häussler plays with this play and invites us to partake in this role-playing – to an extent. Rather than working out the Me in You or the She in He, it seems to me that she is after a deeper, more soulful, connection to the Me that existed in the cloth. These are not new objects. The heart of this playfulness is in the recycling of pasts, not the examination of the new. What does it mean to wear the memory locked into the garment, or to unravel the history by way of the threads of this object? Museologically, archeologically, anthropologically, the clothes themselves seem to hold less than the stories their photos and the keepers of these ‘finds’ tell; and yet, without them, the exhibition lies almost empty. This is by design: Häussler advocates, through this exhibition, in the codetermination of our daily lives. Not only do we dictate our personal, insular, and safe environments – environments we covet (welcome to the iPod selfcontained heaven); not only do we sit in front of computers and delve into virtual communities all the while secure in our capsular existences, but, as
Häussler demonstrates, we also yearn to be part of a participatory community of actors where we perform either real – read truthful – or imagined lives. This is evident in Häussler’s Grange project where we contribute to upholding, shaping, or demolishing collective knowledge. In his book How Societies Remember, Paul Connerton argues that recollected knowledge or images of the past are ensured through ritual performances, and that bodily social memory is, therefore, an essential aspect of social memory. Oddly, and unfortunately, memories do fade, and social performative practices are rare. That’s why, as French historian, Pierre Nora reminds us, we need memorials, because collective mourning is no longer enacted through community momentum. We lack the rituals we once had as societies through which to collectively recall these events. Perhaps the closest ritual I can think of in my socio-cultural nexus is Passover. Even in Sebald’s novel, Jacques Austerlitz laments: ‘I think how little we can hold in mind, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.’28 This is the triumph for Iris Häussler, whose project is predicated on the experience of performance. As long as we can get ourselves out of our booths of privacy and into the public spaces of the AGO or Honest Ed’s, then we can enter into the constructed, Lilliputian world that she invents, as she invites our own inventions to play along with her. This exhibition makes clear that we are in the process of an exchange, a ceremony of gift-giving, of exchanges empty and full. When George Simmel wrote The Philosophy of Money in 1907, he spoke about value and the fact that it is never an inherent property of objects. Instead, what he said, is that value is only a judgment made about them by subjects. He went further to say that when ‘we call those objects valuable’ it is because they ‘resist our desire to possess them’.29 Häussler subverts this. Instead, she takes objects that possibly never acquired that sort of commodity value and flips this to examine the life of objects as they exchange hands, when they are gifts with memories woven in and out of their threads. What do these objects convey when they are the precious legacy of one conveyed to another? Insofar as their value lies in the very preciousness of the object, that it is something outside of ourselves, we can take it to be a gift. But what, then, is a gift? Put another way, what power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back? This was a question posed by Marcel Mauss in his important book, The Gift. In Häussler’s project the object of clothing as the gift, just as in Mauss’s analysis, is a ‘thing given [that] is not inactive’. Instead, it, is shaped by the stories that are in turn shaped by the exhibition space of exchange, that in turn is shaped by the context of the emporium in which this exchange is made possible, and invested with the layering of memories of this confederation of life that makes this space altogether. This gift of the threads then ‘… seeks to return [as Mauss would have adapted it] ‘to … its “place of origin” or to produce, on behalf of the clan and the native soil from which it sprang, an equivalent to replace it’.30
Destroyed Sites: Places and Things Inside Out
I like to see this gift, as it seeks its return, in the way Häussler works the project of history altogether in the context of memory, with the tug of one recollection back and forth in time to the present moment, as it hoops in and out of the truths of others, particularly while we challenge our own recollections or stories for the future. How much will we believe? What contexts shape that credibility? Because, make no mistake about it, Häussler’s dare to us – to know the truth as performer-participants of this compelling exhibition-play – is accomplished through trading, exchanging, and lending of each others, sentiments and everydayness through nothing more, but above all nothing less, than threads. Whiteread and Häussler, in each of these pieces, empty the place of its inhabitants by transforming its acquired and historic function. We are left only with our own imaginations, and the tools supplied by the artist in this ‘new’ place, with which to somehow create or recreate a fiction or daily life. Being releasing from the original context from its dependence on history and its architectural heritage, the new space takes on new meaning. Each of these works cultivates the past, and questions what it means to inherit it. Each asks what role heritage plays in the present and what it means to remember the past. But above all, Whiteread and Häussler comment profoundly from sites removed from the centre. While John Urry argues for investigating the nature of heritage, particularly in museum settings through what he calls ‘glacial time’, or what Andreas Huyssen calls an ‘escape from amnesia’, it is precisely this world of memory overload and collective amnesia outside the museum space and in everyday-life settings that Whiteread and Häussler take us.31 Through a decentralized and alternative memory performance in each of these three works provoked by the power of artefacts, the dynamics of memory are stirred. There is a pungent relevancy here of the nature of gender performativity in these works where, through negative domestic objects, odd objects encased in wax and therefore hidden from view in domestic surroundings fictively constructed, and through transferred items of clothing with their personalized stories attached, the gendered subject is, as Judith Butler famously stated, ‘a body that matters’. As a call to counter the absent matter of postructuralism, (or what she tells us that Gianni Vattimo calls the ‘dissolution of matter’ due to the ‘textual play’ of that theory), Butler sets out to recuperate the ‘sexed specificity of the female body’, or what was lost or invisible matter in the writings of Foucault, in particular, as he writes about texts during this linguistic turn. But she is cautious when using the term ‘body’ and equally cautious about ‘poststructuralism’ acknowledging how complicated these terms are to really know. Still, she underscores the general sense that there is an opposition between ‘poststructuralism’ in that it is essentially rooted in discourse and therefore, and ‘the body’ is a material presence. The works by Whiteread and Häussler defamiliarize, or, in Butler-ian terms, ‘destabilize their performatives’ to make the case that bodies are constructed, and to problematize the ways in which those bodies are posited prior to the sign itself, as Butler continues.
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Each of these works calls into question the materialities they present to us. ‘This unsettling of “matter” can be understood as initiating new possibilities, new ways for bodies to matter revealed by dismantling the poststructuralist critique and distinguishing between sex and gender – where sex is biological and gender is socially constructed.’32 Although Judith Butler’s two earlier works, Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter, date from a time now long past, the messages are still clear and their impact in the world of architecture, memory and place, more poignant than ever. The call to recognizing that we all perform gender means that we are all free to imagine a gender or reinvent one. Without delving into the extended work around this term by Butler, it is useful, nonetheless, to play out this theory when experiencing Häussler and Whiteread’s pieces. Each of them reverses or better still, subverses the forms of places once familiar and in the process, invites our questioning of the circumstances in order to come away with a new narrative, a new sense. Here the memories we carry about home and belonging intersect and are at once reified while made strange. Of course, the question we might pose at this point is: what do we do with this newly subversive house, or buried and hidden objects, or transferred clothing? In a critique of Butler, Martha Nussbaum, while stating that these claims of Butlers are certainly interesting, asks, ‘what would the acts of resistance be like, and what would we expect them to accomplish?’ But these are not questions we need to be positing, for the answers are always emerging and evolving as viewers engage with these pieces and bring them to the viewers’ normative agency of memory. There should not be a universal accomplishment other than the act of resistance itself played out in the materiality of the pieces.
Notes 1 Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, (trans.) Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, (University of Chicago Press, 2nd edn, 1993), p. 68. 2 Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture (BiblioBazaar, 2008), p. 40. 3 David Seamon, ‘Phenomenologies of Environment and Place’, Phenomenology and Pedagogy, vol. 2, pp. 130–35, 1984. 4 Anne Buttimer, ‘Home, Reach, and the Sense of Place’, in The Human Experience of Space and Place, (eds) Anne Buttimer and David Seamon, (Taylor and Francis, 1980), pp. 171–2. 5 Michel de Certeau, ‘Walking in the City’ in The Practice of Everyday Life, (trans.) S. Rendall, (University of California Press: Berkeley, 1984), p. 103. 6 Ibid., p. 103. 7 Gordon Matta-Clark, Interview with Liza Béar, Avalanche (December 1974), p. 34. 8 Radio interview by Liza Béar, March 1976, reproduced in Gloria Moure (ed.), Gordon Matta-Clark: Works and Collected Writings, Barcelona Ediciones Poligrafa, 2006; (New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Pub., 2006), p. 268.
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9 An elaboration of the rich legacy of thought on this broad subject is discussed, and in many ways summarized in the introduction of Anthony Vidler, Warped Space; Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (MIT, 2000), even though the project of the book is primarily about spatial warping produced, as he puts it, by ‘the psychological culture of modernism’ and the ‘forced intersection of different media’. 10 Ghost was first exhibited in 1990 at the Chisenhale Gallery, London. It subsequently was exhibited elsewhere, but always in the context of a gallery interior. 11 Rachel Whiteread in David Sylvester, ‘Carving Space’, Tate, the Art Magazine, London, spring, 1999: 42. 12 James Lingwood, ‘Introduction’, in House, (ed.) James Lingwood, (Phaidon Press Limited, 1995, 2000), p. 7. 13 Ibid. Much of the contention that ensued orbited around the rhetoric of familiar art controversies, particularly those about public art. When work is immersed in the everyday environment, communities, whether unified or not, and individuals, feel entitlement to place. With that entitlement comes a democratic voice and it is precisely those voices that, however, informed or not, can carry decisions. Many of the local inhabitants objected to what they considered unsightly and inappropriate. Still, no consensus prevailed and the variety of opinions and passions were extensive. 14 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, (ed. and trans.) James Strachey, vol. XVII (London: Hogarth, 1953), p. 195. 15 ‘cast, v.’ OED Online. Oxford University Press. . 17 The National Fine Art Educational Digital Collection, Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College. 18 Ibid. 19 In Russian, literally ‘making strange’. 20 The first home of the Art Museum of Toronto and later to become the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Grange’s architect remains a mystery. This Georgian manor house belongs to the National Historic Site Alliance for Ontario (NHSAO). . 21 David Bostock, Plato’s Theaetetus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). This echoes Plato’s dialogue, where Socrates asks Theaetetus to imagine the mind as a wax block on which we stamp what we perceive; as long as the imprint remains, we remember, and whatever is obliterated, we forget. False judgment occurs, he points out, when we match the wrong memory imprint to another. 22 Iris Häussler, ‘The Grange Excavation Notes 01/2009’ distributed at the AGO, and as indicated on this sheet, represents an abridged version of the text at: , where the curatorial statement by Dr. David Moos, of the AGO is available as well.
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23 Roger Caillois, Les Jeux et les Hommes (Gallimard,1958), p. 19. 24 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory, (trans.) Lewis A. Coser, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). 25 Hendrik van der Loos, The Miracles of Jesus (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965). p. 317. 26 Ibid. 27 Numbers 15: 37–41, Tanakh, the Holy Scriptures (Jewish Publication Society), 1985 28 Ibid., p. 24. 29 Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, (ed.) David Frisby, (trans.) Tom Bottomore and David Frisby, (London: Routledge,  2004), p. 67. 30 Marcel Mauss, The Gift: the form and reason for exchange in archaic societies, (trans.) W.D. Halls, (Routledge, , 1990), p. 13. 31 John Urry, ‘How Societies Remember the Past’, in Theorizing Museums: representing identity and diversity in a changing world, (eds) Sharon Macdonald and Gordon Fyfe, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 45–68. 32 See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subvrsion of Identity (Routledge, 1990), and later, Bodies that matter: on the discursive limits of ‘sex’. (Routledge, 1993), p. 30.
5 Curating Site: Museums, Itineraries and Networks Beyond Borders
For those who have never visited the Louvre in Paris, France or the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, a frozen snapshot of each of those architectural monuments is the first image that comes to mind, rather than any of the paintings in the collections housed within their prodigious walls. The image is likely to be of the building itself, or its location: the architecture and architectural place, therefore, and decidedly not the contents. It follows that if architectural buildings of magisterial scale designed by important international architects are increasingly what tourists desire to see, then it behoves us to investigate at close range the network of narratives and memories created by tourists as they chart their cultural itineraries. What tourists choose to include, remember and dismiss as worthy of a visit on this performative route is what I want to consider as evidence of the creative touristic intervention of curating place. What is a curatorial act and, moreover, what is a curator? Definitions of the curator’s role abound, ranging in scope from ‘one who acquires, displays and protects works of art’ to ‘one who reconsiders critical frameworks for art altogether’. By engaging in the process of acquisition, display and preservation, one necessarily interrogates issues of value, history, cultural identity and museum practice writ large. Curators are largely invisible to the museum goer, so it is easily assumed that assembling and hanging paintings, or arranging sculptures in a gallery space, requires little or no skill, and that, museums house arbitrary and decorative assortments of important works. This is categorically false. Museums are never neutral, much as we might assume from their displays. Their function is eloquently summarized by Daniel J. Sherman and Irit Rogoff: … museums both sustain and construct cultural master narratives that achieve an internal unity by imposing one cultural tendency as the most prominent manifestation of any historical period. Thus the classification of an object involves the choice of a particular kind of presentation, which then establishes a museological context that provides the object with meaning … the context works to determine the selection of viewing public and the cultural capital that this public gleans from the museum.1
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5.1 Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, 1997 (photo 2005), Bilbao, Spain. Credit: Lara Rabinovitch.
My point, however, is that the new maps of cultural tourism are no longer limited to geographic sites. Museums are no longer the sole keepers of local and national identity. Instead, the new maps are formulated by curatorial design out-of-place and across nation-state boundaries.They are designs on site and out of site, a cultural tourism itinerary made up of material buildings of bricks and mortar, as well as intangible elements. The tourist, therefore, has a highly interactive role to play and contributes to the reformulation of a concept of cultural identity; one that politicizes, nonetheless, outside the frontiers of conventional political geographies. This new touristic frontier is located in a world where geography is no longer necessarily tactile, and operates as well in hybrid ways – on- and off-line –, opening up routes of cultural tourism and cultural memory no longer necessarily tied to one physical location. We can imagine packaging other routes of tourism that construct different kinds of cultural memory across nation-state borders to create new maps, charting a new cartography of place and of memory-making. This empowers subjects to become keepers of international memory. Perhaps Dean MacCannell’s suggestion that ‘sightseeing is a kind of collective striving for a transcendence of the modern totality, a way of attempting to overcome the discontinuity of modernity, or incorporating its fragments into unified experience’2 not only still obtains, but is more ineluctable than ever before.
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I am going to propose we reconsider the action of sightseeing as a curatorial act, a performative and integrated action that situates the site and sight-seer as the agent of change, the mediator of cultural memory and experience, as tourist-as-broker of a cultural legacy and cultural memory. Travellers necessarily bring to cities a perspective, or reshape an understanding of a city, its buildings and monuments, and specifically its museums, by such curatorial acts. Put another way, travellers select specific places, monuments, architectural buildings or parks they want to visit and come to know, and that selection process – one that enables, even sanctions, tourists to choose by elimination – determines an itinerary, a travel journey, a pathway of visual, haptic and aural knowledge about a place. MacCannell underscores the importance of the ‘ceremonial ratification of authentic attractions as objects of ultimate value, a ratification at once caused by and resulting in a gathering of tourists around an attraction and measurable to a certain degree by the time and distance the tourists travel to reach it.’3 But he carries on, pointing out that the ‘actual act of the communion between tourist and attraction is less important than the image or the idea of society that the collective act generates.’4 As such, the traveller is an independent curator, carving out a vision from a targeted or random selection of sites to see. And while it is crucial to recognize, in anticipation of visits from tourists, the role of the materiality of place and its attendant authenticity, as MacCannell makes clear, I want to add that it is just as important to validate the experience of the imagination and the power of visual culture in informing desire for a place, even if a tourist never leaves home. The creative curatorial act the tourist assumes begins with the images of the museums themselves, and evolves into an architectural and geographic construction of the mind (and heart). That experience is not necessarily connected to a material place, although the making material of desire often leads to yet another form of geographic (mental) construction. Indeed, travel and architecture are entwined in many profound ways: cultural memory, national identity and imagination about places are mediated through represented images that are largely photographic. They extend, reconfigure and curate city space, its architecture (which moulds and defines city space) and – what I hope to demonstrate here – new kinds of tourist maps. We can explore this through two different, landmark European museums: The Louvre and the Guggenheim Bilbao. First, I do this to situate the tourist’s itinerant route within the context of museums-without-borders. Whereas museums stood as keepers of other cultures for the local culture – or keepers of cultures no longer present to educate the local community – contemporary museums, especially those designed by architects of international acclaim, have framed the direction of international art as unbound to nations and perhaps even unwittingly contribute to putting the tourist into the role of keeper of a new sort of passport to international travel and memory. Now this necessarily raises the increasingly tangled and thorny issue of what it means to build locally, and how this impacts on our perceptions of place and cultural
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memory through a tourist’s nomadic wanderings and deterritorialization that I will describe later. Secondly, not only am I interested in how tourists create their own geographical and imaginary places, but how this comes to be anchored in memory, particularly through photography, both before and after the travel experience, or even when the travel experience never takes place at all. Visually anchored in photography, an object’s history – or in this case, a museum – is subsequently archived for the purposes of preservation, and ultimately, the preservation of national heritage.
