Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rough Rough Draft Proposal

Monumentalization and memorialization of Berlin

I. Look at:

A. Sites of historical preservation and how preserved

B. Sites that have not been preserved and what is there instead

C. Why or why not for both

D. What kind of recognition is there for the site if any?

E. Memorials of the benign kind - Plaques, banners, bus stops, etc

F. Memorials of a more monumental kind - Jewish, etc.

G. Monuments - Brandenburg gate, KaDeWe, The column in the Tiergarten, etc.

H. I want to look at the areas around and see what kind of memorialization is occurring in Berlin to confront/dismiss the past and what the effect of that is on the preservation of buildings and sites of former import

II. The first step is to gather as much information about historical sites in Berlin and then about current important memorials in the city, both benign and monumental.

III. After I have the information I can narrow my searching and focus to specific buildings and locations.

IV. From here I will try to characterize what I see and hopefully patterns will emerge with respect to what gets memorialized and how.

V. Finally I will relate this to the idea of the city as a performance, but with ambiguous lines between audience and actors. What the presentation of history does to the city and the immediacy of weight that can come from a memorial versus the repetition of passing a plaque in the street and how these function together for locals and tourists.

VI. Questions:

A. What is the reason for this kind of memorialization

B. What does this memorialization say about the relationship Berlin has to its past?

C. How is the past being remembered?

D. How are sites delegated for preservation or destruction and why is something memorialized or not?

E. What effect does public opinion have in the process?

F. How does it contribute to the knowledge of locals versus the knowledge of tourists? Who has a greater knowledge of the city’s history as a result of these memorials? Who are the memorials aimed at affecting?

VII. By studying the specific types of memorials and monuments and what each is designed for, locations of each, and the care, and thoughtfulness of each, I think I can begin to answer these questions.

A. Are some topics memorialized in certain ways that others are not? For example is the Stasi headquarters recognized in a different way than something dating back to William I or before? Or not even temporally, but is there a way a major event is recognized versus a minor event?

B. A local example: Sick’s stadium is replaced by a Lowe’s and memorialized with base replicas and a glass case inside the store with Pilot’s memorabilia.

VIII. Look at the city and these monuments as interacting with each other and interacting with the citizens. The idea of the city as a performance and as a museum. How do these two ideas relate? Are museums performances? I would say so. I mean, they are organized and presented in specific ways to elicit a desired effect and in a sense perform art for you. Art itself is a visual performance, and so the museum transcends the individual performance of the works of art so its performance is the organization that goes on to make them perform in a certain way together. Putting the Mona Lisa next to da Vinci’s self-portrait sketch would have a very different effect from placing it next to a Jackson Pollock painting. Both these have a very different performance from placing it in its own room. So in this way, if the city is regarded as a museum, then it necessarily is a performance as well. Viewing the city as a performance does not however, necessitate our understanding of it as a museum. Ladd claims the city is not a museum. I think perhaps not intentionally, but the effect of memorializing is rather museum-like in nature. People don’t want to be encumbered by facts and history and confrontations of terror going to work, so there is a fine line involved in how much memorialization to have in certain areas. Do you put it all in one area? Do you spread it out? If it’s all in one area, then it would seem only tourists and history-minded locals would see it and be remembered of the events. If it is spread out, it has much less tourist draw, but people are confronted with it everywhere they go. There is no place that does not see you. And the history is like a star bursting and blinding. There is no place to escape confrontation. So in this sense, obviously, a city is not a museum, but the more memorials, monuments, plaques, and history a city has, the more it will feel like one. I might argue that the Nazi sentiment of not letting Berlin fall to ruin like Rome is still there. They didn’t want to be a city of defunct history. They wanted to be a modern, functioning metropolis. The city of Rome itself is like a museum out of sheer history. But Berlin seems to have always grappled with defining itself in terms of history or in terms of the future. It would seem that it is just now finding that balance.

IX. Ladd writes that the tragedy of Berlin is that it is always coming into being and never being.

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