Dialectical reflections on Peter Eisenman's Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe
Normative, conceptual minimal conditions of adequacy for any Holocaust memorial arguably include a historical relation, in that the artwork must bear an intentional relation to historical facts of the Holocaust, and an aesthetic relation, in that the artwork must evince aesthetic properties of some sort that elicit an aesthetic experience. In this paper, after first outlining various design possibilities, including abstract or formalist art in general, within a dialectical framework of representation and non-representation, I argue that Eisenman's Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe fails to bear an adequate historical relation and, hence, is an unsuccessful memorial, despite defences of the design by Rauterberg, Eisenman and Agamben. By contrast, I show how memorials incorporating abstract art can successfully fulfil the minimal conditions by analysing Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Finally, drawing on the tradition of memorials to war dead, I propose a more radical alternative to Eisenman's project. © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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