Curating Place The nineteenth century afforded a kaleidoscopic vision of the world mediated by the newest technological inventions: trains, steamships and cameras. Movement and the new spaces of modernity were measured, recorded and captured. Suddenly the world became two dimensional, seen through the lens of the camera or in panoramic images that framed space through train windowpanes, portholes and camera view-boxes. Travel photography, perhaps the most popular type of photography in its earliest stages, became another form of tourism – a window onto the world – and subsequently piqued enormous interest for unfamiliar places. Yet, from the earliest recordings by Westerners of architectural ruins and the triumphs of past cultures – Romans admiring the Greeks; Italian Renaissance masters’ reconsiderations of Roman antiquities; the Enlightenment preoccupation with archeological ruins – to the continuing thirst for knowledge of architectural sites today, tourists yearn for a connection to built forms and places, no matter how digitally engaged they might be in the armchair travelling experience. Travel to places for the purpose of architectural discovery has been an activity recounted and documented for centuries, accelerating with the democratization of travel as mass tourism developed as a leisure activity during the nineteenth century. Since then, people have travelled in greater numbers from home, or some other familiar place, to a faraway destination, ultimately returning to the point of departure.The activity of travel is arguably a quest to unearth the foreign and unfamiliar with the possibility of a mild, or even a rude cultural awakening. But tourism is accomplished in various ways; some by not going anywhere at all. That is, cities and our navigation of them include the actual experience of our bodily mobility and hence displacement, but in addition, our imagination and viewing of cities and places is often, as mentioned earlier, exclusively accomplished by way of the imagination spurred by photographs, paintings, postcards, movies, theatre, literature and the Internet. Yet however fulfilled, the idea of travel is, above all, the situating of oneself imaginatively or experientially in a physical site – an architectural construction – other than the place in which one is located, in order to bring about a redefinition of what is actually familiar in a foreign place or what is
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new in the adopted culture.Travel is an investigation of place, and almost always of architectonic place, even when of a ‘natural’ setting, such as a rural landscape.
Starchitecture and Bilbao ‘The word is out that miracles still occur, and that a major one has happened here’, announced Herbert Muschamp in the New York Times Magazine one month before the October 1997 opening of the Guggenheim Bilbao. When his building was hailed as a masterpiece and an ‘instant landmark’, architect, Frank Gehry lamented that he had been ‘geniused to death’.5 In her terse review of his Guggenheim museum design, critic, Joan Ockman suggests it is ‘Centrifugal rather than centripetal, magical rather than machinic…[and that it] … celebrates the reconsecration of the museum as a space of art.’6 Thomas Krens, the controversial former director of the Guggenheim Museum, NY, and the brains behind the Guggenheim museum empire (Berlin, Venice, New York, Las Vegas and, of course, Bilbao), is often derided and disdained for his media-driven ‘McGuggenheim’ concept. Yet for a tourist promoter, few museums or galleries apart from the Louvre offer any real competition when it comes close to attracting the cultured or culturally-hungry hoards. Ockman proclaims, ‘In the Gehry universe … nothing is sacred but Art. Art, that is, understood as an excessive, impossible, even farcical dream of freedom, imagination, and pleasure.’7 The critiques of the Guggenheim Bilbao were overwhelmingly adulatory; as a tourist – viewer or public – the idea of being destabilized by architecture, or of what has come to be known colloquially as ‘starchitecture’ – architecture by rising ‘star’ architects – in a ‘spectaculture’ – or a culture of the spectacle – was now palpable. The University of Barcelona’s Anna M. Guasch, and the University of Nevada’s Joseba Zulaika organized the first conference on the effect of the Guggenheim Bilbao. The organizers’ introductory remarks quote Giorgio Romoli’s excessively fulsome praise about the museum as follows: Its very form, the way it takes root in the environment, is the city’s ‘first cultural operation.’ The building recovers its own history: it laps up the river with confusedly organized ‘ship’s bow’ forms and materials … that recall the breadth and grandeur of the Bilbao shipyards, the center of the city’s industrial and commercial greatness for five centuries. 8
Allan Sekula’s biting retort offered a contrasting view: ‘In effect, what it imports to Bilbao is an aesthetically controlled, prismatically concentrated version of the high specularity characteristics of the Los Angeles cityscape.’9 While the first statement applauds Gehry’s response to the existing town and his ability to know it and integrate his building meaningfully, the second declares that, while certainly interesting, it is nothing more than a building that shouts Los Angeles, and has perhaps become lost on its way to parachute
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into California. There is indeed a fine line between the global and the local which is being negotiated continually so that the opacity of differences between them increases.
Marking the Land: Landmarks Beyond the Guggenheim as a tour de force, Ockman suggests that the Bilbao Guggenheim must be worth considering as an ‘auratic artwork’, building on Walter Benjamin’s notion of aura, or the stamp of the original.10 It is interesting to note that Benjamin’s enduring and influential piece began to track the loss of the aura due to technical, viz. industrial and assembly-line type reproduction. Gehry’s work relies exclusively on technology and industrially manufactured materials, and in the context of Ockman’s remarks, flips the meaning of aura to apply to the work of technology and technological reproduction. So indeed, Gehry’s oeuvre spins technique on its head, resulting in a form that wows and creates ‘aura’, as observed by Ockman, by its monumentality and apparently effortless reconsideration of the Baroque swirl. While seemingly isolated in what Europe and the Western world sees, or at least saw, as a remote tourist location with difficult access, this sensationalism – exacted on the exaggeration of modernist form and technology that preceded it – has become an unlikely and logic-defying site of pilgrimage: build it and they will come. Bilbao-as-museum has reconfigured, however unwittingly, the definition of a landmark. While ‘clothed’ as a landmark, it has moved beyond an identification of site and city. Instead, it is a landmark on the international tourist itinerary of requisite cultural pilgrimage destinations. Further, it might be argued that it no longer plays with its local culture, but rather now enters into a conversation with other international glamorous gallery landmarks, or ‘glamgals’, as I’m calling them, to produce a map across the traditional borders of nation-states. This would mean that assumptions about the convention of map-making are necessarily challenged, which is to say that the standard maps we use to guide us to a city or country by car, for example, are guides to nowhere on this performative tourist map. New maps emerge to track cultural pilgrimage routes. More than ever before, these routes are determined by must-stop, must-sees of high culture: the splashy glam-gal. They are the one-off designer museums by ‘starchitects’ (with Gehry leading the pack, and Daniel Libeskind arguably trailing close behind). Characterizing Gehry’s buildings as a ‘just-add-water’ structure, journalist Christopher Hawthorne makes a tongue-in-cheek comment on his ‘starchitecture’ success: ‘… we’ve entered an era in which ambitious developers are not just open to the notion of working with architecture’s boldest talents but, in certain high-profile cases, are desperate to avoid working without them. So-called “starchitects”’, he writes, ‘have become too valuable now, as urban alchemists and as marketing vehicles, for developers to ignore.’11
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And rarely, almost never, in fact, is a local architect hired to design a museum. The addition and restructuring of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Toronto museum designed by Frank Gehry hitched its publicity for Transformation AGO to the Gehry’s connections with Toronto where, fortunately for the AGO, he grew up. Without a doubt, this has helped cement the project to the city in order to garner support. Exposure of tourists to various media images, and the possible eventual realization of travel to the said sites, images of landmark architecture designed by internationally recognized architects, are associated one to another in one’s personal and collective imagination or experience. Eventually, for the tourist, this establishes a new thematic map that calls into question local identity and cultural memory, and configures, by the curatorial process of selection and safeguarding embarked upon by the tourist, a new map of cultural memory. But let’s be clear about what constitutes a landmark. Nineteenth-century urban revisionist Baron Haussman used existing monuments in Paris to serve as landmarks: such monuments mark the land by creating, identifying or serving as orienting devices in that city. One would only need to see a monument to be able to steer a position and guide one’s relational abilities to another site. That is to say that landmarks guide, or act as visual cues. The landmark, according to cultural theorist Brian Massumi, is a vector or a ‘magnetic pole … that vectorizes the space of orientation … it is a minimal visual cue functioning to polarize movement’s relation to itself in a way that allows us habitually to flow with preferential heading … [and] rise up visibly from a nonvisual sea of self-related movement.’12 The Guggenheim Bilbao is such a landmark. Massumi further suggests that each landmark stands alone with its associated coursings. What they mark most directly is a monad of relation, a patch of motion referencing its own self-variations … Landmarks and their associated patches of qualitative relation can be pasted together to form a map, but only with an additional effort that must first interrupt the actual course of orientation.13
Landmarks arrest movement by interrupting it. And what this really means is that, unlike two-dimensional geographical maps on paper, landmarks work well as part of cognitive maps or a cognitive understanding of space and place. We move from one landmark to another (unlike a paper map where we orient ourselves very differently). Landmarks pull us or push us, guide us by design to another landmark or cue. Therefore, Gehry’s work-as-landmark draws on the traditions and history of the grandest museum landmark of all: the Louvre. A magisterial building of dramatic proportions, it was originally a dungeon within a fortress close to the edge of the city, surrounded by a thick wall mounted with towers; a place of defence which made it possible to shelter royal treasures or prestigious prisoners. And yet, while constructed to defend Paris during the time King Philippe-Auguste left for the Crusades at the end of the twelfth century, the castle actually went through its first transformation into a royal residence
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in 1360. It housed the most impressive library of manuscripts in the nation. François I built a palace in a new style for his capital during the Renaissance. Although architect Sebastian Serlio designed the palace, it wasn’t completed in his lifetime. Pierre Lescot, who was King Henri II’s favorite architect, constructed a new wing that included a large pavilion to house the King’s apartments, and another pavilion for the Queen. Successively, under the reigns of Louis XIII, XIV, Napoleon I and then Napoleon III in the nineteenth century, through changes in taste and values, construction continued through various stages between 1546 and 1875. The final, external pyramidal addition by I.M. Pei was completed in 1989.14 But unlike the conversions from royal collections to public museums which were taking place in other parts of Europe at the time, the transformation of the Louvre was nothing short of sensational, and for cause: it marked the birth of a Republican France and therefore embodied the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Unlike its European counterparts such as the Mannheim Electoral Gallery, or the Imperial Galleries in Vienna, the Louvre, as Andrew McClellan has demonstrated, ‘is best understood as a product of Revolutionary events and strategies to control memory of the past and of the Revolution itself.’15 We might say that the history, fame and power of the Louvre precedes the history of the images of the Louvre to the extent that photography was only invented in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, and postdates the opening of the Louvre in 1793. The building’s physical grandeur and palatial notoriety (put another way, the evils of pre-Republican France were located in this place), however, were known throughout France, and indeed beyond. The imagination had been at work for centuries already to attempt to create a view of its interior and the treasures it held. And journalism, in the form of the account by the writer in La Décade philosophique, spread the word. When he visited the galleries, he witnessed: a young soldier escorting his father, his mother, and his sister, good village people who had never before left their community, and who apparently had never seen paintings other than the sign of the local inn or the smokecovered daub above the alter … but they were all proud to be there; and the son, all the more proud to be leading them, seemed to be saying ‘it is I that conquered many of these pictures’.16
Hence the experience of travel was critical to these villagers who journeyed far from their homes to witness the great building that embodied the ideals of the new state, and housed treasures that would educate the people of France. A century later, Karl Baedeker’s Paris and Environs with Routes from London To Paris, as part of the 12th edition since 1869, and one of the celebrated series of guidebooks entitled Handbook for Travellers, devoted no fewer than 66 pages to the Louvre. Nowhere else in the Handbook is a monument afforded so much space; indeed no other Parisian monument listed therein – or for that matter, denied inclusion (part of that early curatorial process) – merits more than one page at best. As one of the earliest mass-media products, travel guidebooks
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contributed significantly to transforming the imaginary and nourishing desire for places unknown. Experiencing in situ was not as important as conveying a sense of what the experience could evoke. And more than any other cultural monument of the nineteenth century, the Louvre itself, the attendant literature, and, eventually photographic images of the Museum, constructed a power of place and a mythology about the site. How did photography contribute to the surge of energy to desire a place? Barry Bergdoll has suggested, for example, that Félix Duban, a nineteenthcentury photographer, was prescient in recognizing that photography ‘would condition the way architecture was experienced … [and that it was] … quite a different matter when the photograph was the first image of the threedimensional reality of a project.’17 Edouard-Denis Baldus, another nineteenthcentury photographer, documented the construction of the New Louvre for Napoleon III, producing the largest photographic commission of his career. Initially devised rather humbly, the project expanded to comprise over 2000 photographs, costing more than 60,000 francs as of 1854. While these images were originally intended as a ‘stone by stone’ documentation of the new construction, Baldus marketed the collection privately in albums sold to the public. Available through dealers throughout Europe, Baldus sold and exhibited widely in France and internationally.18
5.2 Edouard Denis Baldus, Cour Napoleon, Chantier du nouveau Louvre, Paris Musée Carnavalet, c.1855. Credit: © Baldus/Rogier-Viollet/The Image Works.
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On a site drenched with memory, this photographic documentary of the Louvre captured all that had been imagined and read for those who had never visited the museum. It disseminated that visual knowledge in ways that equate our concept of an almost mass distribution of visual images by computer and television today. Suddenly, a vast public was captivated by the widespread and seductive images, pushing the likes of Charles Baudelaire and others to wax eloquent about photography, whilst anticipating its demise: Let photography quickly enrich the traveller’s album, and restore to his eyes the precision his memory may lack; let it adorn the library of the naturalist, magnify microscopic insects, even strengthen, with a few facts, the hypotheses of the astronomer … Let it save crumbling ruins from oblivion, books, engravings, and manuscripts, the prey of time, all those precious things, vowed to dissolution, which crave a place in the archives of our memories; in all these things, photography will deserve our thanks and applause. But if once it be allowed to impinge on the sphere of the intangible and the imaginary, on anything that has value solely because man adds something to it from his soul, then woe betide us!19
After all, the photographs of the Louvre not only diffused visual interpretations of the monument, they participated in and indeed, generously assisted with creating the monument itself. The photographs build on the history and architecture of French national culture and heritage, the sacred bedrock of French identity. Through that contextualization of museum-as-monument tied integrally to its geographic site, we can see the different place the Louvre occupies, when set against the detachment of building and site in the Bilbao Guggenheim project. It is not so much that the architect is foreign, or that Gehry’s architecture contrasts diametrically with local materials and style. In fact, these are small matters, and perhaps even matters not worthy of debating here. Rather, the contrast only helps to frame the museum’s international status and its intellectual, aesthetic and contemporary connections to the new map of culture, the itinerary of the tourist destined for the exploration of culture and the enduring modernist push to always invent the new. The photographs of the Louvre differ dramatically from those of the Guggenheim. In the former we have overviews of Paris, or the situatedness of site, that is, of the ongoing legacy of architectural contributions that add chapters of history to the fractious history that shifted with triumph and blood from royalty to the commoner. No matter how unique an object in and of itself, the photograph, as intervening agent between object and imagination, between place and memory, mediates between our known place here and now, and the imagined place of what occurs or occurred elsewhere. It is no longer our simple physical displacement that creates the image we carry, but rather an image and memory bank that precedes our visit, or sometimes even replaces it. Images plot our performative visual understanding of the world and, by process of that imagined and real peregrination, create a frame of a manageable quantity of cultural images in a curatorial exhibition of the imagination.
