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Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing
Synopses & Reviews
The Holocaust has bequeathed to contemporary society a cultural lexicon of intensely powerful symbols, a vocabulary of remembrance that we draw on to comprehend the otherwise incomprehensible horror of the Shoah. Engagingly written and illustrated with more than forty black-and-white images, Holocaust Icons probes the history and memory of four of these symbolic relics left in the Holocaustandrsquo;s wake.
Jewish studies scholar Oren Stier offers in this volume new insight into symbols and the symbol-making process, as he traces the lives and afterlives of certain remnants of the Holocaust and their ongoing impact. Stier focuses in particular on four icons: the railway cars that carried Jews to their deaths, symbolizing the mechanics of murder; the Arbeit Macht Frei (andldquo;work makes you freeandrdquo;) sign over the entrance to Auschwitz, pointing to the insidious logic of the camp system; the number six million that represents an approximation of the number of Jews killed as well as mass murder more generally; and the persona of Anne Frank, associated with victimization. Stier shows how and why these iconsandmdash;an object, a phrase, a number, and a personandmdash;have come to stand in for the Holocaust: where they came from and how they have been used and reproduced; how they are presently at risk from a variety of threats such as commodification; and what the future holds for the memory of the Shoah.
In illuminating these icons of the Holocaust, Stier offers valuable new perspective on one of the defining events of the twentieth century. He helps readers understand not only the Holocaust but also the profound nature of historical memory itself.
Dora Apel analyzes the ways in which artists born after the Holocaust-whom she calls secondary witnesses-represent a history they did not experience first hand. She demonstrates that contemporary artists confront these atrocities in order to bear witness not to the Holocaust directly, but to its "memory effects" and to the implications of those effects for the present and future.
Drawing on projects that employ a variety of unorthodox artistic strategies, the author provides a unique understanding of contemporary representations of the Holocaust. She demonstrates how these artists frame the past within the conditions of the present, the subversive use of documentary and the archive, the effects of the Jewish genocide on issues of difference and identity, and the use of representation as a form of resistance to historical closure.
Detroit is the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images of ruin, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films. The author shows how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the beauty and fascination of these images helps us to cope with the overarching anxieties of our time. and#160;
Oren Baruch Stier traces the lives and afterlives of certain remnants of the Holocaust and their ongoing impact. He shows how and why four iconsandmdash;an object, a phrase, a person, and a numberandmdash;have come to stand in for the Holocaust: where they came from and how they have been used and reproduced; how they are presently at risk from a variety of threats such as commodification; and what the future holds for the memory of the Shoah.
Once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, Detroit has become emblematic of failing cities everywhereandmdash;the paradigmatic city of ruinsandmdash;and the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films. and#160;
Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroitandrsquo;s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disasterandmdash;in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroitandrsquo;s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears. But Apel warns that these images, while pleasurable, have little explanatory power, lulling us into seeing Detroitandrsquo;s deterioration as either inevitable or the cityandrsquo;s own fault, and absolving the real agents of declineandmdash;corporate disinvestment and globalization. Beautiful Terrible Ruins helps us understand the ways that the pleasure and the horror of urban decay hold us in thrall.and#160;
About the Author
DORA APEL is a professor of art history and visual culture and W. Hawkins Ferry Endowed Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art History at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is the author of War Culture and the Contest of Images (Rutgers University Press).and#160;
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