Berlin! (Part 2)

November 9, 2009

berlin3As part of the Eleventh Berlin Roundtables on Transnationality, the Irmgard Coninx Foundation organized a city tour for participants. We traveled through the grey streets of Berlin to the Jewish Museum, the Stasi Prison, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the nearby Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism. Given that the Roundtables focused on “The Politics of Memory,” the sites sparked a lot of discussion between participants. For example, the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism was set away from the street, so it could not be seen unless you turned and walked away from the street in order to see it. The large block (pictured above and below) had a small hole cut out with a looped film running. The film showed two men kissing. (Apparently, this film alternates with two women kissing.) But you have to peer through the hole to see it. Again, there has to be effort on the part of the visitor to 1) see the monument at all, and 2) to see the film.

The memorial was striking in several ways. On the one hand, it used a similar form to many memorials. For example, the grey concrete structure was similar to the stelae in the memorial across the street, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (a memorial that I found very moving). On the other hand, certain techniques, particularly the use of film, set it apart from most memorials I’ve visited. I’m not sure what the memorial is communicating through the use of this looped film – Is it a gesture towards inclusion? A reminder of ongoing persecution? A provocation to understand the past and present in a new way? It remains unclear, but it’s stayed with me – perhaps this lack of clarity and the unanswered questions are the point.

Note: Berlin is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The New York Times has a cool interactive feature focusing on images submitted by readers. Check out The View from the Wall for more.


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