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Tourist-as-Nomad: Architecture and Borders This brings me to the concept of tourist-as-nomad in a newly configured cultural landscape, punctuated with clearly identified cultural landmarks or vectors of associated coursings, to hark back to Massumi. I find it interesting to draw on the concept of nomadic movement in thinking about the wanderings of the tourist, both physically and imaginatively, and particularly the route itself. Put another way, what are the patterns that chart the action of curating new cultural spaces? And how do we circumvent the endless debate over local and global in a way that becomes useful and where borders melt away to re-emerge elsewhere in different configurations? Deleuze and Guattari in their writings about the nomad point out that the nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence … [where]… The land ceases to be land, tending to become simply ground … or support. The earth does not become deterritorialized in its global and relative movement, but at specific locations, at the spot where the forest recedes, or where the steppe and the desert advance. 20
And furthermore, that … The nomads inhabit these places … They are vectors of deterritorialization … there is no line separating earth and sky; there is no intermediate distance, no perspective or contour; visibility is limited; and yet there is an extraordinarily fine topology that relies not on points or objects but rather on haecceities, on sets of relations … and it alters their cartography. The nomad, nomad space, is localized and not delimited.21
Unbound by spatial constraints, a nomad, as they suggest, is in a local absolute. And by this they mean ‘… an absolute that is manifested locally, and engendered in a series of local operations of varying orientations: desert, steppe, ice, sea’.22 Discovering places as territorial assemblages of fragments23 tourists-asnomads articulate distinct strata of ‘expression’ and ‘content’, and establish a new, reciprocal relation between ‘a semiotic system, a regime of signs’ and ‘a pragmatic system, actions and passions’.24 However, [t]he assemblage is also divided along another axis. Its territoriality (contents and expression included) is only a first aspect; the other aspect is constituted by lines of deterritorialization that cut across it [… and] open the territorial assemblage onto other assemblages […]. The territoriality of assemblages originates in a certain decoding of milieus, and is just as necessarily extended by lines of deterritorialization.25
The tourist as a nomad activates this operation. Moreover, because photography saturates our visual field with images of architectural sites of other places (and specifically these museums), and therefore mediates them (remember that because of images, it is possible to visit these sites without every leaving the comfort of one’s home), tourists can then reterritorialize on
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a being, an object, a book, an apparatus or system. They define the function of deterritorialization as the ‘movement by which “one” leaves the territory. It is the line of flight.’26 This is the space and the new map of the local absolute. Experience and memory of a place negotiated through the regime of images equip tourists with a geographical nomadic map linking place to place, image to image. Within a realm of visual images that inform the architectural imagination, the new glamgal-seeking tourist effectively selects from this list and creates a route identical to the construction of a museum exhibition. That is, some sites chosen for the tourists’ itinerary become more important destinations. While these choices can be determined by constraints of time, expenses, proximity or levels of cultural comfort, for example, still they reflect similar conditions of constraint that shape any curatorial decision of selection. At the end of the day, a choice is made and an exhibition, composed of those choices, takes place. To be guided to these museums is to experience the new cultural and cognitive map that floats in a parallel space to the physical site of the exhibition galleries, linking one museum to another in a continuum, creating routes of tourism that construct different kinds of cultural memory across nation-state borders. What complicates this model further and provides unending itineraries of cultural tourism and exchange is the realm of social networking. By accepting the notion of the local absolute, the tourist is the new subject of place, self-curated while curating, place. Armed with the reterritorialized mental map assembled from networks, guidebooks, films, photographs or postcards of a place, the cultural tourist calls into play the critical concepts such as national memory, national identity and borders. The new map the tourist obeys is determined by the linkages between glamgals or other publicized cultural sites. For while the physicality of a museum in a geographical place has limits or borders, the tourist has none.
Notes 1 Daniel J. Sherman and Irit Rogoff (eds), Museum Culture (University of
Minnesota Press, 1995), pp. xi–xii.
2 Dean MacCannell, The Tourist; A New Theory of the Leisure Class (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1999), p. 13.
3 Ibid., p. 14. 4 Ibid., pp. 14–15. 5 Herbert Muschamp, ‘Miracle in Bilbao’ New York Times, September 7 1997,
6 Joan Ockman, ‘Applause and Effect’, ArtForum, vol. XXXIX, summer 2001,
7 Ockman, p. 149.
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8 Anna M. Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, ‘Learning from the Guggenheim-
Bilbao: Five Years After’, 4 May 2004, Learning from the Guggenheim, . The conference proceedings were later published: Anna M. Guasch and Joseba Zulaika, Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim (University of Nevada Press, 2005).
9 Ibid. 10 Ockman, p. 142. 11 Christopher Hawthorne, ’Starring Frank Gehry’, Los Angeles Times,
articles collections, 22 July 2005. .
12 Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual (Durham: Duke University Press,
2002), pp. 180–81.
13 Ibid., p. 181. 14 Geneviève Bresc-Bautier, ‘The Louvre: A National Museum in a Royal
Palace’, Museum, no. 217 (vol. 55, no. 1, 2003), pp. 62–3.
15 Andrew McClellan, Inventing the Louvre; Art, Politics, and the Origins of
the Modern Museum in Eighteenth-Century Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). p. 8.
16 Ibid., p. 11. 17 Barry Bergdoll, ‘Félix Duban, early photography, architecture and the
circulation of images’, in The Built Surface, (ed.) Karen Koehler, (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2002), p. 23.
18 Malcolm R. Daniel, Edouard-Denis Baldus, Barry Bergdoll and
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York N.Y.), The Photographs of Édouard Baldus (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994), p. 119.
19 Charles Baudelaire, Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Artists, (trans.)
P.E. Charvet, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972). In M. Christine Boyer, ‘La Mission Héliographique: Architectural Photography, Collective Memory and the Patrimony of France, 1851’, in Picturing Place; Photography and the Geographical Imagination, (eds) Joan M. Schwartz and James. R. Ryan, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2003), p. 53.
20 Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus., pp. 381–2. 21 Ibid., p. 382. Deleuze and Guattari define ‘haecceity’ as: ‘a longitude and a
latitude, a set of speeds and slownesses between unformed particles, a set of nonsubjectified affects […] It should not be thought that a haecceity consists simply of a décor or backdrop that situates subjects, or of appendages that hold things and people to the ground. It is the entire assemblage in its individuated aggregate that is a haecceity …’ p. 262.
22 Ibid., p. 382. 23 Ibid., pp. 503–4: ‘Every assemblage is basically territorial. The first concrete
rule for assemblages is to discover what territoriality they envelop. […] The territory is made of decoded fragments of all kinds, which are borrowed from the milieus but then assume the value of “properties” […].’
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24 Ibid., p. 504. I want to thank Martin Procházka for his comments on this
25 Ibid., pp. 504–5. 26 Ibid., p. 508.
6 Erasing Sites: Spies on the Other Side of the Full Moon
In expert and dashing form, James Bond spins into a karate-chopping act of masterful elimination of his always under-prepared, yet seemingly deadly opponent. The high degree of satisfaction delivered to the viewer by such a scene attests to the ability of lean, impeccably dressed heroes to demonstrate the enduring appeal of the conquest of evil. Although shrouded in selective secrecy – somehow their identities are always known to the viewer and a smattering of others in the intrigue – these protagonists were, and continue to be the incarnation of the ultimate model of the spy as a ‘clandestine agency that requires a body’.1 More than this, however, that body requires a place. In her installation Thin Air, held at the Koffler Gallery, 2008, artist Nina Levitt presents the everyday and the heroic, a display of the vestiges of many silent and invisible itineraries fought in the shadows by women spies during World War II. Women spies, we discover, travelled invisible, undocumented, and irretrievable routes: to places on the map that were not, later, to be chronicled in history books. Not only was this an unreported aspect of the war, but, specifically, a war where the role of women was to remain untold. It is especially silent about the women who were Jewish. It is important to recall here the Nuremberg Laws introduced by Nazi leaders in 1935. The laws introduced immediate anti-Semitic legislation and regulations that called for the segregation of German Jews from other Germans, and ultimately leading up to the point of permanent separation from the rest of the population.2 Thin Air shows how information is reduced to nothing more than spare parts: in an elegantly orchestrated distillation, the poignant and pithy messages of history are brought to the fore. More importantly, Nina Levitt grabs onto these archival fragments of a previously unpublicized, yet documented ‘top secret’ history. With the razor-sharp perception that divulges her training as a photographer, she narrows the visual field into a compressed lens while holding steadfastly onto what would, otherwise, fall away from casual view. Bits and pieces are patched together in an overall confection of a past that seems to give us more than the sum of its parts. And that is the point: Nina Levitt provides only the clues that will complete the picture for us. Enough clues, that is, to create structures
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that live in the viewer’s rear-view mirror. Through a cluster of disparate objects – letters, telegrams, full moon dates, pinhole cameras and film stills, a parachute, and excerpts of two women’s lives on the brink of their missions – Nina Levitt clutches the past with a visceral embrace. Each gave to her mission selflessly and wholeheartedly, with a desire to pursue justice. Their lives are documented in secret files: one woman survived, the other was murdered; one woman remained invisible, while the other was ensconced as a hero in her country’s cultural memory. We are all fascinated by spy stories. In fact, the Hollywood and pulp-fiction industries have catered to our ongoing love affair with the tacit heroism, mythologized invincibility and pure romanticism associated with what these stories portray. At the root of it is the label ‘secret agent’. More than simple spies, these ‘secret’ agents are unknown, living freedom, romance and heightened sleuthing in some sort of covert life parallel to our own. Our images of them are characterized, indeed cartooned, in the persona of James Bond: a fearless, invincible and, of course, impossibly sexy spy role model. Charles McGrath, writing about Ian Fleming on the anniversary of his 100th birthday in 2008, suggests that these stories are really wish fulfillers. The backstory upon which the James Bond thrillers were based are fantasies of the cold war era, written from Fleming’s wholly British perspective. They celebrate a certain kind of material luxury at a time when families were still using ration cards, and the British Empire was receding into memory.3 On the other hand, Allan Hepburn, who theorizes about the intrigue of spy stories, talks about the ‘machinations of the state’, and the loss of identity through this process or, as he puts it, ‘to the fundamental obscurity of identity in relation to convictions, belonging, citizenship, and agency’.4 Women spies? They are virtually non-existent. Women, instead, are portrayed as merely ornamental, and the subject of Bond’s endless and insatiable pursuit of recreation while on a mission. Predictably, when one version of Bond began to show signs of aging, he was replaced with another, younger version who seamlessly morphed into the apparently ageless model of male perfection. Nina Levitt’s work overall targets this mythology in an effort to uncover some of these secrets by exposing what is never revealed in popular spy novels and movies: the archival documentation that could possibly tell stories publicly and get at the covertness of the tales. The telling is actually the substance of her work. Even the piecemeal documents tell more stories, through their matter-of-factness, about the unrecorded moments of heroism, tinged at times with hopeless naiveté and idealism. As readers tracking a narrative that Levitt stages through the successive visual lineup, we are drawn into the plot only to be shaken out of the fiction we might have begun to imagine. The fate of these women was real and their lives were, in most cases, tragic. Our reading and their fate entwine where these women come face-to-face with their true, unfictionalized demise. Vera Atkins’s life was, for the most part, a life disguised and hidden from view. Hannah Senesh was murdered.
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Why open up these histories? To be sure, the questions that are teased out from this exhibition situate, on one hand, the lives of these women within the larger narrative of spy history. From my own perspective, with regard to place, placelessness, and architecture, a crucial question is, more precisely, where is that past? – in a physical sense – more, perhaps, than in terms of its absence from the history books. In a culture that, for the last decade or more, has attempted to grapple with the problem of how to document and memorialize aspects of the recent past, specifically with reference to the atrocities of World War II, in order to bring about a reckoning with architectural sites where events took place, there is a surprising absence of any site commemorating the locations of these espionage activities. Indeed, as Adrienne Rich remarks: ‘A place on the map is also a place in history.’5 Therefore, in order to probe for answers to these questions, it behoves us to return to what is parsed for us in the exhibition spaces, moving backwards in our observation to follow the path of a historical reflection on the archival documents and other objects presented by Nina Levitt for our consideration. Displays in each of the two rooms include snippets of sounds, telegraphic messages, and archival letters that are but elements of a much larger, much less tangible story, a story where architecture as we know it slips away, and is replaced by imagined physical sites. In one room is a Quonset hut (labelled ‘for Vera Atkins’), that all-too familiar barrel vault pre-fabricated aluminium structure used during World War II.
6.1 Nina Levitt, Installation view: Quonset Hut (for Vera Atkins), Koffler Gallery, 2008, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum.
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Resembling nothing so much as food tins stuck on their sides in the mud, the Quonset huts were a sign of temporality or delay. Engineers Peter Dejongh and Otto Brandenberger at the George A. Fuller Construction Company developed these inexpensive and portable structures that could easily be shipped and assembled on site, and were often used to house the troops. Named after their production facility location at the military base in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, these strong, yet lightweight arched structures were made of ribbed metal with wood-framed end walls.6 This same ‘tin can’ housed European refugees in the post-World War II displacement, (DP) camps, while they awaited repatriation. The moment we set foot in the first space of the gallery, we are presented with a makeshift world. The hut is pierced with a loop of footage from an RAF docu-drama made in 1947, called Now it Can Be Told, about the training and mission of a male and female agent. But Levitt takes things one step further. Rather than offer us a welcoming entry point into the exhibition, she reverses the sentiment by locating the closed end of the hut at the threshold of the exhibition and angling the structure just shy of preventing us any entry at all into the space. We are left with only a small space to walk around this obstruction that ingests most of the physicality of the space in which it is standing. Scattered about the ‘entrance’ to the Quonset hut, at the opposite end of the entry point to the show, is a smattering of vintage suitcases. With theatrical aplomb – from the first moment we step over the threshold – this exhibition reduces to vestiges the lives and histories of the women whose stories she is about to tell. Rather than an invoking an invincible Bond character in some outrageously dubious plot, this exhibition sharply parts company from what has become the staple of the spy novel or movie genre. We are invited to pick up the randomly scattered pieces of luggage of varying sizes and worn colours. And almost immediately, the stillness of the room is broken by a recorded voice from inside the suitcases. We learn that it is the voice of Vera Atkins (1908–2000), a Romanian Jew who immigrated to England in circumstances unknown. In the recording, made in 1995, Atkins tells us her recollections of the war runners she dispatched on their secret missions, her grief after hearing of their deaths, and her shock and horror at seeing the survivors of the concentration camps. Atkins, an intelligence officer with the Special Operations Executive (SOE), devoted her life in the postwar period to launching full-blown war crimes investigations against Nazi murderers responsible for bringing down special secret British agents.7 Moments of her recollections are recorded in these sound bites.8 As storyteller Nina Levitt sets out here to raise a dramatic question, she incites feelings of suspense in us related to how we, as viewers and participants, introduce our own sense of reality and distance from the past, and engage with the present of this show material. Instead of restoring the aspect of facile and brazen pleasure of a classic spy movie, through Vera Atkins’s oral testimony, Levitt lays bare the rawness of the secret missions, most of which are concise, unbearably shortchanged, and painfully abrupt.
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6.2 Nina Levitt, Installation view: Parachute (for Hannah Senesh), Koffler Gallery, 2008, Toronto. Credit: Isaac Applebaum.
