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Aesthetics of Memory

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University of Copenhagen, October 21, 2014

Center for the Study of Jewish Thought in Modern Culture (CJMC) & PhD School of the Faculty of Theology,

In being inter-generationally transmitted, the “haunting legacy“ of the Holocaust (Gabriele Schwab) turns from first-hand to second-hand memory. The connection to the past is then mediated e.g. by written testimonies and stories, photography and film, monuments and architecture, behaviours and gestures. Once the last eyewitnesses will have passed away, knowledge about past events will no longer be based on personal experience but can only be re-collected by means of imaginative investment. Then local, regional and transnational cultures of memory will live on nothing but “postmemory” (Marianne Hirsch). How can one then avoid oblivion, re-present the past, and protect and appropriate others‘ dear-bought insights?

Children of Holocaust-survivors have described the second generation as the hinge generation: “The guardianship of the Holocaust is passed on to us.“ (Eva Hoffmann) However, the third, fourth, and coming generations, too, carry responsibility for how this historical heritage is received and handed down.

The workshop & PhD course “Aesthetics of Memory“ addresses fundamental questions that concern all countries, societies and individuals that have in one way or another been part of a murderous past and/or struggle with its aftermath: How can processes of commemoration be stimulated, indifference turned into attention and traumatic memories worked through? Which strategies of expression, re-presentation and communication have proved particularly successful in evoking critical reflection? By what means do they speak to the senses and the intellect, touch people emotionally and open up new imaginary spaces?

In an interdisciplinary meeting of art history and theory, philosophy and theology, the possibilities and limitations of memorial objects and landscapes will be explored. Moreover, the interplay between words and images, the use of synesthetic techniques and the creation of time-interfaces will be examined. Last but not least, dialogical aesthetics and performative practices of placing viewers in interlocutory situations will come into focus.

See program

Participation is free, but online registration is required before October 10, 2014. Please indicate your name, email address, and institutional affiliation.