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Spitz, E.H. (2005). Loss as Vanished Form: On the Anti-Memorial Sculptures of Horst Hoheisel. Am. Imago, 62(4):419-433.

(2005). American Imago, 62(4):419-433

Loss as Vanished Form: On the Anti-Memorial Sculptures of Horst Hoheisel

Ellen Handler Spitz

We are so much better at forgetting than at remembering.

How seductively the present lays its pungent, voluptuous hand on us, tempting us with narcissistic pleasures, and, as Nietzsche and Freud have warned, weaning us away from the frailer touch of ghosts.

What do we do with the dead?

What do we do with the past? Our own and that of the world around us?

In Memory, Countermemory, scholar James Young (2002) sympathetically describes the contempt of many post-Holocaust German artists for traditional heroic monuments. Deemed passé, these edifices, he tells us, not only carry the dead weight of cultural mythology and false history but also relieve us, in fact, of our own responsibility to remember. They permit us to take it easy. Once in place, such monuments stand in for our duty to study history. They stand in for our need to stumble and to try, however feebly, however fragmentedly, to make sense of what has occurred. They give us license merely to feel … something. They even make it possible for us to feel, superficially, good. As substitutes in this sense, such monuments, I would argue, assume the status of cultural fetishes, even of cultural perversions. They offer us false closure and premature satisfaction concerning that which might better remain unassuaged.

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