In the other room is a listless, deflated nylon parachute surrounded by meticulously photographed archival documents mounted on the wall in one running band at eye level. On another wall is a projection with a telegram message on which text scrolls by, floating to its surface one letter at a time. Instead of the classic image of typed words on ribbons of white tape glued to a backing sheet – the image of what preceded email as the most urgent, shorthand dispatch meant for immediate delivery – Levitt has transposed diary entries by Hannah Senesh into fictional telegrams. This one is dated 29 May 1943, and she brings this now obsolete missive to a heightened state of visual attention. Instead of presenting viewers with a static text, she films two telegraphic bulletins by capturing each word, even each letter, in its moment of creation. In other words, and yes, in other words, Nina Levitt films each phoneme as it appears to materialize on the surface, as if it is actually being thought out and written now. One of the messages unfolds dramatically thus: ‘There are some things one cannot express. One tends to confuse them and believe that as long as one does not find expression for them, they do not exist. I pray for only one thing – that the period of waiting will not be too long and that I can see some action soon. As for the rest I am afraid of nothing. I am totally self-confident ready for anything.’9 Every word expressed is precious, and the animated wave of their appearance highlights the power they convey. We are reminded of how carefully chosen each word was for telegraphic messages, in a way that contemporary audiences can appreciate, and even relate to text messaging in the present day. The telegram in only one small piece of the overall installation of elements, yet it is significant: we could say that Levitt takes up what Bruno Latour calls the ‘black box’ of the cybernetician. This black box is defined as anything that hides its own makeup because it is too complex. Yet Latour’s aim is for us to always assume there are no facts, and that the black box must remain open. To understand the rules that govern the makeup of the black box is what Latour argues for, in order to get at any sort of truth. Once a machine works well, it becomes opaque, obscuring its technical makeup and
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getting on with its purpose. The point, however, is that Levitt, through this installation, reveals the technical makeup and the internal complexity of the mission so that it can continue, yet she is stopping that action for us, slowing down or rewinding the process so that we can understand the mechanics of what brought these women to their missions, and how those missions, those journeys into places out of site, were organized. She captures the terseness in Senesh’s thoughts in a way that resonates of text messaging or tweets, where posts are limited to 140 characters, but Levitt sets this within a historical model. We continue to be haunted throughout the exhibition experience by the inability to trace a footprint of their missions, and all we’re left with are these building blocks of some architectonic emptiness. Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian Jew, was hailed as national hero in Israel when, as a young woman who had moved to Palestine as an ardent Zionist, she was recruited to parachute into occupied Europe. She was tortured and executed for treason by the Hungarian authorities who captured her during her mission to aid British forces.10 While Hannah Senesh is a now mythic and towering historical figure, particularly in Israeli culture, and an iconic hero of World War II, the profundity of her actions, here in this space designed by Nina Levitt, leaves us feeling powerless. Levitt attempts a suspension of emotions, an almost perfunctory one, when disclosing her achievements. But by emphasizing each word as it floats to the surface, we are hyperattentive to the power of her spare words that foretell her fate and open the black box. These words are bone-chilling, and register our helplessness, as viewers, at her moment of departure. We are desperate, and want to shout out to prevent her future from unfolding.11 Only then, once in this second room, and in the midst of reading the walls while facing them, does a whoosh of air sound from behind. Suddenly, the deflated sheet billows and poufs into its marshmallow form, swallowing up the space in which we stand, suffocating the emptiness. While it gives life to falling bodies, in this space it announces destabilization of the space, and even our own extinction; it signals the urgency of the journey about to take place, and it takes form when previously it had none. This central feature of the room, and indeed the exhibition, this inanimate object becomes animated as it mushrooms and bloats to become the centre, the world, the sun and the moon. It links our thoughts to the expeditions of secrecy, the missions of these selected, secret and unknown women who dropped into unknown territories by parachute, and disappeared as quickly, into the thin air that gives the installation its title. Along the wall, photographed and mounted details of telegram documents from the Imperial War Museum Archive appear bare and unadorned. Levitt zeros in on the correspondence of the British Intelligence with a display of service records used to determine the bereavement payment of £1,000 sterling owed to Senesh’s mother and brother in Palestine. These records remained top secret until 2002. Many of Levitt’s past works explore the stereotypes of the intrepid spy, but through a feminist lens. Put another way, the spy is not the spy as we have
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known ‘him’. Levitt’s spies are women whose mission it was to accomplish operations equally daring and heroic as those undertaken by their male counterparts. Yet their stories have not been told, nor have the places, the cities and the buildings where they radioed messages, slept, journeyed and hid become known. Their exploits have not been glamourized to make the profession desirable as career choice for women wishing to emulate James Bond. Rather than tell these stories as didactic narratives by explaining the concept of identity subterfuge, techniques for code making and breaking, or maintaining a secret identity, this exhibition reveals the mechanics of intrigue, the placelessness on any map, and ultimately, the tragedies of the stripped reality of the stakes involved. While there have been accounts of why women signed up, they have done nothing more than reinforce the stereotype of the party girl looking for a husband.12 Levitt’s installation deviates from this idea and, instead of leaning on attitudes or innuendo, relies consistently on the fragments of real life to send a chilly wake-up call to the viewer. One additional element of secrecy, perhaps the most costly of all, has been left out, so far. The exhibition of Levitt’s work has as its venue the Koffler Gallery, part of the Koffler Centre for the Arts, and within this context, the exhibition must also be evaluated. What is the relationship of an exhibition to the place in which it is installed? While the concept of a ‘white cube’, or a neutral space to exhibit art was conceived to provide a tabula rasa for any exhibition, still, the venue can never be just that. If the modernist claim for neutrality was sought by using a white cube exhibition space, this exhibition proves that it is anything but neutral. A white cube is always a white cube somewhere, in some place, and it carries with it the imprint of what that place means. Most importantly, context is critical as one additional way of evaluating meaning for the artwork and where the relationship to audience is always in flux. A white cube exhibition space is an architectural place that is never unplaced, but always in some geographic site, and necessarily, as this book continues to underscore, has a direct relationship to that material ground and its cultural connections. The gallery claims that its mission is to express ‘the spirit and essence of contemporary culture within a Jewish context’, and that it … will reflect a global perspective that engages both Jewish and secular audiences …’. The thrust of Nina Levitt’s exhibition relies on the Jewishness of her protagonists; two Jewish women whose lives evolved from different places yet were tied to something similar. The nature of those similarities, however, is left unanswered. Speculation, looms large in the two rooms containing this show: pursuing extraordinary careers undercover, these women were idealistic and strong, young and driven. Levitt never once attempts to connect these two women, or the others alluded to in this show, through their Jewishness. Rather, their Jewishness seems incidental, an almost unimportant factor, but it is critical, nonetheless: in the end, not only were women spies in general murdered, certainly the idea that women who were Jewish could even be considered to operate as spies in an atmosphere of the Reich’s Final Solution – its euphemism for Jewish annihilation – is a thought put to rest.
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With this installation, Nina Levitt constructs a nexus of fascinating, perplexing and complicated questions. How do we remember history, and above all this history that is disconnected from architectural place? What becomes history and what becomes mythology? And the always vexing matter of the relationship of history to memory passes before our eyes, while we attempt to determine what these seemingly disparate pieces of material documents and fabricated allusions to physical sites and a history recorded (somewhere), mean. We are asked to make sense of what appear to be piecemeal, asynchronous elements in this show. Cleverly displayed, they create a kind of historical narrative comparable to an archeological dig, where fragments must be associated with each other in order to reconstruct a past and, even more importantly, associated with the site in order to unearth their meaning. As with all narrative, the reader or viewer enters into a dialogue, an unwritten agreement, with the writer. That agreement consists of the reader picking up the links between the words to create a story, a logic that kicks in and, thanks to that process, we are relieved of the mysteries concealed within these words. We are also asked, through the construction of a hut and a parachute, to imagine places not named in this exhibition; places that, through their elusiveness and mysterious (unknown) locations, and through their seemingly random placement within the gallery setting, continue to feed the intrigue of the secret missions they held. But we are also asked, through the haphazard sort-of progression, from reading one document and hearing a sound in the space, to sort through this and evolve to a place where meaning becomes clear. Yet ironically, the installation promises no certain relief, and really only continues to create an anxiety around wanting, loss, and continuing mystery of the unknown. Focus on the women is the crux of the matter: not simply the image of the manicured, svelte, male figure so familiar to us, but rather the unfamiliar images, the invisibility of the women who made these trips, these missions of valour and selflessness. Although photography has always been Nina Levitt’s ally, this exhibition points to what was impossible to capture with a lens. In its place, the ghosted space where the image might have been is all that remains. Nina Levitt’s exhibition ultimately points to an emptiness of place, a place unmarked, unrecorded, intangible and irretrievable, that she attempts to mark and record. Only the clues of this ficto-history and the travel fragments of what fell outside the picture frame constitute that which evaporated on those evenings when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth. Everything was fleeting: the parachute (now swelling, now exhaled), the glow of the full moon, the secrecy of the mission, and the secrecy of these women’s identities recorded as classified and filed away under code names. The photo could not record the places, but these archeological finds and the theatricality of the architectural sites constitute the frame for which the subject is central and absent.
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Notes 1 Allan Hepburn, Intrigue: Espionage and Culture (Yale University Press, 2005),
2 Among the many important references I will include Saul Friedländer, Nazi
Germany and the Jews (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), Eric Ehrenreich, The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), George L. Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust (New York: Franklin Watts, 1982) and Christopher Browning, Fateful Months: Essay on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985).
3 Charles McGrath, ‘That License to Kill is Unexpired’, New York Times,
(1 June 2008). http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/movies/01mcgr. html?pagewanted=1&_r=1 [accessed 1 December 2010]>. The anniversary was marked in 2008.
4 Hepburn. Intrigue: Espionage and Culture, p. 4. 5 Adrienne Rich, ‘Notes toward a Politics of Location’, in Blood, Bread, and
Poetry: selected prose 1979–1985 (London: Virago Press, 1986), pp. 23–75.
6 An elaborate history of the Quonset Hut is told in Julie Decker and Chris
Chiei, Quonset Hut: metal living for a modern age (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005). The engineering team was directed to begin their designs with the British Nissen hut designed about 1916 by a British Royal Engineer by the name of Lt. Col. Peter Norman Nissen during WWI as an alternative to the tent. Nissen was inspired by a similar structure for a hockey rink at Queen’s College, Ontario. Nissen’s design became known as the Nissen Bow Hut. See Decker, p. 4.
7 Mark Seaman, Special Operations Executive: A new instrument of war (New
York: Routledge, 2006).
8 A selection of these clips were assembled from the Imperial War Museum
Sound Archives, and recorded in 1995 and 1998.
9 See Hannah Senesh, Hannah Senesh: Her Life And Diary (New York: Schocken
Books, 2007), pp. 159–60.
10 Judith Tydor Baumel, Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust (London:
Mitchell Vallentine & Co., 1998), p. 146.
11 Baumel argues that Senesh (Senesz is the spelling Baumel uses and it
varies in much of the literature) became an Israeli hero possibly because she left behind a suitcase of poems that are still sung in Israeli schools today. Furthermore, she opted for death rather than having her sentence commuted to life imprisonment after being given a pardon. As a result, she entered a new rank of national hero in the public imagination.
12 Elizabeth P. McIntosh. Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS. (Annapolis,
Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1998) p. xiv. See especially the review by Heidi Hamilton at H-Minerva (women and war and women in the military, part of the H-Net discussion online network). In particular, and with regard to reinforcing stereotypes, Hamilton comments that in McIntosh’s book: ‘The women spies giggle, join up in order to find husbands, and are remembered by others for their looks and personality. For example, one OSS agent is
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remembered by a colleague as “a marvelous combination of beauty and brains, ‘and she loved to swim nude in the Danube,’ he recalled with a smile” (p. 83). These comments, while perhaps accurate, tend to negate other evidence concerning the women’s professionalism.’ .
7 Finding Site
In The Man Who Swam Into History; The (Mostly) True Story of My Jewish Family,1 a quintessentially diasporic memoir-as-novel of the ‘old country’ fused with the ‘new’, author Robert Rosenstone reminds us that personal stories handed down from one generation to the next take on an afterlife that continues to breathe through the lifeblood of progeny. Rosenstone’s tales unfold as follows: It is a little-noted fact of history that the rivers of Eastern Europe were jammed with swimmers in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Not one grandfather but a whole generation of grandfathers sidling, walking, waddling, hurrying, moseying, lurching, striding, flinging, leaping, jumping, tiptoeing, plunging, screaming themselves into previously empty waters. They were not yet grandfathers, but somehow the image is of aged men, dressed fully in black, yarmulkes affixed firmly to their scalps, long white beards floating miraculously and gently on the surface as they flash toward far-off shores … In later years, none of these grandfathers were ever known to go near the water … Decades later they were full of foolish tales, babbled in languages that grandsons neither understood nor cared much about. But each grandfather had this one moment of undisputed triumph that would quietly resonate through future generations.2
No matter how embroidered, hyperbolic, incongruous or rearranged the tales may be, vignettes of private life have transitioned to the public realm primarily through literary pathways and books. Only recently, since the Internet made possible social networking websites with their wildfire ability to reach scores of people at record speeds, have the stories, visualizations, actualizations and dramatizations of private lives become even more exposed, available and communal. The space of representation of our private lives is not just a video clip or a simple photograph transferred to a computer monitor. Rather, the new place of visual encounter – indeed the most novel venue of choice for viewing – is specifically, and not unimportantly, virtual space, where place, and even the location of place within that space, is the operative concept. It certainly behoves us, therefore, to take a closer look at this relatively unexplored terrain, and particularly in what it offers for the shaping of topos, and topographies. Just as mapmaking and topographical configurations of faraway lands in the sixteenth century; or Maxime du Camp’s photographic
128 Losing Site travelogues of Palestine, Nubia and Syria; or the photographic record of France’s patrimony contained in La Mission Heliographique were snapshots of everyday places and life to capture, treasure and display to the public eye, so too, do contemporary accounts of private life and personal travelogues using virtual images now find many different forms of representation on the Internet. What the Internet demonstrates first, is that private lives matter and anyone’s history can, in some way, stand for our own; and second, that ‘cyberempires’, as John Pickles puts it, are arguably the new atlases for playing out those tales and itineraries.3 If an atlas is a collection of maps that documents geography, then the World Wide Web is equally a collection of maps, or digital mapping, that encompass hitherto unknown or uncharted topographies that deserve to be explored, chronicled and legitimated as (structured) entities. The stories and histories that are featured online demand to be interpreted, yet it is only with new templates that put space and the spatial turn in our immediate viewfinder – or screen – that we will be able to articulate critical thought about these new, fluid spaces. ‘Maps’ says Pickles, ‘no longer are seen to simply represent territory, but are understood as producing it … they inscribe boundaries and construct objects that in turn become our realities …’4 a reworking of the comment made by Jean Baudrillard when he suggested that ‘the territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory – a precession of simulacra – that engenders the territory’.5 Yet even before Pickles and Baudrillard, Matthew Edney, writing about mapping the Indian empire, understood that ‘maps came to define the empire itself, to give it territorial integrity and its basic existence. The empire exists because it can be mapped, the meaning of empire is inscribed into each map’.6 Not only do I want to speak of mapping territory, but I want to do so in the context of memory, place and architecture. Furthermore, for the purposes of this book and the digital project I initiated thanks to its inspiration, I will extend the mapping of territory to the question of Jewish space, in particular. There is no question in my mind that this exercise of the particular – Jewish – space is but one model that can therefore apply to any type of space inhabited and mapped by others. In this concluding chapter I want to peek into and begin to open up an epistemology of the spatial turn in light of the following closely–knit terms integral to this project, namely, diaspora, travel, topography, and architecture. To be sure, each of these terms deserves a separate chapter, but in the reduction of space and time here, my question, above all, is: how do each of these terms appear to blend together effortlessly – like some swirling concoction – when brought into virtual space, and even virtual Jewish space? What is it about each of these terms that lends itself so agreeably to this comfortable fit? Using today’s smart technologies, we can exercise our cultural power by creating another experience or imaginative telling of tales. The Internet, as arguably the most successful smart technological invention, is also the most comfortable: because of its privacy and responsiveness to our command, it is a place for exploration. One ‘travels’ from site to site, across topographies, transforming topographies, in an architectural fantasy of illusory constructions. The
Finding Site 129 travelling action calls upon a wide range of ambulatory effects that include displacement, dispersal, disruption or continuity. In a digital project I created for http://www.mosaica.ca/, that springboards from, and is intended to complement Rosenstone’s novel, mobility was the key aim. In a sense, recognizing the literary mobility of the text as a natural partner to digital mobility, I wanted to see if, visually and aurally, a similar project could be possible. The Man Who Swam Into History recounts the family migrations of three generations commencing with the picaresque character, Chaim Baer. This fearless character braved the Prut River by swimming across it from Moldavia to Romania in order to escape the military draft, and so commences his diasporic journey. Rosenstone begins the tale as a historical travelogue using Stepney Green in London’s East End as the launching pad for his reflections on his family’s past. While the novel is a personal story, it really belongs to so many. The website project, unlike the book, provides the visitor or user with an assortment of historical minuets. Each of these, while tied to the past in some way, is tied equally to the present by connecting links. For example, a visitor to the site can explore and link this story to contemporaneous sites today by clicking on an archival photo of a location referred to in the book; subsequently, the user or reader is ‘transported’ to a contemporary website that promotes present–day tourism for that location. The passage below illustrates the point: the towns of Tetscani and Moinesti are mentioned, but where are these places, I asked myself? Do they still exist? If so, how have they changed, if at all?
