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Art Through Time: A Global View

History and Memory Compare: How Can Art Help Us Come to Terms With Traumatic Memory?

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Artist / Origin: Peter Eisenman (American, b. 1932)
Region: Europe
Date: 1999–2005
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Concrete
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: (Total) Covers 5 ½ acres; (Blocks) H: 0-13.1 ft. (0–4 m.), W: 37.4 in. (95 cm.), L: 7.79 ft. (2.375 m.) (each)
Location: Berlin, Germany
Credit: Photo courtesy of Simon Sinek

Mulackstrasse 37, Berlin from The Writing on the Wall, Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter

Mulackstrasse 37, Berlin from The Writing on the Wall, Projections in Berlin’s Jewish Quarter
Artist / Origin: Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Region: North America
Date: 1993
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Photograph (of slide projection)
Medium: Prints, Drawings, and Photography
Credit: Photo courtesy of the artist

How can art help us come to terms with traumatic memory?

An important function of much artwork dealing with history is commemoration and memorialization. When the history addressed is traumatic, art can play a special role in helping people come to terms with the past and move forward. It can at the same time be a powerful reminder to people in the present not to repeat the mistakes of bygone eras. Both Eisenman’s Berlin memorial and Attie’s Writing on the Wall are dedicated to the painful history of the Holocaust. However, each artist calls upon his audience to reflect on that history in a unique way.

Questions to Consider

  • Eisenman chooses to memorialize the Holocaust in largely abstract terms, Attie in very human ones. What is the impact of each? Do you find one more powerful or affecting than the other? Why or why not?
  • Do Eisenman and Attie formulate the same relationship between past and present in their works?
  • Both of these works were created in or for Berlin. How does this location add to the significance of each? Do you think the works would have the same power if they were sited elsewhere?

Series Directory

Art Through Time: A Global View

Credits

Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2

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