Memorial as Parasite
A shortlisted proposal for the City of Munich closed competition ‘New Forms of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism’,
Now exists as digital print collages on paper
with Annika Grafweg
In 2008, Lifschitz was invited by the city of Munich to take part in a competition for “ New Forms of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism.” Working together, Lifschitz and architect Annika Grafweg organized workshops for local young people that gave rise to individual temporary memorials (paper and bamboo constructions) placed in key locations around the city, commemorating a particular person or group of individuals chosen by each participant. From this experience, Lifschitz and Grafweg developed their proposal: a sequence of temporary, yearlong “disappearances” of city landmarks, each commemorating a specific person or group of people. Lifschitz and Grafweg sought to evoke the memory of the victims by creating absences within the urban fabric, rather than by adding a new memorial structure to the existing cityscape.
Memorial as Parasite operated as a public memory device that refuses embodiment or particularity with regard to its form. Instead, it appeared through the occupation of an interface: a surface wrapped around existing entities and functioning as a memory device by obscuring the expected view.
We wanted to involve young Munich citizens in the process of commemoration as instigators, rather than as consumers of memory. To that end, we created a workshop and invited young Munich citizens to join it. The workshop highlighted very clearly the duality the people of Munich felt towards commemoration within their immediate urban sphere. While the participants found places to put their temporary memorials, they found it almost impossible to contemplate the placing of a permanent monument in a particular location they related to. This dichotomy between the agreement on the importance of placing memory within the city and the wish to have it located elsewhere was, in our view, a productive place from which to think of the emotional and urban economies of situating a memorial.
In our proposal we offered the people of Munich the establishment of a ritual – an annual event that would bring about in its very repetition the possibility of producing a beginning. Rather than adding to a rebuilt city, we sought to invoke the presence of absence by obscuring an existing much-loved city entity, such as the view of the Japanese Teahouse or the ‘Lucky Lions’ in front of the Residenz.
In our proposal to the city, we asked:
What would it mean for the City of Munich to deliberately go about creating absences in its urban fabric? Creating losses of time? Setting out to consciously regain a state of incompleteness in commemoration of what was lost?
Memorial as Parasite further develops the parasitical nature of the relationship created in Speaking Germany between the posters and the ‘bodies’ to which they were attached and made it its central trope. Memorial as Parasite attempts again the act of memory in relation to a body and a voice. This time, though, it is the absence of the voice of the victims that is invoked. If in Speaking Germany white posters with bold writing occupied the city, here the hoardings that are wrapped around existing city monuments are blank and mute. They have a ‘nothing in particular’ specificity to their materiality: a blank absence that gains its presence by obscuring an existing body/city entity that the passer-by expects to be there.