7.1 Kristina Rostorotsky, The Man Who Swam into History, 2008. Credit: Design by Kristina Rostorotsky.
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Between the southern bank of the Prut and the Moldavian village of Tetscani there is a blank, more of time than space. Chaim Baer acquires a wife, a business, a house, a vegetable garden, a cow, and then a second cow … The family loads its possessions in a cart and leaves Tetscani for Moinesti, some kilometers away. A few months, or a year or two later, they make the same journey in the opposite direction. These periodic moves partake of a mystery. Official government policy prevents Jews from becoming citizens and from owning land. But nothing is said in historical studies, constitutions, available decrees and statues to indicate that there was a time limit on Jews residing in small towns or rural areas … The upset and confusion of packing, hauling, setting up in Moinesti were an unsought diversion. There is evidence enough that Chaim Baer was the sort of man who understood the spiritual benefits of an occasional change of scenery.7
The questions above informed the central quest of the project: we are attempting at all turns to locate or place into a topography the sites described in this and any book as part of a visual imagining: the act of reading triggers or visual cues as we shape an architectural landscape in our imagination. Indeed, we attempt to situate past events, personal or otherwise, as a means to charting the past on a physical site, making ‘real’ the idea that history was just that, real, and part of our working world, not simply a mythologized tale. More to the point, when reading a narrative about the past – and specifically when that past is hinged to places that seem to be almost whimsical, the reader is hard–pressed to make the links to a contemporary, and in fact real, place. Where is the Prut River, exactly, and what has become of this and that Romanian shtetl whose names roll off the narrator’s tongue? Initially, I had the naïve expectation that the website project offered the possibility to reach beyond the immediacy of the text so that while listening and journeying on this narrative tale we journey, too, with our mouse: with each click one window balloons atop another, or the spoken text is silenced abruptly and a random association is made to the next screen. Once the website was launched, however, I began to more clearly understand its relationship to the text. The website project had its own life, something unique and separate, unrelated to success or failure, just something apart, where the imaginary takes root and begins to create a world in the mind, a constant reminder that these parallel worlds live not only peacefully but comfortably in our memory. With these thoughts, indulge me for a moment while I return to the website, to describe how it works and provide a sense of the type of questions I needed to answer as I began the process, and what resulted. What were my objectives for this site? Why create it in the first place? How do I create a site that represents my critical engagement but extends the ideas Robert Rosenstone presents in his book? How do I attempt to create a sense of unlimited space in this new site of spatial topography that could be a site of Jewish history and take on the ideas of a diasporic recognition of place? First, if indeed there is a first with digital projects, this site invites us to play with its surface. Images from the book are collaged and topple over
Finding Site 131 one another in an invented structure. Each image provides some sort of animation feature for the user, who, in effect, performs with the project. The idea is that a layered tower builds with each successive window, and the geographic and topographic levels of the stories, as told by Rosenstone in audioclips, accumulate. We are linked immediately to Montreal today – one of the cities where Rosenstone situates the narrative – and eventually other cities or contemporary locations referred to in the novel: that is, in order to ensure that the performance of the user connects to Montreal, for example, with links to Montreal’s active websites. In this way, any sense of nostalgia is defeated to ensure that these cited places of the past represent a currency of today. Elements of playfulness are also woven through this piece, thanks to the user’s initiation by way of the mouse or keyboard, or countermanded by the timed text programmed into the software, even when the spoken voiceover narrating the scene is interrupted, or blended with a piano scherzo or squawking hen. At varying intervals, music, spoken text, or rollovers that make images disappear and reappear are activated. They may create cacophonies of birds chirping, cows mooing, tongues clicking and cicadas chirping, or background sound effects such as keyboard typing. All contribute to a weaving of the Internet experience with the simulated or taped ‘real’ experiences. I assured Robert Rosenstone that he would be the first to see the pilot project once it was launched on the homepage of the Mosaica website. When he did, we corresponded via email, and the conversations that ensued provided for me a much-needed context for the Web project.
From: Robert Rosenstone To: Shelley Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 10:46 AM Subject: website Dear Shelley: I have finally had a bit of time to watch and listen to the website. Are you ready for a critique? Here it comes. 1. The design on the Man who Swam is extremely confusing. When you click on various parts of the main page images, you never know what the reading will be about or even that there will be a reading. Something just begins and what is the reason to listen if you don’t have some overall sense of a whole into which the reading may fit? 2. There seems to be a vague connection between some of the images and the subject of the reading (a lake, for example) but sometimes that connection is wholly missing or so elliptical that I can’t fathom what it is. Okay. So it’s a surprise. As is clicking and getting a voice. 3. The voice and words running at the bottom of the page often don’t match, and that creates great confusion. Or would if you could see the words. They are in extremely small type.
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4. A small note: where are most of the family pictures? More important, why is my mother’s face covered with lace shawl, or what I would call a mantilla, (which suggests she was raised in Seville)? My criticism of the design could have to do with me being a linear person in a weblike world, but since I am familiar with various history websites, I consider myself half way up to date on these things. So: do you call this a pilot program because it is still in process, or you’re not sure if this will remain on the site, or?? The thing is I wonder why anyone would go to The Man Who Swam into History, since there is nothing signaling on the main page what it is about. Or do you envision that some guide to websites or Jewish diaspora topics would bring someone there. I mean if you Google to Jewish Diaspora, or Montreal or Romanian Jews, will this somehow come up? The history websites I know signal themselves much better – you are getting into the Civil War, or the Russian Revolution. I realize Mosaica is meant to [be] more artistic, but certainly not hidden or confusing. I do appreciate your asking me to be part of this experiment. It’s just that after two years or whatever it has been, I expected something at once clearer and stronger. Perhaps the glitches can be worked out, but is there a way of improving the overall thrust. Or old codger that I am, am I just missing the point? Robert
From: Shelley To: Robert Rosenstone Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 11:38 PM Subject: website Hi Robert, I’ve been away and now back to your note. First, I think you’re just about spot on with most of your comments, and so you don’t feel badly, I feel very much the same as you do about lots of it. I am endlessly frustrated around funding for this (or the lack thereof) and not having had my ideas (which are so similar to yours) implemented when I’ve requested them … It’s been like playing some sport with a gigantic handicap. That said, there is a counter-intuitive idea behind it all where I do desire for it to be disorienting to a degree and in this way create some sort of feeling of disjointedness –read, diaspora – and a sense of uprootedness or at least unknowingness about the next step along the journey. Another aspect that was critical for me was to create a Web project that picks up those different subject positions so prominent in your book. As a user on the Internet, we’re always well aware of the multiple users of a site and the different, multiple and perhaps even somewhat endless (or the illusion of endless) journeys we may have on the site. I was also very conscious of not wanting to in any way ‘illustrate’ the book, or even come
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close to ‘duplicating’ or rather ‘representing’ the book. So everything is about having some touchstone to the book (voice-over, running text, some of your photos) but always a journey that is unknown to anyone, including you. And syrupy returns to the past were also aspects I wanted to avoid, hence the links to URLs or sites of today that are triggered simply by words or phrases in your narrative. These triggered ‘keywords’ were compiled by the many different students who read your book and created ongoing lists of keywords which we then compiled and almost randomly selected [and worked with me]. In this way, the site reflects the many creators. Yet there are many bits missing, as you well suggest. And I’ve struggled with how to create a kind-of ‘user’s guide’ (to the perplexed?). But I’m still working on it: I want to give context but not too much. The project is inspired by your work, but it’s not a duplicate, of course. Now, on the issue of history websites: there are far too many websites out there to talk about websites. I can show you mundane informational websites on the one end, to completely text-less fascinating virtual explorations of art forms on the other. History websites, with all due respect, are not what we’re after! We’re after creativity, not contact information, conference dates, articles and so on. For that, the user flips back to the Mosaica website (the context in which this website is framed and therefore a complete art world in a sense). After all is said and done, however, I’m still frustrated that it isn’t what I imagined in all its dimensionality, and unless I hire a crack team of web designers (at $130K, yes!), it ain’t gonna happen the way I envision it, alas. But we’re continuing to work on it … You’re so close to the project that it must feel like a movie-after-the-book, which it is not whatsoever nor attempts to be. But I’m trying to make it something that speaks about diaspora journeys, connections to today (where are those places in Montreal you describe and what do they look like today, for example, or where the hell is the Prut River EXACTLY and what does it look like now?) to chase away that maudlin hankering for the past yet make the work stand out as relevant and alive and the story of so many. s.
From: Robert Rosenstone To: Shelley Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007 11:35 AM Subject: Re: website Dear Shelley, A very thoughtful answer and I suspect if we sat down to talk that we agree on most of this… I understand, though I think there is a fine balance between achieving such a feeling of disorientation and just confusing people. That of course is what I have struggled with in some of my experimental narratives, including
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the man who swam. You can probably get away with more dissonance on a website than on a page. It just seems to me you need something to make people want to listen or read … Somehow I missed this whole list of keywords. Certainly I agree that you want to avoid syrupy returns to the past and I don’t expect the site to illustrate the book or duplicate it. I agree, give some context but not too much. I see how that would be a real conceptual dilemma. The thing is that you don’t want to put off people who would actually like to hear a whole section or many sections read – or even, god bless them, go out and buy the book. Let me withdraw my analogy with history websites. They range from very dull to somewhat innovative, but I know that yours is not such a site nor should be like them. I would very much like to see copies of your chapter or talks on the website, so please share them with me. Let me give one funny reaction. When I first saw it I really resented having my mother’s face covered with that shawl. It made me feel, in some odd way, that my mother was being altered! My mother!! Now of course nobody but I and my brothers will know that photo is of her, and since you can’t see the face anyway it doesn’t really matter. But I am interested by my own reaction. It was like a violation. Perhaps no more a violation than my writing about her. She surely never expected to wind up a heroine in a book or a face in a public place (website) for all the world to see if it wishes. Odd, isn’t it? Perhaps the first time the sense of how we recycle words and images and use people in the past for our own needs. It makes me want to write something but I’m not sure how much I have to say beyond the sudden feeling of strangeness. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying don’t use the image; I am examining my own reaction in a larger context. I suppose we all wish our works could be more, but I understand the frustration, the gap between your vision and the reality. Here at the age of 70 I look back at seven books and think was it worth it? Was this all I had to say? What was all the work and fuss about? This only because I am struggling with a new one about Jews and Muslims in tenth century Cordoba. A historical novel, I think, but possibly a piece of musical theater? Anyway I do think one must experiment with new forms of telling and that is what you are doing, even if you have to do it with the help of the less visionary. I appreciate the effort and am glad for your response. After I sent it I did worry that perhaps I was being too harsh, but then we are academics, used to feedback negative and positive. Question; if you say pilot, does that mean the students are still working to improve it? Robert
If my objective for the website project was to create a parallel and complementary project to the book, then a part of the objective prior to confronting the subject matter of visualizing diaspora on the Internet was to
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come to terms with the challenge of complementing a work of literary fiction in visual and audio form. But how does one create a project that cuts across the fear of (diluted and misrepresented) duplication? In what way can one create the book in another form – a challenge met routinely for example, when a book becomes a film? And how would I demonstrate what I took from Rosenstone’s own approach to his novel about its inherently diasporic style, if such a thing might be qualified; that is to say that his story of historical peregrinations through a variety of geographic locations, and the plethora of subjects who tell the stories, was what I found to be perfectly amenable to virtual space? Let me suggest an example from literature: architectural analogy was a device used by Marcel Proust to describe a literary work, since he often found it difficult to describe literature by using strictly literary models. Indeed, Proust would turn to a metalanguage and architectural analogies, in particular, for its ability to bridge the constructions and articulations of space in order to ‘transfer’ ideas within lexical space. I like to imagine that Proust would have found comfort with the Internet, since he had proposed initially to label each section of his book with architectural terms, such as a porch way or an apse’s stained-glass windows.8 Through Proust’s literary transfers I have my inspiration to articulate Rosenstone’s work in an Internet project; one that transfers ideas from lexical to virtual space without duplicating the initial work of fiction, but instead creating a new, but related project. Rosenstone’s story in book format is not recounted as a linear narrative, but is told through tales, sequences, and fragments sliced into each other and reassembled from three generations in five countries across two continents and over a century. Told as a Web project for the digital and visual realms, Rosenstone’s textual and narrative chronology is further fractured, perhaps exaggerating or creating sensations of frustrations of place, yet it complements and stretches the story he unfolds. Indeed, I took my cue from the point where Rosenstone succeeds at decentering any possibility of a protagonist with multiple subject positions. How perfectly apt is his literary strategy for a virtual world! The context of place in virtual space is challenged and reconceived: volumes and flatness, depth and the breadth, marked and unmarked boundaries or edges, frames of all given and hitherto unknown architectural locations are called into question and taken up anew. In this way, the project attempts to activate multiple subject positions by altering the computer user’s otherwise passive voice into active iterations by what could amount to endless potential visits to, and manipulations of, the site. It is hoped that this pilot Web art project invites users to build on the idea of biography and history by creating pathways through juxtaposed and intersecting spatial and temporal frames.9 Unlike a film–after–the–book, the Web user – as performer/protagonist –activates new formulations of the experience of migration. New narratives and architectures of what we can now ascribe to as transnational places are created that are irresolute, erratic, and part of a journey of spontaneity. In so doing, the user expands the spatio-
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temporal dimensions of a would-be diaspora, and encourages a re-evaluation of any notion of (Jewish) place. By using the Internet, each player begins to imagine what it means to be out of place, in place, and displaced through personal stories. This enables a negotiation of architectonically constructed virtual space to create layered and diverse narratives of place. While initially conceived within the specificities of the Internet, these places also raise the important concept of travel in the real world and inherent in the quality of diaspora – although not widely used to discuss diasporic experiences. Such a form of travel need not necessarily be tied to the optimism and beauty of travel but can be tied to the hesitancy, fears, and even the rejection of travel when considered as a displacement of oneself or the act of being uprooted from home. If, however, we are to imagine diasporic travel as another type of experience, following the Boyarins and others, we can see it rather as celebratory and political, or as an affirming of the power of place and topographies of clusters that allowed for the preservation and indeed the enriching of a Jewish cultural identity.10 In a prescient essay on the idea of dispersal in diaspora, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett suggests how we might rethink diaspora in light of its mediation through social networking and other communication technologies: … as distance becomes a function of time, the instantaneity of telecommunication produces a vivid sense of hereness and interactivity the feeling of presence. The result is an extreme case of physical distance and social proximity under the conditions of a disembodied presence and an immateriality of place. New spaces of dispersal are produced – by technologies of connection and telepresence.11
The Internet as digital media is exemplary of the travel metaphor not only because of its multiple centers unmapped according to any permanent or even knowable sense of geography but since arguably it is centerless and absent of any border zones. Such a parallelled model would be capable, one might assume, to enhance the experience or imaginative tellings of diasporic tales. Just as Google Earth and other ‘cybermaps’ are testaments to the desire to travel virtually, this project, and others like it, open up the possibility for new visual perspectives to give us another way of knowing home and place, architecture that is here in its physicality or there, in our imagined and virtual scapes. Just as diasporic journeys, any concept of material presence with digital mapping, the Internet, and social media, is forever shifting and quested. If your eyesight is very good, if your mind is suitably concentrated, if the angle of the afternoon sun on the serrated surface of the Pacific is just right, if the clouds are gone and the breeze calm and the beach almost empty and only a few white sails scud slowly across your retina, then it is possible to stand on the bluff in Santa Monica beneath the palms and watch the snow fall in Montreal.12
