After Collective Memory: Postnational Europe and Socially Engaged Art
Synenko, Joshua Francis
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This thesis focuses on works of public art that enjoy proven success in challenging the national bias of European heritage practice. By developing methods at the intersection between collective memory, critical historiography, and theory, I situate heritage debates in relation to forms of discrimination that emerged as symptoms of the financial crisis (2008-present). I then describe how public art interventions help to unsettle the grand narratives of cosmopolitan idealism that work to neutralize anti-racist strategies in the public sphere. The progression of my thesis eventually poses a challenge to the cosmopolitan reach of the Jewish diasporic tradition in particular. To that end, I explore the archival strategies of Holocaust memory practitioners, including their express aim of including diverse (i.e. non-Jewish) histories of violent exclusion into the historical record; the social and political conditions for the emergence of counter-monuments in West Germany during the 1970s, and the subsequent efforts that were made to turn this memorial aesthetic into a global standard for the memory culture industry; the haunting resurgence of cosmopolitan aspirations in Yael Bartana’s video installation, And Europe Will Be Stunned (2011); and a meditation on Bartana’s attempt at revisiting the racial dynamics of intergenerational violence in the aftermath of genocide.