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Title: Selected proposals from the Berlin Holocaust Memorial Competition and the winning design by Peter Eisenman : memory, commemoration, aesthetics and the representation of difficult histories
Author: Callaghan, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 4637
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis involves a study of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial Competition of the 1990s, with a special focus on submissions that engage with issues of empathy, secondary witnessing, viewer interpellation and cultural memory. This is a unique contribution to discussing ways that artists proposed to represent Germany's most difficult history, due to examinations of memorial designs that have either not been given scholarly attention through the aforementioned issues, or have not previously been subjected to any critical analysis. This includes designs that employ concentration camp icons, projected photographs of victims taken before the Holocaust began, or abstract proposals that either include references to the sites of mass murder, or, as with the winning model by Peter Eisenman, no references to the genocide at all. Building on the work of Aleida Assmann and Astrid Erll, the thesis looks to examine the role of cultural memory for those who encounter contemporary Holocaust memorials. One of the key aims of the thesis is the exploration of questions concerning the potential elicitation of empathy when viewers encounter selected designs. These discussions are informed by the work of Amy Coplan, Dominic LaCapra, and Martin Hoffman, as the question of how viewers' memory of other Holocaust representations can enhance their capacity to relate to the victims' experience, is discussed. Further, as one of the selected designs can be seen in relation to Freud's concept of The Uncanny, how does this come to represent a new, fearful way of encountering concentration camp iconography? The scope of the thesis is further exemplified by discussions concerning artists who submitted proposals that consciously worked against the competition itself, whilst also involving the secondary witness in the creation and working processes of their designs. The thesis takes an original approach to analysis of Eisenman's memorial too, by discussing its relationship to the underground Information Centre, where features of some unbuilt proposals are also observable. By taking this approach to the winning submission for the competition, Eisenman's design is understood as being in partnership with the Information Centre, rather than being separate, largely unrelated, components. Drawing on archival research and interviews with a range of protagonists, the thesis reveals debates concerning who the memorial should be dedicated to, and how the idea of a memorial relates to Vergangenheitsbewältigung, highlighting a need for German introspection and the motivation to cultivate a new German self-image. This original contribution to understanding Holocaust commemoration also argues that designs featuring iconography associated with the concentration camps are more than mere provocations; they represent the possibility of stimulating empathic responses through evoking associations with Holocaust imagery and narratives which are in cultural circulation. Through examination of several unbuilt proposals, the thesis provides new, discerning ways, of considering a range of designs, and also the possibilities for Holocaust commemoration and the role of the secondary witness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available