The lack of a geographical topography that is measurable, calculable, and able to be sited and mapped is a constant, so it seems almost natural
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for the Internet to be a place of topographical real estate, or a place where there is always an attempt to shift dialectically between the need to anchor the unanchorable and always shifting ground, a ground that seems without borders and only points to places elsewhere while conveying the illusion of presence. If architecture is built in Sao Paulo, Paris or Toronto, it travels by virtue of satellite photographs, digital media and social networking. Even before the invention of the camera, images travelled by literary descriptions and artists’ drawings. Or images conveyed a world in lieu of a map. For example, Albert Kahn, an Alsatian who moved to Paris, became a highly successful international banker and through the medium of photography, he was keen to promote world peace. This grand mission took root in his attempt to photograph the world, the Archive of the Planet (Archives de la planète), where he and others documented, and in so doing, demonstrated to all who would see it the connections and affinities between peoples, cultures and places.13 This sense of moving about the world and photographing it is a way of mapping the world. Rosenstone’s map of the world, his nostalgic, sideways glance back to Montreal, is a reflection to diasporic movement. By bringing the two terms diaspora and Internet into a bonded relationship, each user becomes an agent provocateur: diaspora and Internet are complex and weighty words that represent profound worlds of meaning that seem to be – at least at first blush – at odds with each other, or even utterly unrelated. The first, to be sure, has found favour in a globalized capacity. Yet, upon closer reflection, the Internet has always attempted to create a sense of return to domestic safety or comfort when away from ‘home’ on a virtual journey: a vocabulary of home figures prominently in Internet language: ‘home’ or ‘homepage’, or equally with terminology such as ‘navigation’, ‘surfing’, ‘cyberspace’ or ‘webspace’. Even the reference to actual books with ‘webpages’ contains conceptualizations of place in a virtual environment. Rosenstone’s book employs the metaphor of ‘swimming’ – and other smooth forms of mobility in space provide a parallel with a digital peregrination. If anything, the terms ‘diaspora’ and ‘Internet’ are in fact more closely related than we think, both sparking images of itineraries without end and any vacillating ideas of what a fixed place and home might be. Notwithstanding the digital world’s detachment from material place, it is reassuring, arguably, that the lexicon of the technology environment turns to architecture, too, using the term ‘web architecture’ to describe the entire range of creations and constructions within the digital universe – a universe conceptually understood as place within our ‘world’. Architecture, in both the real and the virtual worlds, is a framing device, a boundary marker or building mechanism that relates to constructions of frames, shapes and spaces of the Internet and the virtual space it opens up to users. In addition to the concept of parallel worlds for diasporic imagings, Rosenstone’s book led me to think about the idea that home can have multiple locations, and then led to the prickly issue of what the notion of a Jewish space might mean. In a special issue of Jewish Social Studies on Jewish Conceptions
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and Practices of Space, Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Vered Shemtov argue for a balance to occur so that space is considered equally along with time in Jewish Studies: … while some work to free Jewish Studies from the hold of the ‘lachrymose’ conception of Jewish history, others believe that it needs to be cut free from the stunting idea that Judaism is first and foremost shaped and governed by the dimension of time. Jewish texts of all periods contain countless descriptions of concrete places where Jews comfortably practiced their rituals, struggled to do so, or were prevented from doing so. The history of Jewish text and ritual is inseparable from the history and nature of such places. 14
‘Diaspora’, these authors continue, ‘has often been equated with lack of space, or lack of control over space; the State of Israel has been seen as national territory with a plenitude of sovereignty, as space to be designed as the central Jewish place in the world’.15 While many of these issues are properly part of Jewish scholarly research on diasporic culture, still there seems to be a hierarchy where space is secondary in consideration and where, these authors uphold, ‘this has not necessarily meant that “space” has moved to the foreground as a category of critical analysis’.16 While subjects of diaspora, topography, travel and architecture do have obvious cross–pollinations in actual space without ever approaching the digital world, this project – one that has considered the interfacings for the Internet expressly – makes clear how the best synapses for electrifying the peregrinations and dimensionality of journeying are located in the spaces or slippages between and across them; with each of these terms, the concept of mobility is key. Paradoxes of mobility in virtuality notwithstanding, the Web is arguably about mobility, both in the literal sense of our manipulation of the mouse, to the flash screens animated by software that aims to heighten movement by feverishly shifting our point of reference and sharpening – or, as some might lament – weakening the imagination, and where our own creative capacity to connect the dots from one image or screen to the next is in our ability to fill in the blanks and close the circle. But more important still, a large part of the intrigue of digital media exploration is the promise of dimensionality, or the attempt to create (further inventions of) spatial possibilities, continuous ribbons, and endless mobility. As Georges Perec has poetically described it: This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page. To describe space: to name it, to trace it, like those portolano-makers who saturated the coastlines with the names of harbours, the names of capes, the names of inlets, until in the end the land was only separated from the sea by a continuous ribbon of text … Space as inventory, space as invention.17
In an open-ended, virtual conclusion – if indeed such a project as this can have one –is to ask what is a specific Jewish experience of place and movement from home to a place elsewhere? What kind of inventory of actual or invented
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spaces can the Internet offer? Can the Internet enable a better or different understanding of wandering and Jewish cultural identity, and articulate the dimensionality of a diasporic experience? Much as looking at maps of cities and places on the Internet – particularly using Google Earth – has enabled a thoroughly new appreciation of perspective and space, diaspora can be re– configured through images, text and sound on the Internet, to create another (truly, an–other) kind of spatial experience of place and home. The value of an Internet voyage is for the user to create itineraries through space; or literary musings of movements which track urban patterns where each city is highlighted by its vectors to history – this restaurant, that house, this city. By labelling places or giving names to sites, and identifying places by giving a visual structure, these sites, rather than being non–places, or sites of insignificance between other spaces of significance, become lieux-dit – named places. Marc Augé designated what he called non–lieu or non–places as sites we typically pass through, bypass, and are void of our engagement with them.18 A diasporic journey, as a travelling concept, suggests passing through or lighting upon topographies where there seems to be an absence of engagement or attachment. Yet upon closer observation, is not a diasporic journey one that brings the journeyer to precisely the obverse: that is, the traveller settles, perhaps even arbitrarily or accidentally, in a place, and takes that place to be the said–place, or the lieux-dit by appropriating its culture and structure, and by becoming the consumer of and consuming the place itself? For all the indeterminable physicality of virtual space, a spatial topography – a sort of imagined concreteness of place – takes shape in the mind’s eye. Augé’s pessimistic view of non–places evolved over time when he considered the possibilities in films of Nanni Moretti and Wim Wenders; he comments that these filmmakers indeed recreated spaces in their films that inform the city and design spaces to construct or to reinvent.19 In this way, Augé’s non-place, or how one would have considered virtuality, can henceforth be revealed as a place of encounter, creativity and reinvention where identity and meaning can take form. And so it is no surprise that the Internet blends seamlessly and interdependently with architecture that in turn cohabits with literature for this project to label places and create maps. Through its interrelated and layered associations of web page to web page, and rollovers to other features that pop up and demand to be noticed, our noses are pushed up against these places in real time where, by clicking on a site of history or memory or fictional fantasy, we gain access to that place today: we have a mapping, a visual display of destinations, pathways and locations sited with colliding chronologies of then and now, that are the substance of the project: sometimes Romania then, sometimes Montreal now. The personal and the private, the public and the shared, are played out on this individual and collective journey, an interactive virtual experience that playfully and provocatively can take up the concepts of travel, diaspora, topography and architecture to provide a different and other
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consideration of the boundaries of time and place by challenging notions of Jewish space. In the work of Rosenstone and my project for the Web, I began to move inductively from the small example to the broader conceptualizations of place. This is reflected throughout this book, where the case study, or the various art and architectural projects speak to the larger concepts of architecture, memory and place, in an effort to find site again, to bring the gaping hole between material presence and metaphysical musings into a tighter communication dialogue. Moving away from the particular to the larger, however metaphorically, brings me to a view of our planet from afar, and then again from much closer up. As a means to bringing closure to this chapter, and ultimately as the glue to tighten that space between the tangible and the intangible, between the chaos and the world as we think we know it, I want to think about how we know our place, that is, the planet Earth. In the novella Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions, written in 1884 by A. Square (a.k.a. Edwin A. Abbott), the world is nothing more, but nothing less than two dimensions. When visiting Lineland, the unidimensional world, A. Square fails to convey to the monarch what it means to move beyond one dimension and the one line. Similarly, A. Square, upon visiting Spaceland and the universe of the sphere, finds it impossible to convince his compatriots in Flatland of its existence.20 I excerpt a sizeable passage here but it seems an entirely necessary way to introduce his work: Imagine a vast sheet of paper on which straight Lines, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and other figures, instead of remaining fixed in their places, move freely about, on or in the surface, but without the power of rising above or sinking below it, very much like shadows – only hard and with luminous edges – and you will then have a pretty correct notion of my country and countrymen. Alas, a few years ago, I should have said ‘my universe’: but now my mind has been opened to higher views of things. In such a country, you will perceive at once that it is impossible that there should be anything of what you call a ‘solid’ kind; but I dare say you will suppose that we could at least distinguish by sight the Triangles, Squares, and other figures, moving about as I have described them. On the contrary, we could see nothing of the kind, not at least so as to distinguish one figure from another. Nothing was visible, nor could be visible, to us, except Straight Lines; and the necessity of this I will speedily demonstrate. Place a penny on the middle of one of your tables in Space; and leaning over it, look down upon it. It will appear a circle. But now, drawing back to the edge of the table, gradually lower your eye (thus bringing yourself more and more into the condition of the inhabitants of Flatland), and you will find the penny becoming more and more oval to your view; and at last when you have placed your eye exactly on the edge of the table (so that you are, as it were, actually a Flatlander) the penny will then have ceased to appear oval at all, and will have become, so far as you can see, a straight line.21
In our time, Google Earth is a form of Spaceland and social media, where users’ content contributions in the form of layering, mash-ups, blogging,
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wikis, tweeting and all that is to come or to be invented, keep alive and vibrant this concoction of creative maps and interpretations of space and place. At the time of writing, Google Earth uses KML (Keyhole Markup Language) files, a language for managing the display of three-dimensional geospatial data. No doubt this information will be historic by the time one year passes, let alone a decade or a century. According to its website, Google Earth is software that … combines the power of Google search with satellite imagery, 3D mapping technology, and search to make geographic information easily accessible, understandable, and useful. It is the only program that can deliver a 3D digital model of the entire earth via the Internet. Its groundbreaking EarthStream™ technology partners advanced 3D graphics with network streaming innovations in a high performance system that runs on standard PCs and commodity servers.22
Yet Google Earth is so much more than a platform for the mechanical transmission of images. For one, it possesses an ability to display perspectival shifts for the viewer. It can also tag iconic buildings and sites: the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon, the Great Wall of China, for example, or map cultural or other sites of political and social flows – and indeed present us with an ethical view of the globe, by layering the eroding geographic zones of the planet damaged by environmental waste hazard. By all accounts, this truly is the ‘killer app’23 rocking Planet Earth, for now. As you read this chapter, Google Earth will be examined historically, no doubt, as each new technological invention outdoes and surpasses the next. Yet for all Google Earth reveals, there are locations and details that are hidden, presumably due to security issues. Significant by their absence are such countries as Cuba, Iran and North Korea, as well as areas where economic sanctions are in effect by the US who, therefore, restricts access to Google Earth. The site also shows maps that are not current at all: there are clues inside each image that allow us to assign a possible period of time or even a date: snow covers some buildings when we explore the site in summer, for example, or buildings now demolished that are still standing in some of these images. But any information about when these images were photographed is hard to find, and it remains to be seen whether or not Google Earth will show us real-time pictures of our planet rather than photographs. Some of the images – Toronto is one example – were snapped years ago. Or else, pictures we see on Google Earth lack any attribution to the name of the satellite that took them. By most accounts, Google Earth’s impact is so wide reaching that urban planners and architects are now designing with the Google view in mind. Hence the tree–like Palm Trilogy, or Palm Islands, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, were designed to be appreciated through aerial photography. The branch-like shapes of the artificial islands, created on land reclaimed from the sea, jut out from the ‘trunk’ into the Arabian Sea. These islands are meant to be understood as a tree form from the sky, and photogenic in aerial photography, and primarily in satellite images. At the time of writing, the status of the islands is unknown as Dubai experienced crippling bankruptcy in 2009, due to the international economic crisis. Despite
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this fact, and more importantly for my objectives, the real-estate website for Dubai offered this claim: ‘Dubai’s palm tree-shaped resort island on land reclaimed from the sea will add 120 km of sandy beaches and be visible from the moon … The design for the centerpiece of The Palm, Jebel Ali is inspired by the Nymphea or Water Lily and resembles the large flower sitting on a reflecting pool.’24 Without a doubt, the design for Palm Islands by architects RMJM25 has bold objectives of being strategically located from space. In fact, some of the exciting research on the subject of Google Earth as the logical outcome of aerial photography, is discussed in ‘Zoom’ by Victoria Di Palma, who notes: ‘More than a digitized globe, and much more than a map, Google Earth has been called a social phenomenon … By erasing boundaries between one scale and another, by existing outside of conditions of space and distance, and by operating entirely within a rea[l]m of images, the zoom generates a condition of seamlessness. And this seamlessness reconfigures the relationship between public and private.’26 Or in a paper titled ‘The Right Click’, Jeremy Lehrer investigates the ethical possibilities of zooming in on other places and lives, even affecting them in significant ways; helping to bring about an end to the genocide in Darfur, for example, and discusses a way of perceiving Google Earth and even YouTube as the ‘all-seeing eyes of modern surveillance to shine a light into the dark secrets of injustice’.27 Mitchell Schwarzer surveys the history of aerial photography and its impact on architecture in Zoomscape where he asserts that … aerial globalism spreads the perceptual field of architecture and landscape over remote, immense geographies. In so doing, it resituates the aesthetic field of judgment. Nowadays, some people are more fluent in the skylines and monuments of world cities or in the topographic features of continents than in the facades of their own street. Elemental lines and smooth shapes have increasingly replaced fine-grained textures within the aerial view, and perhaps within our mental maps as well.28
Google Earth offers apparently limitless entertainment options: the ‘barnabu’ blog with its plugins, add-ons and images of live satellite collision debris tracking (Google Earth Visualization);29 the ability to view the sweep of Walmart store openings in the USA from 1962–2006, or 3D models of Santiago Calatrava’s residential skyscraper gradually twisting around through 90 degrees over its 190m height. The work of dystopian writer J. G. Ballard is a reminder of a society’s intoxication with progress: two works in particular resonate with this theme: High Rise – where stranded residents in a tall building revert to primitive actions during a power failure – and The Drowned World, where floods isolate those living in the top floors of buildings.30 Google Earth effectively reveals its rhizomatic germination and apparently endless growth possibilities with the help of Web 2.0 extensions that enable users internationally, and forces an extensive reconsideration of national and cultural boundaries and re-evaluation of topographical frontiers. And of course, Google Earth is a stunning example of technological innovation: how are these places photographed and assembled through strategic Google
