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2007 | 20 | 147-159

Article title

ALMOST A MONUMENT - ALMOST A REMEMBRANCE (Prawie pomnik - prawie pamiec)

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The article concerns the issue of contemporary monumental sculpture viewed as narration. Comparison is drawn between two monumental structures, both erected in Europe and both referring to the WW II: the Memorial to Warsaw Uprising (Warsaw, 1979, Andrzej Domanski, constructed for the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the Uprising), and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial (Berlin, 2003-5, Peter Eisenman). The authoress presents these structures as illustrations to two different models of representing history. Those models, functioning with the sphere of the 'policy of remembrance', are viewed as two opposing historiographic schemes. She finds the monuments to be an expression of the discourse on monuments functioning as texts in the public space, related to Dominick LaCapra's theory of history as memory and Frank Ankersmit's Narrativism, and on this basis conducts an analysis of both structures as historiographic texts. The reading of the Warsaw monument, which was erected in the Communist period, demonstrates that its chief category is 'the memory of forgetting' and that it is a memorial to the 'other hero'. Its true subject / 'hero' turns out not to be the Warsaw Uprising at all. Instead, this monument is the demonstration of the propaganda of the People's Republic of Poland, the then 'manager of memory'. The idea of the pseudo-abstract form of this 'almost a monument' refers to the manner in which the memory of the Warsaw Uprising was viewed by the authorities: as an experience which can essentially be erased, removed from history or presented in an ideologically appropriate manner. The persuasive power of the monument was aimed at 'teaching' the viewer-recipient to perceive the appropriate historiographic vision. It is, therefore, the monument to the killers, not to the victims. Applying the method of 'inverted reading' of this memorial as a historical narrative, the authoress demonstrates that this 'almost a monument' has also a meaning which was not conceived by its creators. It can be, in fact, interpreted as the memorial to those who are absent and excluded, and hence as a disguised memorial to the victims. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is an antithesis to the Warsaw monument. Its main idea is also based on the 'management of memory', the ideologisation of the city space and the hermeneutics of a monument as a text, but understood from an entirely opposite point of view. There, the perception of the past is understood as 'remembering to remember' (Ankersmit).From the formal point of view, both monuments seemingly display similar features of style (minimalism, abstract art and geometry - radical representations of a symbolic form); yet the aesthetic narration of these two memorials brings about different results. Interpreted as two models of representing, interpreting and evaluating history (historiography), these memorials refer not to the past itself, but to the present day's manner of looking at the past.







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  • Marta Lesniakowska, Instytut Sztuki PAN, ul. Dluga 26/28, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland


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Publication order reference


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