Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights


12 May 2015
16:00 - 18:00
Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, Utrecht

Transnational Memory Seminar with Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz

Debating Perpetrator Histories

The Counter-Monument in Transnational Context

How does one remember an absence? How does a nation of former perpetrators mourn its victims? Can the perpetrators’ means of deportation become a vehicle for transporting the memory of their victims? It is precisely such seemingly insoluble memorial conundrums that the artists Horst Hoheisel and Andreas Knitz address. Indeed, it was in response to their work that James Young coined the influential concept of the ‘counter-monument’: a provocative, painfully self-conscious memorial space that is conceived to challenge the very premises of what a monument is or does. While Hoheisel and Knitz’s memorial work has its roots in Germany’s attempts to come to terms with National Socialism and the memory of the Holocaust, they have been engaged in artistic projects commemorating injustice all over the world.


In their talk they will focus on the transnational dimension of their work and present past and current projects in Germany, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Spain, and New York, and situate them within the context of ongoing memory debates in these countries.


The artist Horst Hoheisel engages critically with the commemoration and memorialization of the Holocaust as well as other instances of human loss and devastation. In his artistic work he has developed new commemorative forms, which have become widely known as “negative memorials” or “countermonuments,” and which he himself calls interventions or signs of memory in public space (Erinnerungszeichen im öffentlichen Raum). Among his projects are the negative form monument to mark what had once been the Aschrott Fountain in Kassel (1986/87), the Memorial Stone Archive (Kassel, Berlin, Munich 1986–1990), and The Gateways of the Germans, a memorial for one night, which was a slide-projection of the Auschwitz gate onto the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on 27 January 1997.


Together with architect Andreas Knitz, who is based in Ravensburg in the South of Germany, Hoheisel has created memorials all over the world, such as A Memorial to a Memorial (Buchenwald 1995), Crushed History (Weimar 1997–2002), Arte da Memória (São Paulo 2001), Pássaro Livre (São Paulo 2003), The Monument of the Grey Buses (Ravensburg 2006), The Chemistry of Memory (Buenos Aires 2006), underGROUND (Phnom Penh 2008), Windows of Memory (Vilnius, 2009), Book Mark (Bonn 2012), The Eye of Memory (Poznan 2014), and many others.