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satellites? How is information shaped and identified? And what does it mean to use the Web to build a site of topography that, in essence, is nothing but a simulated reality construction? And how is this visual represented? That is, from what point, precisely? From the height of the human eye and its casting upon places? And the human eye as we stand? As we sit? From a mountaintop or from a valley? In other words, various perspectives on places, like responses to questions, depend on the view we take, and in this instance, ‘view’ takes on considerable value. Visual culture thinkers, such as Louis Marin or Jonathan Crary, document the rich historical references from a theatrical perspective, and reflect on its impact on our viewing field. Crary describes the scenographic career of Canaletto and the eighteenth century views of Venice he painted that ‘disclose a field occupied by a monadic observer, within a city that is knowable only as the accumulation of multiple and diverse points of view’.31 Monadology, for example, as described by G. W. Leibniz in 1765, is defined by the point of the cone in the cone of vision. That is, ‘the science of conic sections shows that there exists a single point from which an apparent disorder can be organized into a harmony … For a given plurality, for a given disorder there only exists one point around which everything can be placed in order; his point exists and it is unique. From anywhere else disorder and indetermination remain …’.32 The relationship of the cone of vision to theatre design was apparent in ancient Greece before the close of the fifth century BC, and was resurrected in late eighteenth- century architectural programs and used, for example, for lyric theatre design in France, because the theatre in city space was used as a model for vision or perspectives within cities. Beyond the theatre as a model for vision and specialized visual perception lies the concept of interpreting a city through a reduced scale in an architectural drawing or on a map. This is known as ichnography, or the art or process of drawing a plan of a building (ikhnos = to track or trail). A map, of course, is nothing more than a schematized representation or an artful drawing of a place. Maps, while being representations of, or subject to, ‘scientific’ inquiry, are measurable. Maps are only abstractions and conceptualizations of space. They create an illusion of space as a place, a definable image, defined, that is, by the dimensions it occupies on a two-dimensional surface or a threedimensional model. The correspondence to the real is only invented or relational. On these maps, whether they be mental or pictorial, are vectors – iconic places of orientation – that guide us through space. Vectors determine our orientation within a city: this red door is next to an alley that leads us to the house with the green roof and white picket fence. We codify our movements through cities based on mental mapping on the one hand, but also, as Brian Massumi explains, with visual cues: The very notion of cognitive overcoding implies that we orient with two systems of reference used together. The contradiction between them is only apparent. Pragmatically, they cofunction. Visual cue and cognitive mappings function as store devices allowing us more ready reaccess to less
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habituated proprioceptive patches. They also serve as useful correctives, when we find ourselves hallucinating buildings that positively aren’t there.33
And the reverse is true, as well, as he argues convincingly, because proprioceptive orienting can act as a corrective to visual awareness. When we are momentarily lost, the buildings in front of us are in plain view … We figure out where we are by putting the plain-as-day visual image back in the proper proprioceptive sea-patch. To do that, we have to interrupt vision, in the same way visual awareness interrupts proprioception.34 The idea that two systems – one of perspective and the other of perception –merge to create a concept of place is only the beginning of how we can come to realize how vastly diverse our concept of material culture is in places we think we know – architecture, cities, street corners and neighbourhoods. Among the vectors and all sorts of objects in places that form the sensorial and real, physical knowledge we have of a place, not all are places we have actually visited, or known by a present, propriocetor exposure. Thus, Google Earth, with its satellite photographic and scientific mapping of places, brings together a world, our world, or what we imagine our world to be – a trusty image perhaps, at times – but in miniature. This global, Earth-ly project of photographing all places and all geographic landscapes is presented as enlarged or expanded – thanks to the plus and minus signs, or the sliding bar that zooms us in and out of distance to a place – or collapsed to provide us with an image we might imagine for ourselves as we circulate the globe in our private satellite. All this is offered up to us as a simulated, proprioceptive, three-dimensional model of the planet in our private world, the world we label as our own, the world between ourselves, our hands and fingertips (as we configure sentences and symbols along the keyboard or click and drag with a mouse), and our personal computer, or other digital device with its (private) screen of two dimensions. Yet, sorting out what we see on these maps is part of the intrigue, since Google Earth seems to be an assemblage constructed from a fusion of the cognitive, the topological, and, as Massumi argues later on in his chapter aptly entitled, ‘Strange Horizon’, by means of synesthesia, a kind of sensory response to how it all comes together. Massumi discovered, while looking out of the window of a new office he occupied, that the street he believed he was seeing was in fact not rue St-Marc at all: the visual cues he claims he should have been recognizing were in fact overturned by the circuitous path he took inside the building to arrive at his new office space. We have all had this sudden awakening, he tells us, after a jarring disorientation such as emerging from a subway station. Massumi considers that we might owe this to some kind of nonvisual memory functioning on autopilot; in other words, this world of proprioception, a ‘back-up system to take over from the usual way or orienting; using visible forms grouped into fixed configurations to make … cognitive maps’.35 Much of how we feel about a place emerges from what it means to actually, physically be in a place. Because being there is not always possible we glean our
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impressions and the reconsideration of boundaries of all kinds from stories, conversations, drawings, paintings, photographs and, of course, the Internet. André Malraux in Museum without Walls tells of how artists and architects consulted Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture, among other treatises, in order to ‘travel’ to sites, while some, such as Inigo Jones, found it impossible to believe in these sites without making the journey himself, as he did to see Palladio’s works. It is to the art of photography in the 1830s, that ‘the character of the discourse began to shift’.36 Photographer Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) wanted to see the world from a bird’s perspective, using a hot-air balloon as his viewing station in the sky, and in 1858, he took his camera up with him. Balloons were all the rage since Etienne Montgolfier’s first manned hot–air balloon attempt in 1783. With his friend Victor Hugo, Nadar imagined a future of map-making through photography, perhaps the closest historic and conceptual link to Google Earth. Nadar eventually built his own balloon and formed the Society for the Encouragement of Aerial Locomotion by means of Heavier-Than-AirMachines.37 All sorts of aerial photography and filmic experimental versions followed. And the intoxication with space and place has never ceased. Just over a hundred years later, in 1977, Charles and Ray Eames made a nine-minute film called Powers of Ten. This experimental film transports us in one shot to the edge of space and then back into a carbon atom in the hand of the man, by zooming in and out of space to the power of 10. Animation continues the flight tradition as Google Earth adds ‘layers’ such as the Ancient Rome project. These deeply engaged approaches contribute to the richness of the viewing layers and possibilities. But fundamentally, and in spite of dystopian views on the future of digital and global worlds silently invading our physical placeness, the very core of the project titillates for reasons that are not just about the sum of these parts: the graphic sharpness of the images; the sensation of flying and virtual air travel, free-of-charge: the iconic buildings and monuments seen from angles never available to everyday human activity – the Eiffel Tower from above or at any angle in the sky – and the shadows cast by them seen in one fell swoop, rather than a smaller portion we see when walking on the ground; the ability to see your own house from the air or the street view; and even the increasing convergence of architecture and art on the computer screen. It may very well be as simple as the ability for this gigantic project of satellites that zoom in on Planet Earth, or turn around and face the stars to facilitate our travel; to ‘fly’ us lickety- split, without traffic jams or frustrating airport delays to contend with, to the place of our choice, maybe even to Mars or perhaps as a first step, to the Moon. This seduction and intoxication factor cannot be underestimated. Taken one giant step further, Google Earth transforms us into virtual astronauts orbiting our own planet and looking back at it, by positioning us in space from the comfort of our home. Without our ever having to consider weightlessness, Google Earth offers us the choice viewing station we remember from NASA missions of the past, seen, as it was by the Apollo astronauts, as a ‘colorful marble floating in black space’.38
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Not only, then, does this software provide immediate and effortless transportation, serving us details that would be impossible to see with the naked eye, but it enables a sense of acquaintedness with the places we view. But more than this, it offers up a sense of being there when and, more importantly, where we cannot. For those who dread leaving home, this is a godsend. And for those for whom travel is a way of life, or an addiction, Google Earth continues to torment with the big tease, dispatching us effortlessly to the near and far reaches of the globe, creating geographical sites that, in reality, simply don’t exist in this visual way. What might have only occurred in a wishful moment – that trip to see the ruins of Rome’s ancient past, the weekend to Paris, or the climb up Everest – is, in the click of a mouse, instantly realized. Not to be surpassed, Google Earth and its spin-offs, such as OpenStreetMap, expand the virtual cocktail of maps, space and place. More than a platform for the mechanical transmission of satellite images, Google Earth experiments with perspectival shifts, tagging iconic buildings or sites of cultural, political or social flows. But the difference between early mapping techniques and GE today is chiefly thanks to the invention of photography. Our connection to place is dramatically altered as we recognize monuments and places. With the addition of time-based media such as film, filmmakers continue to push the limits of perspective and city space, upsetting the tranquility of still photography and two-dimensionality with movement. Yet, for all its promises and elations, can Google Earth enable virtual peregrinations that articulate the physicality of a city and how our memories are recorded in it? If place and our identification with it is shaped by our performative or repetitive patterns, or our territorialization and development of a cognitive map, is it possible for mapping technologies and films to enable us to know a place and form memories of it? If we don’t travel to a place, yet the place comes to us – and this can be in the form of postcards, film, television, YouTube, or armchair travel via Google Earth – what do we remember of it? De Certeau suggests that we spatialize place by an appropriation of it, and by acting out in a place. And Benjamin calls upon haptic experiences in order to anchor our memory. But if we do not experience a place in situ, if we are removed from a location – delocalized – from a place, can we narrativize or know it through Google Earth or digital media? John Ewing, a Bostonbased artist, launched an intensely urban project entitled: Virtual Street Corners. Initially, by connecting one street corner to another in two Boston neighborhoods, Brookline and Roxbury, technology crosses social divides by pulling back to one neighbourhood while relaying to another. When the concept of globalization and digitalization mushroomed it was at once in a celebratory jubilee, but also in an aura of dubiousness and fear of the loss of identity, sovereignty, nationhood and place. Eventually, what seemed to rise above the chaos of that moment was that the idea that if place would be lost altogether it was in favour of one homogenous, harmonized space where physical location was only a matter of some past consideration of our planet, some greater, unified space. Gérard Raulet, referred to it as
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the ‘new utopia’ that ‘presupposes the disappearance of the local in favor of the spatial’. He went on to consider the term delocalization as ‘the insertion of the logic of the new communication technologies within the universal history … utopia of a society decentralized by telecommunications signified a spatialization of communication so that all localization becomes impossible. It means the final dissolution of all ties and places that symbolically structured traditional society’.39 The hallmark of memorable moments is what we might take to be obvious: our ability to recall them. And as I have shown in earlier chapters, recall of memory is often the result of noticing an object or other physical reminder, a trigger, to return us to the memory itself. Our removal from physical places, through our acquaintance with, and immersion in, the digital world engenders a humbling and soulful message: that there seems to be a look back, rather than sinking into a mire of nostalgia. We are recalled back to our bodily beings and the proprioception of our bodily acts, our ultimate situatedness within a spatialized temporality. In a piece by Nicholson Baker on video games where, despite his astonishment at the aesthetic wonders of the light and weather in the simulated environments, he forewarns the reader about the length of time involved in playing, and the feeling of yearning for an end to the game: ‘No war, no gods, no bounties, no kill chains, no vengeance. No convoys in Afghanistan. Just end it … Or even go outside, with my pants legs tucked into my socks so that the midsummer ticks don’t crawl up my legs. I miss grass.’40 In the end, satellites that map our planet from outer space; or a random list of other visual observations of places – such as Mark Lewis’s soundless films of pedestrian mobility in generic cities; or video games such as Assassin’s Creed magnificently set in Renaissance Florence and Venice 41 where churches, palazzi and city squares provide a dizzying context layering the past and present tenses – have brought us, ironically, to an even deeper and more nuanced physical engagement with our earthly, physical planet and in so doing, provide us with a performative initiative into the process of remembering. In response to Gustav Janouch’s remark that sight is a requirement, a ‘necessary condition for an image’, Kafka is famously reported to have said ‘We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes’.41 Whether or not the story, as Janouch tells it in his Conversations with Kafka, is true, the thought is poignantly accurate and well taken.42 Do we close our eyes in order to remember through our wax tablets, our memory palaces, our imagined constructions, in our mind’s eye? Do we retreat to the world of our imagination which parallels or multiplies or retreats from the physical world of material places and objects? A world where Robert Musil declared ‘There is nothing in the world as invisible as monuments’, suggesting that the multiplicity and overwhelming number of memorial structures and monuments built to honour and remember have clogged our vision to the point where we no longer see, and certainly, we no longer see them.43 Like Ireneo Funes, Jorge Luis Borges’s protagonist in
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‘Funes, the Memorious’44 remembering everything he experiences involves retaining far too much information. Following a riding accident where he received a head injury, Funes was blessed – or plagued – with an inability to forget. As a result, he was incapable of deciphering all the information he amassed. Forgetting is the crucial balance to remembering, and it is through the loss of memory, or through forgetting, that we, voluntarily or not, make selections and then decipher meaning, from what we retain. Unlike Funes, ours is normally a natural process to lose sight of buildings and places, of memories unfolding right before our eyes. Yet the sights we lose to memory, or the sites we lose to our displacement, can exist elsewhere, in other places, in other forms. These may be sites lost, perhaps, but ultimately, they are sites found.
Notes 1 Robert A. Rosenstone, The Man Who Swam Into History: The (Mostly) True Story of My Jewish Family (University of Texas Press, 2005). 2 Ibid., p. 11 3 John Pickles, A History of Spaces; Cartographic reason, mapping and the geo-coded world (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 145. 4 Ibid. 5 Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, (trans.) Sheila Faria Glaser, (University of Michigan Press, 1994), p. 1. 6 Matthew H. Edney, Mapping an Empire: the geographical construction of British India, 1765–1843 (The University of Chicago Press,  1997). 7 Rosenstone, The Man Who Swam, p. 15. 8 Philippe Hamon, Expositions: Literature and Architecture in Nineteenth-Century France, (trans.) Katia Sainson-Frank and Lisa Maguire, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), pp. 18–19. 9 This project was created with a team of undergraduate and graduate students at York University. The primary designer of the site is Kristina Rostorotsky. I want to extend thanks to: Jen Brown, Karen Justl, Allison Ksiazkiewicz, Meaghan Lowe, Marieke Treilhard and Jenny Western. 10 These ideas are distilled from: Jonathan Boyarin and Daniel Boyarin, Powers of Diaspora: Two Essays on the Relevance of Jewish Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2002). 11 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, ‘Spaces of Dispersal’, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 9, no. 3 (August 1994), pp. 339–44. 12 Rosenstone, The Man Who Swam, p. 47. 13 Jay Winter, Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 12. 14 Jewish Social Studies, 11.3 (2005), pp. 1–8.
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15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 17 Georges Perec, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, (ed. and trans.) John Sturrock, (Penguin Books,  1997 ), p. 13. 18 Marc Augé, Non-Lieux : Introduction à une anthropolgie de la surmodernité (Paris, 1992). 19 See Emer O’Beirne, ‘Mapping the Non-Lieu in Marc Augé’s Writings’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 38–50. O’Beirne is here referring to Augé’s L’Impossible Voyage; Le tourisme et ses images (Paris, 1997), pp. 170–71. 20 A. Square (Edwin A. Abbott), Flatland; A Romance of Many Dimensions (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1885). 21 Ibid., p. 12. 22 Moreover, ‘Creating layers on Google Earth is free and requires no advanced technical skills, and these KML files created can be viewed in Google Earth or Google Maps and retrieved via KML search. Through these layers, users can share information, videos, and photos on the map. User-created layers can be viewed in Google Earth or Google Maps. Also, ‘PAMAP is a seamless digital base map of the state that provides access to road, parcel, elevation, boundaries, hydrography and other data at a scale ten times better than what was previously available through existing topographic maps’. . 23 Signalled by Francis Harvey in his ‘Commentary’, which appeared in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 2007, vol. 34, pp. 761–4. 24 Dubai-Real-Estate.org . 25 Led by Tony Kettle, Director at RMJM’s head office, Edinburgh, this project won the competition from a shortlist of 11 architectural firms. 26 Vittoria Di Palma, Diana Periton and Marina Lathouri (eds), Intimate Metropolis; Urban Subjects in the Modern City (Routledge, 2009), pp. 239–70. 27 Jeremy Lehrer, ‘The Right Click’, in Print, February 2008; 62, 1, pp. 62–5. 28 Mitchell Schwarzer, Zoomscape; Architecture in Motion and Media (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004), pp. 162–3. 29 Google Earth Visualization, ‘Satellite Collision Debris Tracking in the Google Earth Plug-in’, 2007–2010, 15 08 2010 . 30 James Graham Ballard, High Rise (UK General Books,  1985); and Drowned World (UK General Books,  2006). 31 Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer (The MIT Press, 1998), p. 52 32 Michel Serres, Le Système de Leibniz et ses modèles mathematics (Paris, 1968), vol. 1, p. 244, in Crary, p. 51. 33 Massumi, Parables for the Virtual, pp. 181–2. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid., pp. 178–9.
