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AA INS maintains that Berlin is the World Capital of Death, hence also
the world capital of erasure. The whole fabric of the city is nothing
other than the erasure of the traces of death.
Given that one hardly needs search for sites of erasure, the Inspectorate’s
first task was to identify sites for inspection where the processes
of erasure and most intensified. The following criteria were issued:
Sites of erasure: i.e., specific locations where no trace can be found
of incidents or persons of
possible interest to the Inspectorate; locations where there is evidence
of attempts to cover or erase traces of incidents or persons; where
there is evidence of attempts to conceal such erasure.
Among the city's most ruthless methods of erasure is the erection
of memorials. The presence of monumental sculpture and architecture,
memorial plaques and the like, therefore helped to identify the target
TMc Isn’t the memorial or monument also a form of marking?
AA Yes, but it is also a form of encyption: erecting
a monument certainly erases the traces of history. It erases the
object it commemorates and replaces it with a sign. This sign stands
for something (some body) which is absent (because dead). The sign
(the monument) is there — is present — in order to occupy
space. It takes the place of the absent thing to prevent it coming
back. But the dead don’t come back. [see note on Necronautical
Materialism] There is no return (no revenant, no ghost).
TMc Only repetition.
AA Fear of return. The marking of the place is the encryption of erasure.
TMc Does that suggest a kind of neurotic behaviour?
AA The metaphor or neurosis comes to mind easily when one begins to consider
how certain behaviours are marked in the fabric of the city. The notion
of the ‘crypt’ which you underlined is an interpretation
of neurosis which begins to explain how trauma, guilt, remembrance
and forgetting are entangled. A memorial is an attempt to authenticate
a forgotten past. A memorial authorises forgetting and encodes erasure.
For example, what is now called Bebel Platz is remembered as the
site of burning books — the ceremonious destruction of knowledge.
The place has been variously repurposed, excavated and resurfaced
over the years [see Aerial Reconnaissance survey A].
One can speak of attempts to recover the site. Recovery can mean
getting better, getting something back, but also covering over again,
resurfacing. Micha Ullman’s empty library memorial is visible
through a window set in the ground. The illumination from below
suppresses specular reflection and hence also both the narcissistic
gaze and the image of the sky as the abyss of this surface. The
light however discloses an inscription on the surface: scratches,
the damage of time and the interference of human beings. These historical
traces are suppressed by replacing the glass from time to time.
When I went there to survey the site, the glass was new, but the
lighting was turned off because the whole square was in the process
of being resurfaced. The underground monument was briefly revealed
to theair while a parking garage was built around it. Then the monument
and the garage were buried and the surface reinstated.
Another example is a site which I investigated but did not survey.
The City of Berlin erected a sculpture by Richard Serra (which they
had bought) outside the Philharmonic Hall. The address of this site
is Tiergarten 4: the address of the office which gave its name to
the so-called T4 programme, which was code for murdering people
with mental and congenital illnesses. T4 was a poineer in techniques
of mass murder, using gas for example. It was only the erection
of a sculpture which prompted the call for a memorial. A plaque
was placed near the sculpture, now partially appropriated as a monument,
with the inscription, ‘for the forgotten victims.’
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