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36 William J. Mitchell, World’s Greatest Architect: Making, Meaning, and Network Culture (The MIT Press, 2008), pp. 57–8. 37 John H. Lienhard, Engines of Our Ingenuity, < http://www.uh.edu/engines/ epi1967.htm [accessed 1 December 2010]>. 38 ‘Space Topics: Earth; Images of Earth from Planetary Spacecraft’, . 39 Gérard Raulet, ‘The New Utopia: Communication technologies’, Telos 87 (1991): 39–58. 40 Nicholson Baker, ‘Painkiller Deathstreak: Adventures in video games’, The New Yorker (August 2010): 52–9. 41 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, (trans.) Richard Howard, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), p. 53. Briggitte Peucker writes eloquently on the relationship between Kafka and Kubrick, and centres her argument around this conversation. She writes about the paradox between seeing and not seeing by shutting out pictures that it ‘ensures that the link between photographs and works of fiction remains ambiguous. On the one hand, stories are seen in contradistinction to photography – not as a means of exorcising demons but rather as a means of shutting them out, of erecting a … barrier between self and world. On the other hand, it is the relatedness of story to photograph that is intriguing, the sense in which writing too, may be an exorcism … In this reading, narrative is complicit with photography in its attempt to keep the “things” that haunt us at a distance’. See Brigitte Peucker, ‘Kubrick and Kafka: The Corporeal Uncanny’, Modernism/modernity, vol. 8. no. 4 (2001): pp. 663–74. 42 Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka, (trans.) Goronwy Rees, (London: Quartet Books, 1985), p. 33. 43 Robert Musil, ‘Denkmale’, in Gesammelte Werke, 480–83 (Hamburg, 1957) as quoted in Werner Fenz and Maria-Regina Kecht, ‘The Monument is Invisible, the Sign Visible’, October (The MIT Press) 48 (Spring 1989): pp. 75–8. 44 Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Funes, the Memorious’, in Ficciones, (trans.) Emecé Editores, (New York: Grove Press,  1962).
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References to illustrations are in bold Adorno, Theodor 15 aerial photography and architecture 142 and Google Earth 142 anti-memory, Eisenman on 51 see also memory Appelfeld, Aharon, The Iron Tracks 83 architectural site, real and imagined 5 architecture and aerial photography 142 and memory 1 ——Ruskin on 1–2 as now 7 permanence notion 81, 83 real/virtual 137 transdisciplinarity of 6 Arendt, Hannah 44 art object, as contemplation aid 3 Assassin’s Creed video game 147 Atkins, Vera 12, 118, 120 Augé, Marc 139 Baedeker, Karl, Paris and Environs, Louvre in 110 Baker, Nicholson 147 Baldus, Eduard Denis, Cour Napoleon 111, 111, 112 Balibar, Etienne 41–2, 44 on citizenship 45 Ballard, J.G., dystopianism 142 Bastea, Eleni 7 Baucom, Ian 74 Baudelaire, Charles, on photography 112 Baudrillard, Jean 128 Bauman, Zygmaunt 44
on the Holocaust 52 Ben Gamliel, Rabbi Shimon 34 Ben-Ari, Eyal 7 Ben-Arieh, Yehoshua 72 Benjamin, Walter 7, 8, 146 death 15 on history 20–21 memorial 16, 17–22 Benor-Kalter, Ya’acov, The Old City of Jerusalem 66 Bergdoll, Barry 111 Berkowitz, Michael 63 Berlin, memorials 40–54 Bevan, Robert 5 Bilu, Yoram 7 Birnbaum, Pierre 26 Bismarck, Otto von, on history 38 Blumel, André 32 Bond, James 117, 118, 123 Borges, Jorge Luis 148 Boulez, Pierre 20 Bourdieu, Pierre, on curating 5 Brauch, Julia 7 Bruno, Giuliana 7 buildings, life of 81–2 Butler, Judith 99 Bodies that Matter 100 Gender Trouble 100 Cadava, Eduardo 71–2 Caillois, Roger 96 Canaletto 143 Capernaum, synagogue 65, 65, 66 Casey, Edward 4, 42, 44 Remembering 7 The Fate of Place 7
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Cassou, Jean 28 citizenship, Balibar on 45 Cixous, Hélène 7 Clifford, James 61 clothing, and personal dignity 97 Connerton, Paul, How Societies Remember 98 Cook, Thomas, tours 68 Coomaraswamy, Ananda 3 Crary, Jonathan 143 curating Bourdieu on 5 meaning 14n11 curator, role 103 curatorial act as architectural act 4–5 tourism as 105 de Certeau, Michel 146 territorialization theory 83, 85 Deleuze, Gilles 6, 7, 113 delocalization, space 146–7 DeMille, Cecil B., The Ten Commandments 68 demolition, and memory 86 Derrida, Jacques 7 on ruin 81 deterritorialization 113, 114 diaspora 61–2, 138 and Internet 137 Kirshenblatt-Gimblett on 136 as virtual travel 136 Dragset, Ingar, and Michael Elmgreen, Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims (2008) 9, 52, 53 Drexler, Arthur 32 Dubai, Palm Islands 141–2 Duban, Félix 111 Dura-Europos site 66 dystopianism, Ballard 142 Eames, Charles & Ray, Powers of Ten 145 Eco, Umberto 41 Edney, Matthew 128 Eiffel Tower 141, 145 as memory trigger 1, 3 Eisenman, Peter on anti-memory 51 Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2005) 9, 25, 45, 46, 47–8, 49, 50–51 Elmgreen, Michael 9
ephemera meanings 75–6, 77 postcards as 75 Ewing, John, Virtual Street Corners 146 Finkielkraut, Alain 26–7, 32, 55n14 Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva 138 forgetting, and memory 148 Freudenheim, Tom 40 Gehry, Frank, Guggenheim Bilbao Museum 104, 107 gender, performativity 99–100 Gerz, Jochen, and Esther ShalevGerz, Monument against Fascism (1986–1991) 37–8 Glam-Galleries 11 Goldstein, Rebecca 68 Gombrich, E.J. 66 Google Earth 13, 136, 139, 140–41, 142–3 and aerial photography 142 Ancient Rome project 145 entertainment options 142 proprioceptive views 144 software 141, 149n22 Grant, Linda, When I Lived in Modern Times 73 Guasch, Anna M. 107 Guattari, Félix 113 Guggenheim Bilbao Museum 11, 103, 104, 105 as auratic artwork 108 criticism/praise of 107–8 as landmark 109 as starchitecture 107, 108 Halbwachs, Maurice 3, 96 Häussler, Iris 10, 84, 93–100 He Named Her Amber 93, 93 Honest Threads 94, 95–6, 95 ——and memory 97 Truth or Dare... ——dress-up 96 ——and memory 96–7 ——schmatas 96 Hawthorne, Christopher 108 Heidegger, Martin 4 Hepburn, Allan 118 heritage, nature of 99 Heynen, Hilde 37 history Benjamin on 20–21
Bismarck on 38 and memory 42, 124 History Channel 42 Hoheisel, Horst, Negative-Form Monument (1987) 38 Holocaust, the 9 Bauman on 52 monuments 36 Holt, Douglas 64–5 Holy Land 69 postcards 9, 10 see also under Israel Hopkins, Clark 66 Horace, Odes 1 house, concept 88 Hugo, Victor 145 Hurricane Katrina 5 Huyssen, Andreas 17, 38, 42, 43, 99 Internet and diaspora 137 and exploration 128–9 non-places 139 see also World Wide Web Israel architectural styles 73 Law of Return 68 postcards 61 ——architecture 75 ——Biblical sites 63 ——branding 65 ——Capernaum, synagogue 65, 65, 66 ——identity formation 64, 69, 75 ——Jaffa 67, 73 ——nation building 69, 72 ——nostalgia 68 ——perspectival images 69–70 ——as souvenir 70 ——Tel Aviv 66, 67, 67, 72 ——as visual exoticism 72 ——Zionist culture 63 Jäckel, Eberhard 48 Jackob-Marks, Christine 49 Jaffa 67, 73 Janouch, Gustav, Conversations with Kafka 147 Janson, H.W. 66 Jerusalem 32, 63, 73 Jewish Museum Berlin (2001) emptiness 40, 43 as site marker 43
view 41 Jewish National Fund 63, 77 Jewish space 128, 136, 137–8 Jews, as ‘oriental’ 69 Jones, Inigo 145 Jordan, Jennifer 7 Kafka, Franz 52, 147 Kahn, Albert, Archive of the Planet 137 Kalmar, Ivan 69 Karavan, Dani 8 Passages, Homage to Walter Benjamin 15, 16, 17–22 Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara, on diaspora 136 Klee, Paul, Angelus Novus 20 Kohl, Helmut 48, 49 Kollwitz, Kathe 48 Krens, Thomas 107 landmark, Guggenheim Bilbao Museum as 109 landscape painting 4 Larsen, Lars Bang 52 Latour, Bruno 121 Law of Return, Israel 68 Lehrer, Jeremy 142 Leibniz, G.W., monadology 143 Levitt, Nina Installation view: Parachute (for Hannah Senesh) 121, 121 Installation view: Quonset Hut (for Vera Atkins) 119, 119, 120 Thin Air 12, 117–18 Lewis, Mark 147 Libeskind, Daniel, Jewish Museum Berlin 8, 9, 40, 41, 43–4 Lin, Maya, Vietnam Veterans Memorial 37 Lingwood, James 87 Lipphardt, Anna 7 Louvre 105 in Baedeker guide 110 history 109–10 photographs 111, 112 Lyotard, Jean-François, on metanarratives 36 MacCannell, Dean 104, 105 McClellan, Andrew 110 McGrath, Charles 118
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Malraux, André, Museum without Walls 145 Mann, Barbara 7, 73 Mannheim Electoral Gallery 110 maps, territory producers of 128 representations of 143 Marco Polo, on memory 35 Marin, Louis 143 Masada 72, 75, 76 Massumi, Brian 109, 113, 143–4 Matta-Clark, Gordon 83, 84 Mauss, Marcel, The Gift 98 Mayer, Daniel 32 Mayer–Schönberger, Viktor 43 Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation (1962) 9, 25, 27–30, 27, 30, 31, 32–3, 37 resonance 34 Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (2005) 9, 25, 45, 46, 47–8 competition 49 controversy 49 pillars, repetition of 49–50 stelae 50 memorials 9/11 events 39 Berlin 40–54 continuing relevance 38–9, 98 emptiness 49 Paris 26–33 spontaneous 39 to Benjamin 16, 17–22 to Jewish loss 26 memory art of 2 cultural, and tourism 104 and demolition 86 digital 43 and forgetting 148 fragility 35 Häussler ——Honest Threads 97 ——Truth or Dare... 96–7 and history 42, 124 involuntary 6 Marco Polo on 35 and place 1, 3, 8 and preservation 86 and recall 147 sources of 35 and wax 10
and Whiteread’s House 85 see also anti-memory metanarratives, Lyotard on 36 Michelangelo 86 mind’s eye concept 4 La Mission Héliographique 128 modernity, and monuments 36–7 monadology, Leibniz 143 Monument against Fascism (1986– 1991) 37–8 Monument to Homosexual Holocaust Victims (2008) 9, 25, 53 film loop 52, 53 Monument to the Unknown Jewish Martyr (1956) 28, 31–2 monuments intentional/unintentional 35 and modernity 36–7 Musil on 147 post-Holocaust 36 Riegl on 34–5 timelessness 25 Moretti, Nanni 139 Moreux, Jean-Charles 33 Mort pour la France’ inscription 26, 28, 32 Muschamp, Herbert 107 museums 11 function 103 Musil, Robert 52 on monuments 147 Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) 145 Nancy, Jean-Luc 7 Negative-Form Monument (1987) 38 Neue Wache monument (1993) 48 Nocke, Alexandra 7 Nolan, Mary 49 nomadism, tourism as 113 Nora, Pierre 9, 35, 38, 52, 98 Les Lieux de Mémoire 7 Nuremberg Laws 117 Ockman, Joan 107, 108 Olin, Margaret 66 OpenStreetMap 146 Palladio, Four Books of Architecture 145 Paris, memorials 26–33 past, the, physical location 119 Pei, I.M. 110
Penslar, Derek 69 Perec, Georges 138 photography Baudelaire on 112 travel, as tourism 106 Pickles, John 128 Pingusson, Georges-Henri 9 Memorial to the Martyrs of the Deportation (1962) 9, 25, 27–30, 27, 30, 31, 37 place emptiness of 124 lost and found 148 and memory 1, 3, 8 role of guidebooks 74 surrogates for 2 as territorial assemblage 113 Portbou 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 postcards as ephemera 75 and the Holy Land 9, 10 ——see also under Israel and meaning of places 10 and mobility 62 textual messages 76 topographical 76 preservation, and memory 86 Proust, Marcel 5–6, 135 Quonset huts 119, 119, 120 Ratey, John 4 Raulet, Gérard 146–7 recall, and memory 147 Renan, Ernest, ‘What is a Nation?’ 26 Rich, Adrienne 119 Riegl, Alois, on monuments 34–5 Rogoff, Irit 103 Romoli, Giorgio 107 Rosenstone, Robert, The Man Who Swam Into History 12, 127, 135 as web project 12–13, 129, 129, 130–31, 135–6 —— diasporic travel 136 —— Rosenstone’s critique and response 131–4 Rosh, Lea 48 Rotbard, Sharon, White Cities, Black Cities 67 ruin Derrida on 81 home as process of 83
Ruskin, John 74 on architecture and memory 1–2 Seven Lamps of Architecture 1 Schama, Simon 7 Schengen area 221 Schmitt, Carl 44 Schneersohn, Isaac 31–2 Sebald, W.G. 83 Sekula, Allan 107 Senesh, Hannah 12, 118, 121, 122, 125n11 Senie, Harriet 39 Serra, Richard 49 Shemtov, Vered 138 Sherman, Daniel J. 103 Shklovsky, Victor 2, 91–2 Shwarzer, Mitchell 7 Simmel, George The Philosophy of Money 98 on value 98 Simon Wiesenthal Center 32 space Cartesian 7 delocalization 146–7 nomadic 20 smooth 20 virtual 127 see also Jewish space Special Operations Executive (SOE) 12, 120 spy stories 118 see also women spies Square, A. (Edwin A. Abbott), Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions 140 Stewart, Susan 70 Tafuri, Manfredo 73 Taylor, Brian Brace 32 Tel Aviv 66, 67, 67, 72 and Jaffa 67, 73 territorialization theory, de Certeau 83, 85 theatre, as model for vision 143 Till, Karen 7 Tomashevsky, Boris 92 tombstones function 34 Rachel’s 33–4 tourism and cultural memory 104 as curatorial act 105 imaginary 106, 113
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as nomadism 113 travel, comparison 106–7 travel photography as 106 Tristram, Henry Baker, The Land of Israel 68 tsunami, South East Asia (2004) 5 Urry, John 99 value, Simmel on 98 Vattimo, Gioanni 99 Vidler, Anthony 83 Vietnam Veterans Memorial 37 Vitruvius, Marcus, De architectura 81 wax, and memory 10 Wenders, Wim 139 Whiteread, Rachel 84, 86 creative technique 90–91 Ghost 87 House 10, 84–5, 85, 87, 88, 91, 92 ——and memory 85
——monumentality 91 ——not-a-house 88 ——unheimlich 88–9 Monument 90 as sculptor 89–90 technique 90–91 Turner Prize 87 Winter, Jay 18 women spies 12, 117, 118–24 Jewishness 123 World Wide Web 128 and mobility 138 see also Internet Wright, John Kirkland 69 Yates, Frances 2 Young, James 37 Zemel, Carol 61–2 Zerubavel, Yael 72 Zionism 64 Zulaika, Joseba 107